Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Does Andrus’ new contract really affect Desmond?


Is Desmond really a 9-figure contract waiting to happen?? Photo Drew Kinback/

A few days ago Elvis Andrus signed an 8yr/$120M contract with Texas that had some heads shaking in the industry.   Here locally, the immediate focus was on our own pre-free agency shortstop Ian Desmond and what his future FA value may be in light of this monster deal.

Sidenote: I just don’t get the Andrus contract.  You mean to tell me you can’t find another shortstop in the minors who can field nearly as well as Andrus and hit 15% below MLB replacement level (his career OPS+ is 84)?  Or at least find one who you can get away with paying just a couple million dollars a year at best.   What am I missing in Andrus that makes him worth this kind of money?  Is it all about his defense?  Meanwhile Texas has one of the best prospects in all of baseball (Jurickson Profar) in the minors featuring as a middle-infielder who could have naturally replaced Andrus at short … instead they’ll waste his talents at 2nd base and likely move Ian Kinsler to the outfield at some point in the future.  Dumb.

Does the Andrus contract really affect Desmond’s value?  So it may, according to The Washington TimesAmanda Comak.  MLBtraderumors weighed in on the topic as well, claiming that Andrus “may not have as much pop” as Desmond but is clearly better defensively, and has been consistently “good” for four years.

Is that all really true?  Is Andrus really that much better of a player than Desmond?  Lets take a quick peek at some value, hitting and defensive stats for both players.  I’m using 2009-12 for Andrus (all full seasons) and just 2010-12 for Desmond (again, just using full seasons for comparison purposes):

Andrus OPS+ Andrus bWAR Andrus fWAR Andrus uzr/150
2009 82 3.6 3.1 13.3
2010 72 1.4 2 1.8
2011 89 4.1 4.1 7.5
2012 91 3.7 3.9 8.5
Desmond OPS+ Desmond bWAR Desmond fWAR Desmond uzr/150
2010 89 1.1 0.9 -9.2
2011 80 1.5 1.2 -4.5
2012 126 3.4 5 6

Using just the full seasons, we can see that Andrus has always been a weak hitter; even when Nats fans were burning Desmond in effigy for being such a bad hitter in 2011, he was still for the most part as good as Andrus ever was.  And that was before 2012 when Desmond broke out and hit like a middle-of-the-order guy.

How about Defensively?  Andrus’ career numbers at short show a very good defender while Desmond shows a defender on the improvement, nearly matching Andrus’ UZR/150 rating in 2012.  Is Desmond THAT much behind Andrus defensively at this point?

How about Value?  Note i’ve put in both WAR figures because this is one of those examples where I cannot defend baseball-reference’s war calculations; how does Andrus have a BETTER 2012 WAR than Desmond given that they’re nearly identical in defensive metrics but Desmond vastly outhit Andrus?  Fangraph’s war does show this accurately, putting Desmond’s war at 5.0 to Andrus’ 3.9.

Yes I get that Andrus has now performed ably for 4 straight seasons while Desmond has been exceptional for only one.  Is that a $100 million dollar difference?   But ask yourself this question; if Desmond hits at a 110-120 OPS+ clip for the next two years AND continues to be a positive UZR/150 defender … is he a 9-figure player?  I guess so in today’s market.

Written by Todd Boss

April 8th, 2013 at 10:00 am

2 Responses to 'Does Andrus’ new contract really affect Desmond?'

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  1. I think that Andrus is clearly better than Desi, although there is no chance that he is worth that contract, and you do a good job painting a different story with numbers. The difference, I think, comes down to defense (although he also may have a base running advantage). He clearly is a plus defender, while Desi has been below average for his career, with one good year. Is that the start of a trend, or an aberration (and he isn’t off to a good start)? That is the big question for Rizzo, and I don’t blame him for waiting to see Desi do it again.

    JZimm, on the other hand, I have no idea why Rizzo hasn’t offered him a Gio-like contract.


    8 Apr 13 at 9:44 pm

  2. The Andrus contract is so mind boggling to me. Maybe he’s worth $10-$12M/year max. And that’s if he can hit. If Desmond hits like he did in 2012 for the next two years, maybe he’s the next Tulowitzki.

    Perhaps Rizzo was worried about Zimmermann’s arm holding up post TJ surgery, and wanted to see how he performed 2 years out (when most people say pitchers are finally recovered). But your point is good; every good start onwards means a bigger contract for Zimmermann. At least they are still getting Detwiler on the cheap; heard an MLB guy on 106.7 the other day relaying scouting reports that claim that Detwiler has nearly as good of “stuff” as Strasburg. That’s saying something.

    Todd Boss

    9 Apr 13 at 8:48 am

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