In the offseason, the Los Angeles Angels did an incredible job of locking up star second baseman Howie Kendrick to a four-year deal worth $33.5 million. Now, they have to give an extension to his double-play partner, Erick Aybar, and are still in talks with the shortstop.
Despite Aybar wanting a considerably higher deal (expected to be at least five years and $50 million), Angels GM Jerry Dipoto believes that both sides will come to an agreement.
He told L.A. Times writer Mike DiGiovanna, “Erick wants to be an Angel, we want Erick to be an Angel, and I feel very confident we’ll be able to work something out,”. We’ve made progress. I’m very encouraged by where we are and that we will ultimately get there.”
The fact that middle infielders Ian Kinsler (good deal) and Brandon Phillips (not-so-good deal) signed this offseason will most likely have no effect on a deal with Erick Aybar, but the expect market for Aybar has already come to the forefront. The Boston Red Sox will want a shortstop next offseason, as will other teams that value Aybar highly. There is no pressure for him to get a deal done, because he knows that he is going to get paid at some point. However, as Dipoto said, it seems like he wants to keep playing with the Angels and that has to be a factor.
The sides are currently split on the issue, because the deal Kendrick accepted was as team-friendly as it gets, whereas Aybar wants a long deal worth at least $50 million.
The 28-year-old was worth exactly 4 WAR last season during the best year of his career, even though it was a down year for him defensively. He was still solid on defense, but his UZR was at just 1.2. However, UZR fluctuates and Erick Aybar is a good bet for quality defense each year (projected +2 UZR this year).
Most projection systems value him as a 3 WAR player, but he was worth 3.8 WAR in 2009. Last season, Aybar enjoyed a career-high 109 wRC+, and he increased his power output to ten home runs and a .142 ISO. Aggressive on the basepaths, the speed SS also stole 30 bases and brought his line drive rate to 20% after a total of 15% the previous year; an anomaly that helped lead to a career-low .253 batting average in 2010.
Last season, Erick Aybar was more aggressive and swung at half of every pitch thrown at him. However, his O-Swing% rose to a career-high 37.9%, as he was also chasing more pitches than usual. He started seeing more first-pitch strikes but also less strikes overall, and his contact rate was about the same as his down year in 2010 (contact rate fell from 89% to his usual 87% in 2011).
Aybar’s offensive ability goes as his BABIP (LD% in 2010′s case) goes, due to his more aggressive approach at the plate. His .338, BABIP-driven 2009, as well as his deflated LD% 2010 were the true outliers. His value as a hitter is around what he posted last season, albeit slightly worse due to worse habits at the plate.
It looks like Erick Aybar has traded discipline for power, and it could pay off. This year will be telling for the shortstop, but it’s safe to say that he’s worth between 3-3.5 WAR, with his value being closer to 3.5 WAR. Below is a rough projection for him if he receives five years starting in 2013.
2013 (age 29) 3.5 WAR
2014 (age 30) 3 WAR
2015 (age 31) 2.5 WAR
2016 (age 32) 2 WAR
2017 (age 33) 1 WAR
Since Erick Aybar is largely a speed/defense shortstop, he will most likely not age gracefully. The rough projection above has him being worth 12.5 WAR over those five seasons, which equates to about $57 million in value over those five years. It looks like five years and $55-60 million is the ideal value for the Angels shortstop, and we’ll look to see how the talks proceed as the season wears on, as well as Aybar’s discipline and overall play. Both sides are moving closer to getting a deal done, so whatever happens will likely develop sooner than later.