During the dialogue about the Dodgers non-desire to pay for $100M+ pitching, Scott Andes stated “Those guys are expensive because hold onto your hats here, they are good, and you get what you pay for.” Since he knows the Dodgers can afford to sign 10 Greinke’s, obviously he feels the Dodgers have no salary cap to concern themselves with. I like it when people like to spend other people’s money. This is not intended in any way to pick on Scott. He espoused what many believe, and I just used his comment from the other day. FAZ has gone through 3 FA campaigns , so let’s take a look at what FAZ decided to pass up.
For the 2014 – 2015 FA class, there were approximately 16 FA starting pitchers for consideration: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields, Ervin Santana, Brandon McCarthy, Francisco Liriano, Justin Masterson, Jason Hammel, Jake Peavy, Edison Volquez, AJ Burnett, Ryan Vogelsong, Aaron Harang, Brett Anderson, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley.
Let’s forget about Jon Lester. He was never going to play anywhere except for the Cubs. Lester (and all former Red Sox players) loved playing for Theo Epstein led teams. The only other spot he was about to consider was Boston. So LA was never on his radar.
Max Scherzer was never going to sign for less than for $200M. He believes he is every bit the pitcher Clayton Kershaw is, and was not going to settle for less. He got close with a 7 year $210M. However, per the Detroit Free Press January 22, 2015, “the structure is designed to pay him $15 million annually for 14 years…”
Scherzer received a record $50-million signing bonus, of which $5 million is due for 2015 and $15 million each in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The money is due in 12 equal semimonthly installments in those years, from April through September. In addition, he receives salaries of $10 million for 2015, $15 million each for 2016-2018, and $35 million in each of the final three years. That $105 million total due over the final three years will be deferred without interest and paid in $15 million installments each July 1 from 2022 through 2028. This is the largest deferred salary contract in MLB history.
Also consider, with Greinke’s opt out clause due to kick in for 2016 and Clayton for 2019, the Dodgers were not going to sign another $200M pitcher. One final nail was that Max Scherzer’s ego (deservedly so) was not going to allow him to play in LA as a #3.
James Shields 4 year $75M, Ervin Santana 5 year $55M, Francisco Liriano 3 year $39M (higher AAV than McCarthy), Jason Hammel 2 year $20M, Jake Peavy 2 year $24M, Edison Volquez 2 year $20M. Who would you have signed (if any wanted to sign in LA)?
Are the Padres/ChiSox getting what they paid for James Shields? Is it because he is that good? Ervin Santana did not sign a long-term contract for 2014 because of long-term health concerns and instead signed a one year deal with the Braves. Santana did not like his one year in the NL and wanted back in the AL. McCarthy outpitched him in 2014, and signed for less years and less total dollars. In addition, Santana was suspended for the first 80 games of the 2015 season due to PED (Stanozolol), and would have been suspended for the playoffs.
Francisco Liriano had a good 1st year with Pittsburgh, but not so much the 2nd year. He did pitch better when traded to Toronto, but again has started 2017 roughly. In hindsight, I will concede that Liriano might have been a good selection for 2015 only. Being another reclamation project for Searage might have been a positive. The one thing I do not know is whether he is a good teammate/citizen which certainly would have been a criterion.
Jason Hammel made it clear that he wanted to go back to the Cubs. The Cubs made a fair offer and he took it. It is possible that Hammel might have taken the McCarthy offer from the Dodgers. Hammel signed on December 12, 2014 so we do not know if the Dodgers ever made an offer. McCarthy signed on December 16. Again in hindsight, I will concede that Hammel may have been a good choice for 2015 if it was available.
For 2015-2016 there were approximately 19 FA pitchers. David Price, Zach Greinke, Jordan Zimmerman, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake, Wei-Yin Chin, Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir, Ian Kennedy, Yovani Gallardo, John Lackey, Hisashi Iwakuma, Marco Estrada, J. A. Happ, Mat Latos, Doug Fister, Rich Hill.
Are the Red Sox, DBacks, Tigers getting what they paid for? Price, Greinke, and Zimmerman, are three of the four pitchers signed for $100M+. Greinke is getting less reliable and seems to be regressing. At least his decreasing fastball velocity would indicate so. Zimmerman is bordering on bust, and we do not know what will happen with Price. But with a 3 WAR the Red Sox did not get comparable value to his contract in 2016. Who knew how good Happ would turn out (I guess the Blue Jays did). Iwakuma signed a one year contract and two additional one year club options. He would not have signed that with the Dodgers.
