Should the A’s try to lock up Josh Willingham? What will it cost?
Billy Beane has done his best to add power to an A’s lineup that was nearly worst in the American League each of the past three seasons. And today, he not only acquired a power hitter in Josh Willingham, but an on-base machine as well. As we’ve witnessed nearly every off-season when it comes to the A’s, it’s been a huge struggle attracting big name free agents to the Bay Area, or at least one side of the Bay Area. And as Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post tweeted today, a contract extension may very well be possible. Thus, my question is, can the A’s lock up Josh Wilingham after acquiring him in the same off-season a la Dan Uggla? If so, what will it cost the A’s?
Willingham has made nearly $10MM in his Major League career. The most he was paid in a season was obviously in ’10, $4.6MM. The career .265 hitter has a .378 on base percentage over the past two seasons, his two years on the Washington Nationals and although his UZR is -10.0 over the last two seasons, he can boast about a 5.2 WAR over his aforementioned cup of tea with the Nats.
There’s one close to perfect comparison for Willingham. That would be Corey Hart.
Corey is perhaps the best comparable for Willingham. Both are very similar players and Hart is being paid $6.5MM in ’11, $9MM in ’12, and $10MM in ’13. That’s exactly what I would pay Josh Willingham over the next 3 years. Willingham gets on base more than Hart, but both have very similar power and are both equally not so spectacular defenders, as their respective UZR’s over the past two years would suggest. Josh Willingham has hit .264 over the past two years while Hart has hit a very similar .262. With all of that said, Willingham has a higher runs created and weighted on base average during his Nationals stint, something that Billy Beane surely has in mind. Both strike out the same amount (JW 23% and CH 22.9%) and are equally slow, hence their lousy play in the outfield.
Here’s a WAR Graph comparing the duo’s cumulative WAR by age, courtesy of Fangraphs.
Furthermore, what will an extension for the A’s newly acquired left fielder cost? He is three years older than Hart, but continues to outplay the Brewers slugger.
Personally, I think a 3 year deal worth $28MM would be fair. Being paid $6MM in ’11, $9MM in ’12, and $13MM in ’13. Willingham has shown tremendous improvement since being traded from the Marlins along with Scott Olsen in exchange for Emilio Bonifacio and two minor leaguers. Even if an extension doesn’t go through or get decided upon, the A’s have a much improved lineup for the 2011 season headlined by new acquisitions David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui. Not to mention another year of experience for Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Dallas Braden to go along with a fantastic bullpen which is highlighted by Andrew Bailey, Craig Breslow, and Brad Ziegler. Continuing, I really like the A’s chances in 2011 and most of my confidence in their chances to win the division come from the new acquisition and this entry’s centric, Josh Willingham.