Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Z-Man's Back

The Orioles have finally agreed to terms with 37 year-old catcher Gregg Zaun. The contract will pay him $1.5 M for 2009 with a team option for 2010 at $2 M with a $0.5 M buyout.

Rick Dempsey's nephew hit .237/.340/.359 with 6 HR in 245 AB for Toronto last year. That's good .330 wOBA, 97 wOBA+. Fangraphs has him being worth 1.5 wins ($6.7 M value) last year, with WAR numbers of 2.0, 1.9, 2.6, and 2.1 the previous four years.

I think this is a great signing for the team. Zaun's a switch-hitter that is very solid at the plate for a catcher and shouldn't have any problem sliding into his more usual back-up role once Matt Wieters is ready. He might be getting up there in age, but this is still a very low-risk move with some modest upside (mostly that it gives the team it's first non-replacement level back-up it's had in a while).

I'm projecting Zaun for .241/.340/.374 in 225 PA - that's a .320 wOBA which (assuming average fielding and a little below average base-running) translates to 0.9 WAR. For the low, low cost of $2 M ($1.5 + buyout), the O's are getting around $4.6 M in value. Plus they're protected incase Wieters needs extra time to develop (crazy thought, I know), as he is capable of being an OK starter - better than the other options the team has, in any case.

I've been calling for this move for a while, and encouraged that Andy MacPhail saw past the name recognition of an Ivan Rodriguez (1.6 WAR in '08 from Fangraphs) to make the correct move for the team.

One of my first baseball memories was watching an O's game in my grandparent's basement when Zaun (who came up with the team) homered against the Blue Jays. I remember jumping up and down on the couch, even though checking back now it just brought the team to within 5 runs (the Jays were up 7-2 after the two-run blast).
It's time to bring back that excitement...
It's time to bring your Z-Game!

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