A look at contracts signed by infielders this offseason to determine how much Orlando Hudson might sign for and if that would work out good for the Mets if the club is able to ship out Luis Castillo first.

The free agent signings are starting to trickle in and we have seen a few infielders both re-sign with their clubs and change teams.  Let’s take a look at their contract value, 2010 age and 2009 values for position, OPS, UZR/150 and WAR (Wins Above Replacement) to get a feel for how they stack up.

Name Years/Total Value 2010 Age Pos OPS+ UZR/150 WAR
Chone Figgins 4/$36 million 32 3B 108 18.8 6.1
Placido Polanco 3/$18 million 34 2B 88 11.0 3.1
Marco Scutaro 2/$12.5 million 34 SS 111 1.0 4.5
Jack Wilson 2/$10 million 32 SS 74 20.4 1.9
Alex Gonzalez 1/$2.75 million 33 SS 64 10.5 0.5
John McDonald 2/$3 million 35 SS 72 2.1 0.0

Figgins’ season was well above what he had done recently.  Starting in 2008 and going backwards, here are his WARs for the previous five seasons: 2.4, 3.1, 0.0, 2.7. 3.2.  Polanco played second base last year for the Tigers but was signed by the Phillies to be their third baseman.  Toronto signed both Gonzalez and McDonald, with Gonzalez likely to get the bulk of the playing time.

Now, here is the same chart for Luis Castillo and Orlando Hudson:

Name Years/Total Value 2010 Age Pos OPS+ UZR/150 WAR
Luis Castillo 2/$12.5 million 34 2B 98 -12.0 1.6
Orlando Hudson ??? 32 2B 109 -3.7 2.9

Castillo’s contract is the remainder of the four year deal he signed, including his $1 million bonus allocated evenly throughout the deal.

One rumor burning up the blogosphere is that the Mets are trying to trade Castillo in order to sign Orlando Hudson.  Is this a good idea on the surface?  Also, at what point does it become a good or bad idea?

Hudson is younger and is better on both offense and defense.  Immediately, it seems like a good idea to replace Castillo with him.  But what is the cost of getting Castillo off the team?  One rumor has the Mets involved in a three-way deal, getting Tampa’s Pat Burrell back in return.  Burrell has one year and $9 million left on his contract and supposedly the Mets would need to kick in some extra salary to make it feasible.

Meanwhile, Burrell will be 33 next year and is coming off a season where he posted a 77 OPS+.  Additionally, he spent most of 2009 as a DH after being a poor defensive outfielder the three previous seasons, with a -7.1 UZR/150 in 2008.  Last year he had a WAR of -0.6, meaning that he provided less total value than a replacement player.  On the Mets, he would replace Angel Pagan, a very good defensive outfielder who put up a 2.8 WAR last year in his first significant playing time in the majors.  Burrell has only bested a 2.8 WAR twice in the past seven seasons.

Acquiring Burrell and putting Pagan on the bench would be an extremely inefficient move for the Mets.

Now we have to figure out how much Hudson would cost.  Judging by contracts that infielders have already received, would a 4 year/$24 million deal seem reasonable?  Figgins, the infielder with the hitting skills and age closest to Hudson got four years, while Hudson’s WAR is closest to Polanco, so I gave him that average dollar amount.

But Hudson made $6.25 million in 2008 and with incentives he made $8 million last season.  Do you really think he would sign a deal, even a long-term one, with a lower annual value than what he’s made the past two seasons?  Also, if the Mets are looking at Hudson as an improvement over Castillo, will they really give him basically the same contract that Castillo received two years ago, especially considering that everyone considers Castillo an inferior player?

FanGraphs gives Hudson’s last four seasons an earned value of $45.1 million on the free agent market.  But I think it is a stretch that any team will give him a contract with an annual value of $11 million plus.  However, it certainly would not shock me if the Mets gave him a deal with an average annual value of $8 million.

Hudson might be worth that if he could continue to hit like he did last season.  But even Hudson didn’t really hit like Hudson did last year.  In his first 35 games last season, Hudson was terrific.  He posted a .348/.429/.539 line over 163 PA.  But from May 14th to the end of the year, Hudson hit .261/.331/.376 over 468 PA.

What if that’s really Hudson’s true talent level going forward?  For comparison, Castillo posted a .302/.387/.346 line last year.  Hudson has a reputation as a good offensive player for a second baseman, but that is the result of numbers skewed by Chase Field.  Prior to 2009, Hudson played three seasons for the Diamondbacks.  Here are his home/road numbers for 2006-2008:

Home: .315/.393/.509

Road:  .274/.339/.392

In his last year with the Blue Jays, Hudson posted a .271/.315/.412 line.

Once you factor defense into the equation, Hudson is likely to be a superior player to Castillo.  But Hudson’s defensive reputation far exceeds reality.   He won the Gold Glove Award last year, but for the third time in the last four years, he posted a UZR/150 in negative numbers.  Hudson fared better in plus/minus last year (+8) but that was still just the eighth-best mark for a second baseman and not worth Gold Glove consideration.

So, as a Mets fan, would you rather have Castillo, Pagan and somewhere around $11 million or Hudson and Burrell going forward?   To me that’s a no-brainer.  I think the numbers come down on the side of Castillo-Pagan and that is not even taking into consideration how a long-term Hudson contract will look if he cannot recapture some of his early 2009 season magic.

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