Chad Billingsley’s Extension

If Chad Billingsley had been looking to extract every last dollar from his big league career, he wouldn't have signed an extension this week. But he's 26 years old in a profession where career-altering injuries are commonplace and his employer offered him $35MM in guaranteed money. It's not hard to see why he signed a three-year contract with the Dodgers.  In fact, Billingsley pushed agent Dave Stewart to get a deal done now despite the agent advising he wait until after the season.

Billingsley

Though Billingsley will earn $9MM in 2012, a healthy '11 season would have positioned him for more given his career numbers to date. Two similar pitchers, Joe Blanton and Wandy Rodriguez, both asked for over $10MM heading into their respective final arbitration seasons though neither was as well positioned to ask for an eight-figure salary as Billingsley might have been. Blanton and Rodriguez started from lower base salaries than Billingsley's current $6.28MM mark and their ERAs sat more than half a run higher than than Billingsley's, so Carlos Zambrano may be a better point of reference.

Zambrano was working from a similar salary to Billingsley ($6.5MM) his second time through arbitration and had similar numbers to the ones now found on the back of Billingsley’s baseball card. Zambrano set himself up for a $12.4MM payday in 2007 with a banner '06 season, so an eight-figure salary would have been well within Billingsley's reach in 2012 with a typical showing in '11.

Billingsley's deal provides the Dodgers with a likely bargain on his first two free agent years as well. The contract pays him an average of $11.5MM for 2013-14, two seasons that could have been free agent years. The 25 extensions signed by arb-eligible starting pitchers since 2009 suggest the going rate for free agent years in multiyear extensions is $13.4MM, so the Dodgers appear to be getting a bargain of about $2MM per year.

There's a good chance that the Dodgers saved at least $6MM from 2012-14 by signing this extension. Billingsley has obtained $35MM in guaranteed money, however, and will be no older than 31 when he hits free agency for the first time. He has enough time for a major free agent contract after this extension expires.

Meanwhile, In committing to Billingsley, the Dodgers are taking on risk themselves. They're hoping that the right-hander's history of durability continues and that they save money, as expected. But they've invested tens of millions in a resource that's as fragile as it is valuable – starting pitching. With Clayton Kershaw approaching arbitration as well, it's a risk GM Ned Colletti may have to get used to.

Photo courtesy Icon SMI.


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