Johnny Cueto the fourth $100M+ pitcher admittedly had a very good year with the Giants. There are concerns about his elbow, and it has acted up with the Reds, Royals, and Giants. Will it hold up? With the expected group of FA pitchers following the 2017 season, I am sure he is hoping that it holds up and he can opt out. But is the risk worth $130M? The Dodgers did not think so. Would he have signed a 2 year deal for higher AAV to go back on the market earlier? IMO no, because I believe he wanted security just in case that elbow blew up. Some of you believe he was worth the risk. With AGon/Ethier/Crawford contracts still on the books, many of us others do not believe that the risk was worth the cost.
Wei-Yin Chen 5 years $80M, -.2 WAR in 2016 was not a very good return. His pitching metrics have not improved considerably in 2017. Ian Kennedy – 5 year $70M, had a decent year in 2016, but will it continue for four more years. KC is trying to unload him and there are no takers. Marco Estrada signed very quickly with the Blue Jays. He might have been a 2-3 year option had he remained a FA.
Jeff Samardzija was not a good FA contract. His 2016 year may have been worth the one year contract, but his 2017 is starting a lot like his 2015 season, when he led the league in hits against, ER allowed, and HR allowed. His 2017-2020 contract years are more of a risk that is pointing in the negative direction.
Lackey was a good 2 year deal, but he wanted the Cubs (can you say Theo Epstein?). Mike Leake may turn out to be a decent contract, but it is still 5 years and $80M.
For 2016-2017 there were approximately 11 FA pitchers. Ivan Nova, Rich Hill, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, Andrew Cashner, Bartolo Colon, Edison Volquez, R. A. Dickey, Jhoulys Chacin, Brett Anderson. Which of those pitchers other than Rich Hill could even come close to giving the Dodgers what they need? Of course he has to pitch, just like Madison Bumgarner has to pitch to be effective (and he isn’t because of something stupid). Hill is adjusting his grip, so let’s see where this ends up. The skeptics may indeed prove to be right. I am just not convinced yet.
The common complaint about McCarthy was his injuries. His two serious injuries were shoulder (requiring surgery in 2009), and epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture (from line drive to head) requiring surgery. Both injuries needed additional treatment in 2013. In 2014, the Yankees traded for McCarthy and told him to go back to his cut fastball which the DBacks told him to discontinue. Perhaps that was the resurgence of his career. There was no issue with his elbow after a 2008 inflammation. No UCL tear. 14 starts, averaging nearly 6.5 IP, 2.89 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 1.151 WHIP with the Yankees, was a good indicator that McCarthy was a good back end of the rotation risk. His first two years were a bust, but the way he has started this year, I am glad he signed for 4. It looks like there could be some return.
Scott Kazmir had two good years before he signed the three year deal with a one year opt out. His 2015 was better than 2014, so the trend was positive. With the 2016-2017 FA pitching class (as identified above), why wouldn’t he believe (or the Dodgers) that he would be at the top of the list come FA time. He may never pitch again, or he might be able to come back and pitch later in the year, or maybe next year. 3 year $48M contract. All of the other comparable pitchers were for more money and years except for Lackey. They needed a pitcher, and signed one for the least number of years and dollars available. Scott was nothing more than a bridge to the next group. They gambled that he would opt out, and lost. They were not going to sign any of the others, so it was Kazmir or nobody.
FAZ had three FA campaigns, and selected McCarthy/Anderson for 2015; Maeda and Kazmir for 2016; Hill for 2017. None of them for more than $48M guaranteed. Skeptics like to rip on Anderson, but his 2015 was better than anyone expected for what should have been a #5. FAZ gambled that Anderson would not accept the QO and were wrong. First time in the history of the CBA did this happen, and there were three QO’s accepted. He was going to be 28 in 2016, and looking at the dollars thrown around pitching that FA season, why he didn’t reject the QO is a better question. Because of their low risk/high reward mentality, FAZ was looking for another J.A. Happ with McCarthy and Kazmir. Okay it didn’t work, but they do not have Samardzija, Leake, Chin, Kennedy, Shields, Zimmerman, Greinke, or any of the others blocking the future rotation coming in the next three years.
For this year, the FA pitching options are not a great selection. Some of the bigger names are Jake Arrieta, C.C. Sabathia, Jeremy Hellickson, Lackey, Estrada, Liriano, Chris Tillman, Hector Santiago, Lance Lynn, Michael Pineda, Tyler Chatwood, Alex Cobb, Wade Miley. Arrieta is going to get at least Cueto dollars, so he is not an option. I am bullish on Lance Lynn. We will have a full year to evaluate how he recovers from TJ surgery. Who would you target if any?