In my series off offseason recommendations posts, I advocated taking a serious look at free agent 2B Mark Ellis of the A's. I touted him as a slick fielding, about average hitter who would come cheaper than Orlando Hudson. Alas, it is not to be - Ellis has re-upped with the A's for 2 more years, with a club option for a 3rd. He stands to make $5.5 million per year.
Dave Cameron at Fangraphs and the great U.S.S. Mariner posted today about what a great bargain this signing is for Oakland. He conveys some high level statistical analysis involving fielding statistics, and sums everything as he writes:
"Mark Ellis just signed for about $1.67 million per win. This is one of the best free agent bargains in the history of baseball. In an environment where Ellis’ skillset was properly valued and he had a desire to test the market, he should have gotten about three times what he signed for."
He's totally right. First off, this signing shows how wise Billy Beane is to not let Ellis make it to the free agent market. Second, he makes a valid point about how undervalued defense is in the baseball player marketplace. Most fans view defensive ability as an added bonus - if a great offensive player is a good defender, that's a plus. If not, then who cares? He can make it up with his bat right? Most advanced defensive metrics (Dewan's +/-, RZR, FRAA) say this is wrong, and defense can be quantified almost as accurately as offense can.
The undervaluing of defense has lead the casual fan to severely underrate a player like Carlos Beltran, and overrate a player like Manny Ramirez. I've posted on this already, but be warned Mets fans: Manny, by all accounts, is the worst OF in baseball. Playing poor defense costs a team runs, just as good hitting adds runs. If he is already the worst right now, do we really want him 3 years from now when the only thing on his mind is 600 (700?) home runs and how quickly he can hit the beach when the season ends?