I’m about to drop a cold, hard truth-bomb…
I’m not a professional general manager.
I know your mind just exploded, but it’s true.
Anyway, what I’m saying is that if I were a general manager (again I’m really not), I would hand out a lot more contracts like the one the Cleveland Indians just gave Carlos Carrasco, 28. For those of you not familiar, they agreed on a 4 year- $22 million contract. That shakes out to $5.5 million per year.
Now Carrasco is far from a sure thing as a top of the rotation guy, but he did have an encouraging season last year. He had 9.4 K/9 and an impressive 4.83 K/BB. Also, his FIP was just 2.44, suggesting that it wasn’t a fluky season, but a sign of things to come.
While we should expect some regression to the mean with Carrasco and can’t expect him to post a 2.55 ERA over the next four seasons, all the metrics suggest that Carrasco has what it takes to be a very good starting pitcher.
This isn’t an (article? blog post? stupid collection of words?) about Carrasco, though, it’s more about the type of contract he was given. We’ve seen it before, a player in his twenties being locked up to a long-term, rather low-per-year deal. Andrew Friedman was notorious for doing this with the Rays. For example, he locked up Chris Archer to a 6 year/$25 million deal when Archer was 25. Matt Moore got a 5 year/$14 million extension at just 22. Most notably, he gave Evan Longoria a 6 year/$17.5 million extension with an upside of $44.5 million over 9. These are good deals. Andrew Friedman is smart, so Andrew Friedman made these deals. (Logic!)
Why are they smart? Well, for a small-market team like Tampa, the deals allow them to maintain their homegrown stars for a longer time and at a relatively low average salary. For a big market team like the Yankees, these deals also make sense because if the player fails, it’s not a big deal to just eat the money they owe him. For example, if the Yankees decided to give Michael Pineda an extension in the range of 4 year/$30 million (give or take x million, I can not stress enough how bad I am at projecting contracts), to kick in starting in the 2016 season, I think that would be a really smart move, for both the Yankees and Pineda.
Pineda, when not injured or poorly concealing pine tar, has been a really good pitcher. I don’t want to bore you with numbers, just kidding I do. He has a lifetime FIP of 3.16 and a 3.78 K/BB ratio in 253.1 innings. Last year, he was filthy, posting a 2.61 SIERA, 2.71 FIP, and 8.43 (!) K/BB ratio. So, yeah, when he’s not a bonehead or hurt, he’s pretty freaking good. I recognize the inherent risk he carries, but (please don’t yell at me) he has shown flashes of a pitcher who can command $100 million when he hits free agency. Having a guy with that much upside and skill through his age-30 season at just 7 to 8 million dollars per year is really a bargain. If it doesn’t work out, they’re the Yankees and can afford to eat the money. It’s not like its a huge, burdensome contract.
The deals also make sense for the players, however. Look at Carrasco, first. Last season was the first in which he did not spend any time in the minors. Sure, the way he pitched suggested that if he continued like that and hit free agency eventually, he could be taking home a big contract, but when you have had just one, albeit good, season in the majors and you are offered $22 million, you probably take it.
Same goes for Pineda. He started 28 games in 2011, then missed two full season with injuries, and only started 13 last year. Sure, he’s looked awesome, but if you were a guy with his background of injuries and uncertainty, and you were offered $30 million, I imagine you take it. The deal also allows him to hit free agency when he’s 30/31 and, if he pitches well enough, get that huge contract.
So what have we learned:
1) I’m not a general manager
2) Long term/low AAV extensions can benefit both the teams and players
3) More contracts like this should happen
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