How Kyle Seager is Changing the Oakland Athletics

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Kyle Seager may be one of the biggest factors in the Oakland Athletics off season and he doesn’t even play for the A’s. Seager, third base for the Seattle Mariners, was given a seven year, $100 million contract extension going into his first year of arbitration and, since arbitration is based on market value, it is idiocy to think his new contract won’t drive up Josh Donaldson‘s value, at least a little.

The Athletics were probably never considering a contract extension with Donaldson and Seager was given more money as an incentive to avoiding the arbitration period, as well as his first few years of free agency, but it stands to reason that the Athletics would have to pay top dollar, from an arbitration standpoint, for Donaldson and, because of his Super 2 status, they’d have to do it for an extra year.

As I reported last week, Donaldson was estimated to make $4.5 million this year and Ken Rosenthal reported this morning that Donaldson, assuming good health and progress, could make $39 million in arbitration over the next four seasons. Seager, on the other hand, will be making $57 million over that same period. With both men posting similar stats and of similar age (Donaldson is a bit older), it’d be shocking if the A’s (former) third baseman wouldn’t have walked into arbitration with Seager’s pay as precedent for a contract closer to $7-8 million this year. 

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Donaldson and Seager were both All Stars in 2014, played in virtually the same amount of games, were separated by only 41 plate appearances, three hits, four home runs, two RBI’s, and one stolen base. Further, Donaldson had more walks but Seager had fewer strike outs and their OBP, SLG, and OPS were nearly identical.

In fielding, Donaldson had 23 errors to Seager’s eight but he had 44 more put outs and 60 more defensive chances. Of course, there’s a little matter of a gold glove for which Donaldson has zero and Seager has one.

To say that these two players are comparable is an understatement. They are as close to identical as you can get, in a large portion of the stats, for baseball players. To assume that Josh Donaldson wouldn’t command a salary in arbitration that was swayed heavily by his division counterpart is crazy.

The Athletics had to have considered this when the offer came in from the Blue Jays last week. Had Donaldson not qualified for Super 2 status, it might have been a different story, but four years of arbitration eligibility, when an exact duplicate player was making $14 million a year in the same division, had to give Oakland’s front office room to pause.

If you take Brett Lawrie‘s stats and multiply them by 2.25, which gives him about as much playing time as Donaldson in 2014, you’ll see that he was comparable or, in some cases, excelled Donaldson offensively. If he can stay healthy and compete for a full season, Lawire may bring the same power threat to the plate while costing the team substantially less money, at least immediately. If he does play as well as he’s capable of for a full season, he’ll be able to use Seager and Donaldson as salary precedent in arbitration but in the short term, with a short 2014, the A’s get him for cheap and can preserve that salary into 2015.

Next: Platooning is Worse Than the Trades

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