Lorenzo Cain And The Kansas City Royals Avoid Arbitration

by Matthew Roberts | Posted on Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
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Jeffrey Flanagan first reported today that Lorenzo Cain and the Kansas City Royals have agreed to terms on a 1-year deal at $2.725 million, with further incentives for plate appearances and an All-Star game selection in 2015, thus avoiding an arbitration hearing in this case.

This is the first offseason in which Cain was eligible for arbitration. Cain requested $3.6 million for 2015 and the Royals countered at $2 million, meaning Cain and the Royals settled for a figure closer to the Royals in this process. Cain had a somewhat productive year last year for the Royals slashing .301/.339/.412 with 28 stolen bases.

An issue on the surface with Cain was the absolute power outage he displayed with only 5 home runs  and 29 doubles in his 471 at-bats. The home run stat is obviously a concern if Cain is to man the #3 spot in the lineup again this year as he did down the stretch and in the playoffs for the Royals. But this wasn’t a case of a young guy still developing his power and compensating with a boatload of doubles. His 29 last year was good for a tie for 73rd in the major league and behind some mediocre platoon power players such as Seth Smith (31) and Luis Valbuena (33). Even more concerning is that Cain will be 29 this April and players in this post-steroid era have not been substantially increasing their power after the traditional age 26-28 seasons.

That being said, Lorenzo Cain is still a valuable player offensively and even more so as your #2 hitter instead of a #3 hitter. Cain was 28 out of 33 on stolen base attempts and his .301 average ranked tied for 14th in the majors. If manager Ned Yost can keep Cain out of the middle of the lineup, then it is clear victory for the Royals offensively.

What ultimately makes this deal an absolute steal for the Royals is Cain’s overall contribution to the club, especially defensively. Cain put together a tremendous All-Star caliber campaign last year if we are judging it solely on his 5.2 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Cain’s defensive WAR, according to Baseball Reference was an astonishing 2.9. Holding down center field at that level was a boon for a Royals team last year that did not have much else to hang their hats on. 2014 was not a defensive aberration for Cain either as he posted a near identical 2.8 defensive WAR in 2013.

Base on recent evaluations of contracts signed by other players and the performance given after that contract a bunch of whiz-kid mathematicians offer a median range value of $5 to $7 million spent by teams per 1 WAR. Put simply under this model a team would not have overpaid if Cain had been paid $25-$35 million for his service last year.  This makes Cain a super-bargain this year at $2.7 million plus incentives, yet again demonstrating how the current system of cost control for players in their first several years of MLB experience keeps small market teams highly competitive.

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Matthew Roberts
About the Author

Matthew cut his teeth on baseball during $2 Bleacher Wednesdays at the old Arlington Stadium in the 1980's and has loved the Texas Rangers ever since. When he's not teaching his young son to throw a wicked circle change, he enjoys the six month friendly rivalry with his wife and her precious Oakland A's. Follow him on Twitter @ifithasballs.

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