According to one projection system, the Rays are a 92-win team with Bonds…
A few weeks ago, news broke that the Rays had brought up Barry Bonds’ name in internal discussions of available free agents. At the time we made it clear that it was highly unlikely that the Rays would pursue the all-time home run king. We cited the recent clubhouse headache cast-offs, Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes as well as the overall image-conscious nature of the Rays front office.
While we argued that the Rays wouldn’t sign Bonds, we never said whether or not the Rays should sign Bonds. The truth is we truly understand both sides of the argument. We loathed Keyshawn Johnson but we were sure glad he was around to help the Bucs win the Super Bowl. Would we feel the same about Bonds? If he helped the Rays make the playoffs, then ‘hell yes’. And now that we know that Rocco Baldelli will start the season on the DL and his career is in jeopardy, signing Bonds may no longer be a luxury item, he might be a necessity. And as they say, ‘necessity is the mother of Barry’s Barcalounger’ (or something like that).
Many argue that Bonds is a difference-maker. They argue he is the type of impact player that could help put the Rays over-the-top and into the playoffs. But what isn’t clear, is exactly how much of an impact one team could truly expect from adding Bonds to the lineup.
To answer this question, we contacted Chone Smith of Anaheim Angels all the way. Smith is the creator of the CHONE projection system. Smith uses those projections to run a full simulation of the 2008 season. In those projections, the Rays are predicted to win 89 games and finish in third place, 3 games behind the Yankees and the Red Sox. They noted that the vast improvement was do in most part to improved pitching and defense.
So we asked Smith to insert Bonds into the Rays lineup and rerun the projections. He obliged, removing Baldelli from the roster and making Bonds the most-days DH.
According to the CHONE projection system, the Rays would score 36 more runs in 2008 with Bonds in the lineup. In the field the Rays would surrender 7 more runs on defense due to increased playing time for Gomes and Floyd in right field. Overall the Rays would be projected to win 3 more games which ups their win total to 92…smack dab in the middle of the playoff hunt.
As a point of comparison, we also asked Smith to run the same projection if Bonds were signed by the Mets, another team in need of outfield help. In this case, he removed Moises Alou and inserted Bonds. The change meant 30 more runs for the Mets and an increase from 92 to 95 wins in the standings.
This seems to indicate that even though he will be 43 years old and has two bad knees, Barry Bonds is still worth at least 3 wins over the course of an entire season over an above-average player. That number may be more like 5-7 wins over a replacement-level player. According to Baseball Prospectus, Bonds was worth 6.2 wins in 2007 over a replacement-level player. In only 126 games, the 42 year old Bonds hit .276-28-66 with a .480 OBP. His 170 OPS+ would have led the NL had he not come up about 30 plate appearances short of qualifying.
Should the Rays attempt to sign Bonds if they can get him at a discount rate? If you think that the Rays are indeed an 88-89 win team, then the answer should be ‘Yes’, because Bonds might indeed be the difference between the 2007 Brewers (just missed) and the 2007 Rockies (World Series).
[Ed. note: An excellent question was brought up in the comments that we don't have the answer for, but raises a good point. The Rays were an 89-win team (projected) with Rocco. They are probably more like an 86-87 win team with Jon Weber or John Rodriguez. So right now, Bonds would actually be worth approximately 5-6 wins if you consider that he is in reality replacing Weber or Rodriguez.]
Marc Topkin Wants You To Believe That It Is Possible For Barry Bonds To Sign With The Rays [Rays Index]
Signing Barry Bonds Would Go Against Everything The Rays Have Done The Past Two Years [Rays Index]
Finally, the hitter projections [Anaheim Angels all the way]
AL projected standings [Anaheim Angels all the way]
The Devil Rays, how they will go from the cellar to contenders [Anaheim Angels all the way]
Barry Bonds [Baseball Prospectus]