Why Didn’t Colby Lewis Get More Money?

It's clear now that the Rangers made a great free agent signing with Colby Lewis.  The 31-year-old righty ranks 15th in the American League with a 3.28 ERA and sixth with 150 strikeouts.  He was signed for just $5MM over two years, with a chance for $8MM over three years if the Rangers exercise their 2012 club option.

In February, Lewis told ESPN's Tim Kurkjian of his multiyear deal, "Things like that don't happen very often."  Kurkjian explained the rarity of a player going to Japan, returning to MLB, and thriving.  Even so, I'm still surprised Lewis didn't get a bigger contract.  A $5MM commitment – teams will spend that much on a couple of draft picks despite a lower probability of success.  Low-upside free agents like Miguel Tejada, Ivan Rodriguez, Jason Kendall, and Jason Marquis received more money last winter.  Heck, the Rangers guaranteed $7.5MM to Rich Harden for one year.  The Athletics gave Ben Sheets $10MM.

Interest was heavy – Kurkjian said 12 or 13 clubs were in on Lewis and the Twins and A's also offered two-year deals.  MLB teams had two years to scout the new-and-improved Lewis in Japan.  Rangers GM Jon Daniels told Kurkjian, "[Lewis] was throwing 90-to-95 with a hard cutter. Other teams saw the same thing."  Lewis' numbers in Japan were ridiculously good, too.  Why didn't anyone outbid the Rangers?  Perhaps teams took the approach of, "better the devil you know than the devil you don't" and allocated free agent money toward players they were able to scout in MLB games.

Leave a Reply

13 Comments on "Why Didn’t Colby Lewis Get More Money?"

5 years 18 days ago

Colby Lewis obviously deserved more money. I’ve often heard the Japanese Leagues being seen as a AAA+ league talent wise. I find it hard to believe that the ML clubs see things this way. If there was a AAA pitcher putting up the #s Lewis did over his years there, he’d have gotten more.

5 years 18 days ago

AAA+? That’s why they always win the World Baseball Classic, right?

Honestly, I don’t understand why people would ever say anything like that about Japan.

5 years 18 days ago

the japanese teams with the WBC has nothing, i mean, nothing to do with it. besides, the WBC happens when players are just coming into SPRING TRAINING. as in they have had like 5+ months of a lay off and are then competing for their country. i’d like to see how the WBC would shake up if it were to take place..in say…late June.

that said, AAA+ is probably a stretch. their better than that

5 years 18 days ago

The Japanese league is better than AAA+ (not by much though). However, using the WBC as a comparison is not a solid arguement. If you really think that the Japanese league is so good then why do players who are not offered contracts in MLB go to Japan to reinvent themselves?

5 years 17 days ago

well here is the thing about the world baseball classic. I think it is a given that as a whole the US has the most significant and talented baseball league in the world. If that weren’t the case Ichiro, Matsui, Dice K etc would not be coming over here to play in the american baseball league. Arod, Bonds and Griffey would have gone to Japan to take the “leap” to the best league in the world if it were the other way around.

I have read in multiple places that many MLB scouts believe that Japanese baseball is the equivalent of 4A baseball. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have 30 players in the league that would be able to be a major contributor to the MLB roster. (that’s all it takes for a great world baseball classic team too!!!).

But as for the world baseball classic lets run thru the teams that finished ahead of the USA in the first two WBC’s.

the following teams finished ahead of the USA both times:

Japan, South Korea, Venezuela

these teams finished ahead in one of the two tournaments:

Cuba, Dom Republic, P. Rico, Mexico

now if we were using your argument of WBC finishes that would suggest that the pro leagues in S. Korea, Venezuela, Cuba etc would also be equivalent to MLB level???

I don’t think so.

5 years 18 days ago

I’m sure his failure to produce in the majors over an extended period with that same stuff didn’t help his cause. I mean, he was absolutely brutal in 5 seasons, just terrible.

I don’t think it had much, if anything, to do with the Japanese leagues like marxkip implies.

5 years 18 days ago

Doesn’t seem like it was the same stuff, if Kurkjian’s article is accurate.

5 years 18 days ago

If that’s the case, the fact that he stunk it up here may be of less importance.

5 years 18 days ago

It’s always easier to say this retrospectively.

Patrick Newman
5 years 18 days ago

I’ve heard that he turned down a bigger contract from Hiroshima to come back to the States. I don’t know the figure but my guess it was around $3m annually.

5 years 18 days ago

So nobody mentions “hometown discount”? He started with the Rangers and maybe Colby wanted to go back to the Rangers and that is all there is to it. Colby Lewis is in the minority of underpaid bargain players. There are far more “making more than they should based on their stats” players like Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman.

5 years 18 days ago

If you took all the best players from AAA, you could field a very competitive team at the WBC. The Japanese WBC team doesn’t represent the overall talent level in the Japanese league.

5 years 18 days ago

“better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”

makes no sense, it should be “better the devil that offers the most money”

in spanish they have a saying that goes like this “better the known bad than the unknown good”; I guess he meant something like this…