Recent

0

The Under-Represented Middle Class of FA Pitchers

On Tuesday, Paul Maholm signed with the rival Cubs for $4.25M in 2012 with a $6.5M club option in 2013 ($500K buyout).  On the same day, Wei-Yin Chen signed with the Orioles for 3 years at a total cost of around $12M.  These two signings continued an interesting trend this offseason — the division of pitchers into only two categories.

The first category is the upper salary range pitchers and is very small:  CC Sabathia opted out and then re-upped with the Yankees for 5 years at $122M ($24.4M/yr), C.J. Wilson took a slight discount to play near his home and signed with the Angels for 5 years and $77.5M ($15.5M/yr), and Mark Buehrle signed with the Marlins for 4 years and $58M ($14.5M/yr).

The vast majority of the remaining starting pitchers have signed for between $4M and $6M/year, with most of the contracts only being 1 year and aside from Wei-Yin Chen no contracts longer than 2 years.  This trend was set early in the year, with Bruce Chen re-signing with the Royals for 2 yr/$9M, Chris Capuano to the Dodgers for 2 r/$10M, and Erik Bedard to the Pirates for 1 yr/$4.5M.  All signed at or before the Winter Meetings.

This has led to a depression in the price of starting pitchers and essentially locking in most of the remaining starting pitcher options.  Pitchers such as Jon Garland, Bartolo Colon, Jeff Francis, Rich Harden, Brad Penny, Joe Saunders, and Joel Piniero all figure to be in this zone of salary for 2012.

The only two remaining starting pitchers who will slot somewhere above $8M, but below $14M, are Hiroki Kuroda and Edwin Jackson.  Jackson’s agent, Scott Boras, has floated demands of a 5 year deal worth $85M, but with the market dynamics as they are it is unrealistic to expect him to get either the years or the average per year amount.  Kuroda is said to still be interested in staying in MLB, but there is always the lure to return to the Nippon Baseball League.  Kuroda hoped to stay with the Dodgers, but with their early free agency additions and a payroll figure depressed by the transitional nature of their ownership, they simply could not meet his salary.   There were talks of Kuroda to the Diamondbacks, but their rotation appears to be full, with young prospects clamoring at the gates to enter the rotation.

What are some of the potential reasons for this depression in salaries for starting pitchers this year?

1.  The crop is not that good — CC Sabathia was the cream of the crop and he was scooped (back) up by the Yankees early in the proceedings.  After that it was waiting to see where C.J. Wilson selected and then sift through the options of the mostly mid to back-of-the-rotation starters.

2.  The Yankees and Red Sox were not active in FA this year — The Yankees had one target and got Sabathia.  After that, even with a suspect rotation, they have stood pat.  The Yankees and Red Sox are not “out of money”, but it seems as if we have reached an inflection point in their respective payrolls.   The same is generally true of the Red Sox.  The Red Sox also seem to be re-trenching a bit after last year’s colossal meltdown.  With a new GM and new manager, it appears as if 2012 will be an evaluation year for Boston.  Both Cashman of the Yankees and Cherrington of the Red Sox appear to be willing to use their minor league system to fill holes at the major league level, rather than trade them for established veterans.

3.  Teams are thinking unconventionally to fill rotation spots —  The Red Sox are going to convert Daniel Bard back to a starter and bolster the relief corps with low cost alternatives (Mark Melancon and Andrew Bailey).  The Rangers are doing the same experiment with Neftali Feliz, as are the White Sox with Chris Sale.

4.  Tentpole franchises are in financial trouble — Both the Dodgers and the Mets have been on the sidelines this offseason while they each get their financial houses in order.  The Dodgers are searching for a new owner and the Mets are trying desperately to avoid bankruptcy.  This has taken 2 large players out of the game.  Coupled with the Red Sox and Yankees aforementioned pullbacks, it has not been a good market for free agents to procure multiple offers.

