It looks like $1.5m may not be sufficient to keep Royce in Arizona. According to the Banana, Clayton says he took a hometown discount to play this year. "Knowing that the average major league shortstop is making between $4 million and $5 million," Clayton said, "it would be a disservice to my family to entertain that offer after I put up the two types of seasons that I did."
Is that the Hindenburg, floating gently over Phoenix and blocking out the fall sunshine? No, it's Royce Clayton's ego. This handy table summarizes the performance of all the qualifying NL shortstops in 2005, ordered by OPS, and their salaries [min 400 PAs]:
BA OBP SLG OPS Sal. Felipe Lopez Cin .291 .352 .486 .838 .41 Bill Hall Mil .291 .342 .495 .837 .34 Rich Aurilia Cin .282 .338 .444 .782 .50 Rafael Furcal Atl .284 .348 .429 .777 5.60 Jimmy Rollins Phi .290 .338 .431 .770 3.85 David Eckstein StL .294 .363 .395 .758 2.33 Khalil Greene SD .250 .296 .431 .727 .35 J.J. Hardy Mil .247 .327 .384 .711 .32 Omar Vizquel SF .271 .341 .350 .691 3.10 Jose Reyes NYM .273 .300 .386 .687 .33 Alex Gonzalez Fla .264 .319 .368 .686 3.40 Neifi Perez ChC .274 .298 .383 .681 1.00 Royce Clayton Ari .270 .320 .351 .670 1.35 Jack Wilson Pit .257 .299 .363 .662 3.25 Adam Everett Hou .248 .290 .364 .654 .44 Cesar Izturis LAD .257 .302 .322 .624 2.15 Cristian Guzman Was .219 .260 .314 .574 4.20
The startling thing to me is how little correlation there is between pay and performance, even discounting the $8.25m paid by the Cubs to Garciaparra for 62 at-bats. The top three all cost half a million or less, while Wilson, Izturis and Guzman all had worse seasons than Clayton, while costing at least 50% more. [In the AL, the situation is similar: Cleveland's Peralta ($317K) had a better OPS than Jeter, Tejada and Renteria, who earned $38m between them]
Given the latter, I can kinda see Royce's point - Guzman has a $16.8m/4 year contract from the Nationals, while hitting below the Mendoza line until into September. However, he got this after five years in Minnesota where his OPS was always .776+, so you can see why such a contract was justified. His 200+ OPS fall has been unexpected and precipitous.
In contrast, during Clayton's 15-year career, he has cracked .710 just twice for a full season, and one of those was in Coors. And - including No-mah - only three of the eighteen in the league earn the $4m quoted by Clayton as "average". In 2005, Clayton's performance was in the bottom third of shortstops in the league: to spurn a contract which would put him almost exactly in the middle as far as salary goes, to seek more, seems optimistic to say the least. But I guess that's the reason why, over the past eight years, he has played for six different clubs.
Of course, there's more to baseball than swinging the bat. But Clayton's defense seems no better than average, leaving only the infamous and vague "clubhouse leader" and "veteran presence" as justifications. And while I do think there are skills that don't show up in box scores, I don't think they justify a tripling of Clayton's salary - unless he proves them by spending the off-season bringing peace to the Middle East and democracy to Iraq.
I've a feeling Clayton won't find many people willing to give him a multi-year contract, or much more money that he was offered here. If he does, he should snatch the deal with both hands and sign it immediately, before he wakes up. After he gets no takers, I suspect he'll come back and will sign the deal, pretty much as offered. With Drew continuing to destroy the AFL (14-for-28 in 7 games), I think even the D'backs front office will not be interested in hiring Royce for more than 2006.
Elsewhere on the roster, McCracken and Stinnett were outrighted to Triple-A Tucson. Both players chose free agency. Stinnett probably has a better chance of being picked up than McCracken: 35-year old outfielders who hit .237 aren't exactly going to find themselves in high demand. The catcher position is by far the more interesting, as this move suggests a deal for an offensively-productive catcher is definitely in the works - I can't see us going with the twin-barrel Hill/Snyder approach again.
Interesting article in, of all places, The Wall Street Journal, on umpires and their biases. In particular, it suggests that the pitcher-friendly umpiring crew in the White Sox-Red Sox series, favoured Chicago, though it seems pretty clear this was largely happenstance, rather than an anti-Boston conspiracy. I'd also say that these things should apply equally to both teams, but with Hirschbeck, the hitters' biggest enemy behind the plate for game one, the White Sox still scored 14 runs. I think this is probably a factor largely only of significance to online gamblers, looking at the over/under on runs scored.
Finally, thanks to Deadspin for picking us as the Best Diamondbacks blog. Admittedly, with the retirement of Random Fandom, that pretty much leaves me and Out in the Desert, and the latter has had just two posts in the past month. But I'll take my accolades whereever I can get them, thankyouverymuch.