The Washington Nationals signed catcher Brian Schneider to a four-year, $16 million contract yesterday and also came to terms with first baseman Nick Johnson on a one-year, $3.2 million deal, avoiding arbitration with both players.The Schneider contract is the more important. Basically, whoever's giving the dude financial advice needs to find another line of work. Schneider would have been under team control for this year and the next, meaning that, barring a longer-term deal, he would have agreed on one-year deals or gone to arbitration with the club and gotten a raise (or "rise" for you limeys) each time. He would have been a free agent after 2007 and, based on what we've seen lately, gone to California for too much money.
Jim Bowden has emulated Lawrence-for-Castilla Bodes instead of Everything Else Bodes in buying out two years of Schneider's free agency for a mere $4 million per. For purposes of comparison, that's about what Guzman's making, and Schneider -- not to damn him with faint praise -- is a hell of a lot more valuable than the Guz. This seems a good time briefly to talk about Schneider's on-field abilities, since the guy's so quiet and steady that I probably talked about him during the season less than any other important Nat. I'm pretty sure Deivi Cruz got more DS time than Schneider.
As Harper points out, Schneider is average -- exactly average -- as a hitter when compared to his fellow backstops, and that's fine. He's a not a complete black hole of suck in the lineup, and he's gotten better in each of his full seasons. That's just gravy, though; the pot roast here is Schneider's defense. For the purposes of this exercise, I'm using Baseball Prospectus' defensive stats, because they're easily accessible and support my point. Rate is like OPS+ for defense, a rate stat with an average player getting 100. RAR (Runs Above Average) is a counting stat. Mike Matheny and Jason Varitek won the Gold Gloves at catcher last year, so let's look at them. Matheny was good, putting up a 104 Rate and 28 RAR. Varitek won the award with his bat (102 Rate, 24 RAR). In 2005, Schneider's Rate was 111 and he save 30 Runs Above Average. This was better than both Gold Glove winners. Win Shares don't think quite as much of Schneider's defense (6th best in the majors), but he was the fourth most valuable National last year.
To sum up something that wound up a lot longer and boringer than I wanted it to be, Schneider's decent bat, superb defense, and relative youth (29 next year) combined with the lack of catching prospects coming up through the system make this a great, great deal.
Other arbitration news:
- Alfonso Soriano wants $12 million; the Nats want to pay him $10 million. My hope is that they go before the arbiter, and the Nats make such a forceful case that Fonz doesn't deserve that extra 2 mil that he breaks down in tears and retires.
- Nick Johnson settled for $3.2 million with incentives. As is always the case with Nick, if he plays it'll be a bargain, if he doesn't it won't. He'll be a free agent after the season, and I'm not keen on keeping him around for the long haul.
- Brad Wilkerson signed with the Rangers for $3.9 million. Remember that in July when he's going to the All Star Game and Soriano is sulking about the black eye Frank Robinson gave him.