5.  Teams are waiting for the 2013 free agent class — Some of the potential starting pitchers options are much more appealing in next year’s class, such as Zack Greinke, Matt Cain,  and Cole Hamels.  There are also pitchers with options that may not get picked up such as Gavin Floyd, Ervin Santana, Dan Haren, and James Shields.  Of course some of these guys will not get to the free agent market, but the options are a little more appealing next year.  Don’t rule out Tim Lincecum being on the trade block, either, as he may price himself out of the Giants’ plans this offseason.

Also factor in that certain teams that typically are in the top third of spending, such as the Mariners, Cubs, and White Sox are all in the midst of re-building and you see the maelstrom of factors that have contributed to this downward pressure on starting pitcher salaries this offseason.  For the players and their agents, they can only hope that some of these factors change by the time November 2012 rolls around.

Enjoy this story? Pirates Prospects will be switching to a subscription site on 4/13, so that we can continue bringing you the best Pirates coverage there is. For a very small monthly price, you can continue getting articles like this, along with coverage from every minor league city. Get more information here, and subscribe today!

Share This Article

Minor League Depth — Pitching, Part 2 (Upper Level Relievers)

Next Story »

Winter League Playoffs 1/12 — Hernandez On A Roll; Welch Too

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IXVCY7UL7Y4TCU6KCJY4A7A54I Domenic

    Seems like a perfect time for a small market team like Pittsburgh to go out and get some value in regards to a starting pitchers for 1yr at 5mil or 2yr at 10mil…

Latest Analysis

  • Keller Supak Hinsz

    Even With the New Draft Rules, the Pirates Are Still Loading Up on Projectable Pitchers

    2 hours ago

    From 2008-2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates spent a lot of resources on projectable pitchers out of high school. So far, this approach has led to breakout performances from ...

    Read More
  • Josh Bell made the move to first base over the off-season. (Photo credit: David Hague)

    Why Should You Care About Prospects?

    1 day ago

    Yesterday I had a shorter day than usual. The Pirates had cuts at the MLB level, and a road game. The day was shortened at Pirate City, ...

    Read More
  • Gregory Polanco

    Q&A: Trading Prospects For Rentals, Polanco Concerns, Meadows vs Appel

    2 days ago

    I missed the Q&A last week due to a common problem in Spring Training: I forgot what day it was. It was around 6:00 that I was ...

    Read More
  • Nick Kingham f

    Improving His Two-Seam Fastball will Make Nick Kingham a More Effective Pitcher

    3 days ago

    With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to ...

    Read More
  • Arquimedes Caminero 3

    The Roster Situations That Could Impact the Makeup of the Pirates Bullpen

    5 days ago

    There are less than two weeks remaining in Spring Training, and the one area where the Pittsburgh Pirates had actual position battles is heating up. There were ...

    Read More
  • Jordan Luplow

    How the Pirates are Trying to Stay Ahead of the Curve With the New Draft Rules

    6 days ago

    The 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement brought a lot of changes to Major League Baseball. The biggest change for the Pittsburgh Pirates came in the draft. From 2008-2011, ...

    Read More
  • Alen Hanson

    The Key For Alen Hanson to Help the Pirates in the Majors This Year

    1 week ago

    When the Pittsburgh Pirates moved Alen Hanson to second base last year, part of the plan was to get him to the majors faster by putting him at ...

    Read More
  • Tyler Glasnow 2

    What the Stats Don’t Tell You About Tyler Glasnow

    1 week ago

    The stat line for Tyler Glasnow’s start at Pirate City yesterday looked great: 3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. The lone run ...

    Read More
  • JaCoby Jones Josh Bell

    JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

    2 weeks ago

    The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him ...

    Read More
  • Cody Dickson is a lefty with the upside of a middle of the rotation starter. (Photo Credit: Mark Olson)

    The Mental Adjustment that Led to Cody Dickson’s Dominant 2014 Second Half

    2 weeks ago

    Trusting his stuff and not trying to do too much — that has been the key for left-handed pitcher Cody Dickson so far in his professional baseball ...

    Read More
  • Browse More Articles

    More