Monday, 10 September 2012

Jays Set to Extend Rasmus?

I saw this piece of news yesterday evening, and was actually going to write about it then, but decided not to because I'm lazy or something.  Naturally, fangraphs has a post up about it first thing this morning, so now I look like a copycat, but regardless, the Jays are apparently pursuing an extension for Colby Rasmus, according to Richard Griffin of the Star.

I can't even begin to fathom what kind of terms this extension would have, since a player with Rasmus' numbers doesn't exactly fit the profile of a player that you extend.  The Jays have club control of Rasmus until after the 2014 season, so it's not like anything absolutely needs to happen right now.  It might be a different story if he were a free agent at the end of this season, or even at the end of next season, but given the two full years of control remaining, there are other, more pressing issues, such as figuring out what to do with Carlos Villanueva, let alone the rest of the rotation behind Brandon Morrow.

Since having two excellent seasons in STL (2.8 and 4.3 WAR in his first two years), Rasmus' production has fallen significantly.  He put up 0.8 WAR last year (-0.5 post-trade), and has only been worth 1.3 this year with the Jays.  It's not very hard to find that kind of production, and you definitely don't need to fork out multiple guaranteed years in order to find it.

Despite what WAR tells us, I think there are definitely some positive signs to take away from Rasmus' play this year; the 22 HR's are obviously a good sign that his power is still there, and his defense definitely passes the eye-test, even if he shows a negative UZR, though his -2.2 actually ranks as a median 9th of 17 qualifying CF's, which definitely plays respectably, given the volatility of defensive metrics.  Maybe it's just the Vernon Wells thing.

Drew at DJF explained the batting stance adjustments Colby made, and that tethered him towards a torrid June, where he got super hot and hit a bunch of taters and stuff.  Has anyone else noticed how he's since reverted to the old stance and has batted like .091 since the Lawrie injury?

The talent is there.  We've definitely seen it first hand at points this year; it's all a matter of harnessing it.  We could see it with Morrow over the last few years and he finally put it together this year, albeit in a shortened season, so of course there's a chance that Rasmus does the same, but there's also a very real chance that this is the real Colby Rasmus.

And that's the biggest problem I would have with a Rasmus extension: his walk-rate over the last two years is way down below 10%, and he didn't really walk a whole lot before that.  He's always been a high-walk, high-K kind of guy, which kind of stinks when the babips are in the .260's.  He needed a .354 babip in 2010 to produce .276/.351/.498.  He's hitting more line drives this year than he did last year, which indicates that he should probably see some regression moving forward, but I'm not too sure that it would be enough to turn him in to a consistent 3+WAR guy going forward without an increase in walk-rate.

If the Jays are fully committed to Rasmus in CF over the next two years, then there isn't much of a problem in setting those in stone now, I suppose.  My real worry is that when teams are looking in to extending 25-year old CF's, they want something like five years.  That would be worrisome.  It's not that I don't like Rasmus as a player, because I do (and he was on my secret wishlist long before the trade, if you'll remember), it's just that I'm not sure if he's anything more than a league average CF.  A league average CF is  a pretty decent asset to have, mind you, and a two or three-year extension, at a reasonable price, certainly works for both sides, especially with the potential that we've seen from him.

I'd rather a rotation piece, myself.

Update: I should probably add that I'd rather go year-to-year with Rasmus, rather than spending a bunch of time trying to get him locked in to a multi-year extension.  He's probably set to make about $5MM in arbitration, so I doubt a 2-year extension would be worth less than $13MM.  Factor in buyouts and options and stuff, I would suggest that the only real advantage to locking him up is getting some option years in, instead of letting him hit free agency.  Obviously there are extra costs to that, but locking up the last two years of arbitration without buying up anything else isn't going to come with any major savings.

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