Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Cautionary Tale & Max Scherzer

The New York Yankees are still flirting with the idea of signing top free agent starting pitcher Max Scherzer this offseason, if you believe Hal Steinbrenner anyway, for what presumably would be a pretty lengthy and awfully expensive deal. If history is any indicator of what the future will look like that might not be a great idea for the Bronx Bombers if they go past, say, five years for Scherzer. There have been plenty of starting pitchers, especially lately with inflated payrolls and television contracts, to eclipse the $100 million mark on long term deals and we are starting to see them now surpass $200 million overall. Most deals have been bad but there have been a few saving graces for the teams interested in Scherzer, or James Shields for that matter, to look at and shoot for.

Remember Kevin Brown’s seven year deal worth $105 million where he averaged just 3.27 WAR per season? Brown’s was the best of the bunch as far as $100 million plus deals go when Brown made two All-Star teams and accumulated a +22.0 WAR making that contract the best of the bunch. Brown’s semi-successful contract was followed by not so great contracts including Johan Santana’s six years and $137.5 million (2.53 WAR average), Barry Zito’s seven year and $126 million (0.43 WAR average) and Mike Hampton’s eight year deal worth $121 million (0.36 WAR average) to name a few. Matt Cain’s current deal with the San Francisco Giants may be another cautionary tale for teams which may be drying up the market for these two top free agent pitcher.

Are either Shields or Scherzer the next Mike Hampton?

For every five to ten Hampton’s teams eventually get one five year and $120 million contract from Cliff Lee. Sure Lee has elbow and arm troubles in 2014 but pitched absolutely fantastic from 2011-2013 accumulating a 21.2 WAR during that span. Also it’s worth mentioning that the Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw contracts are looking good right now but there is always plenty of time for those deals to go awry. CC Sabathia’s first deal worked out well for the Yankees but he opted out after three years of his seven year deal worth $161 million so I’m not quite sure that deal really applies, especially looking at what he has done since signing his new contract.

Scherzer and Shields could either be the next Lee or Kevin Brown, the next Masahiro Tanaka or the next Barry Zito or Mike Hampton. There are more Zito’s and Hampton’s than there were Lee’s and Brown’s though so it may be a bad idea for him to be the next anything in New York. 

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)