Data On Locking Up Young Pitchers

With the help of Cot's Baseball Contracts and other sources, MLBTR has compiled data on 66 contracts given to young pitchers over the past ten years.  The criteria for the list was that at least one arbitration season was bought out in the pitcher's multiyear contract.  Over $1.4 billion has been committed to these pitchers.  Data to consider:

  • Locking up young pitchers has never been more popular.  11 contracts have been signed so far in 2010, more than any other year.  The trend seems to have taken off in 2005, after which point 7-9 young pitcher contracts were signed each year.
  • Will we ever see a deal for a pitcher that covers a player's first season, like Evan Longoria's?  It hasn't happened yet, but 11 pitchers have signed deals that included their second year of service time.  James Shields took more of his money upfront than most, in that he earned $1MM in his second year of service time and $1.5MM in his third.  Most players, going year to year, earn $500K or less before reaching arbitration.
  • Tim Lincecum, of course, will earn the most in a season that would've been his first arbitration year – $8MM.  Next is Cole Hamels at $4.35MM.  Typically the first arbitration season goes for about $3MM (in recent years).  The second arbitration year is typically around $6MM, the third about $8.5MM.  To buy out a young pitcher's arbitration years, the cost is usually in the $13-17MM range.
  • 47 of the contracts bought out the first free agent season; 20 of those are club options.  At $20MM, Justin Verlander will be paid the most for his first free agent season.  At $80MM, Verlander's total contract value is also the highest.  Aside from Verlander and Felix Hernandez, most pitchers gave up their first free agent at a $7-14MM price.
  • Six pitchers gave the club options on multiple seasons.  Brett Anderson, Ian Snell, Adam Wainwright, and Ubaldo Jimenez allowed two club options, while Shields and Fausto Carmona gave three.
  • Older data may be missing, but the Diamondbacks appear to lead with six young pitcher deals (two for Brandon Webb).  The A's are next at five.  As far as we can tell, the Braves, Dodgers, Mets, Nationals, and Orioles have zero.

Ben Nicholson-Smith contributed to this research.

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