Will C.J. Wilson Get $100 Million?

Two years ago, Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson struck me as a quality reliever, but certainly not someone who could eventually score a $100MM contract.  Now, with free agency just months away, I'm wondering if that could be his ceiling on the open market.

Wilson

Wilson switched back to starting in 2010, and he exceeded expectations.  Though Wilson led the American League in walks, he also made 33 starts with a 3.35 ERA in the regular season.  Sure, his SIERA was 4.19, but the conversion was a success.  Had Wilson signed an extension after the 2010 season, giving up three free agent years for around $10-11MM apiece seemed appropriate.  The decision to wait paid off for Wilson, as he's taken his game to a new level in 2011.  The walks are down significantly, the strikeout rate is up, and he made the All-Star team.  Without Cliff Lee around, Wilson is the Rangers' undisputed ace.

Wilson's innings total predictably skyrocketed in 2010, but it didn't lead to any injuries.  Including the postseason, he made 37 starts that year for a total of 228 1/3 innings.  He averaged almost 17 pitches per inning in 2010 and about 6.2 innings per start.  This year he's been more efficient at 16.2 pitches per inning, and he's exceeding 6.6 innings per start.

Why do I think $100MM is possible?  Age is not a concern, as he turns 31 in November.  He's become a horse, but his overall mileage is low because of the time spent as a reliever.  He's succeeded in a tough home park and in the American League.  The advanced numbers are strong and he provides the fairly rare combination of strikeouts and groundballs.  Here's a look at the recent big pitching contracts signed on the open market:

  • Cliff Lee: five years, $120MM ($24MM per year).  32 years old at time of signing.
  • John Lackey: five years, $82.5MM ($16.5MM per year).  31 years old.
  • C.C. Sabathia: seven years, $161MM, plus opt-out clause ($23MM per year).  28 years old.
  • A.J. Burnett: five years, $82.5MM ($16.5MM per year).  32 years old shortly after signing.

It's easy to toss Wilson into the Lackey/Burnett bracket and expect a similar contract.  But Lackey had missed a month in each of his previous seasons and had totaled 373 innings.  Burnett was coming off a career-best 221 1/3 innings, but had pitched only 301 1/3 over the previous two seasons.  Meanwhile Wilson is projecting for perhaps 225 innings this year, for a total exceeding 450 over 2010-11.  He doesn't come with the injury concern Lackey and Burnett did.

Also consider that Burnett signed after the '08 season and Lackey after '09, so even if Wilson were comparable to them he'd deserve more based on inflation.  I think there's an easy case for $90MM over five years, so it's not crazy to think one team would add a sixth year or take him to the $20MM per year range.  This only applies if we're talking about a free agent bidding war – if the Rangers re-sign him prior to open season, it'll be for less.  It should be noted that the Yankees and Red Sox figured prominently into all four free agent contracts mentioned above, so their involvement with Wilson will be a huge factor.

We also have to look at what the free agent and trade markets will offer in terms of competition.  Sabathia could again be the free agent prize if he opts out, but he'll require a commitment well beyond Wilson that only a few teams could handle.  Sabathia could re-sign with the Yankees early on, which might take them out of the Wilson bidding but also leave him as the best available starter, easily above Edwin Jackson or Hisashi Iwakuma.  Yu Darvish being posted would shake things up, though some teams might still prefer Wilson.  The trade market figures to feature Wandy Rodriguez and perhaps a few surprises, but I'm not sure there's a Zack Greinke, Matt Garza, or Shaun Marcum-caliber pitcher in the mix for this offseason.

Wilson's progression has been amazing – an '08 season that ended with elbow surgery, 14 saves and a 10.3 K/9 relieving in '09, a mid-rotation type in '10, and an ace in '11.  Now it's time to see what he's worth.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


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66 Comments on "Will C.J. Wilson Get $100 Million?"


3 years 10 months ago

I’d rather sign Mark Buehrle.

3 years 10 months ago

He’s good, but not $100 Million good.

rizdak
3 years 10 months ago

Is any professional athlete really $100 Million good?

coolstorybro222
3 years 10 months ago

Pujols?

Isaac
3 years 10 months ago

Alex Rodriguez when he was in his prime. Albert Pujols. Mark Teixera in his prime. Troy Tulowitzki. So yeah there are athletes worth 100million

jwsox
3 years 10 months ago

The answer in the real world, what he was looking for, is no. No one is worth 100 mill.

East Coast Bias
3 years 10 months ago

You’re only worth as much as someone is willing to pay you.

Chris1G
3 years 10 months ago

Micheal Vick apparently is worth 100 million dollars

3 years 10 months ago

If anyone gives this guy $100 million they’re insane. He’s good just not $100 million good.

Chris1G
3 years 10 months ago

Consider the Yankees insane then this off season then (if you haven’t considered them insane already)

3 years 10 months ago

Doubt it. They’ll be too busy throwing $100-120M at Darvish while Wilson signs elsewhere.

Chris1G
3 years 10 months ago

Consider the Yankees insane then this off season then (if you haven’t considered them insane already)

coolguy23
3 years 10 months ago

A hundo milli? That’s a load of dough even for me, and I’m super-rich. Imagine all the cat food you could get with that kind of money – only the best for C.J.’s feline friend Ricky AM I RIGHT?

MadmanTX
3 years 10 months ago

Although Wilson is currently the “ace” of the Rangers rotation, he still isn’t exactly a top flight pitcher. He’s also still a flake. If things don’t go his way, he gets into a funk and spirals the same as Ian Kinsler. I’d rather see $100 mil spent on a better, more reliable pitcher–if one can be found out there in free agency. I could see Wilson getting the money from another, more desperate team–like the Mets or Yankees.

SaigonHooker
3 years 10 months ago

SaigonHooker thinks you are a flake.  What has actually set the ceiling for Wilson’s next contract is the Weaver deal.  That will be the example used by teams in negotiations with Wilson’s jackals.  I mean agent.

captainjeter
3 years 10 months ago

we ain’t  desperate,fool. We  got Banulous coming and Betances

Bernaldo
3 years 10 months ago

Neither of whom has pitched an inning in MLB and are just as likely to be mediocre as good.  The Yankees hope that both become bona fide big leaguers, but they aren’t going to bet the house on it.  The Yankees will be looking for proved starters this off season and hope for help from their minor leaguers.

3 years 10 months ago

Didn’t you boys say the same thing about Hughes and Chamberlain just 3-4 years ago? How’s that working out for ya? Between the two, you’ve gotten one truly good season each.

Charlie Martínez
3 years 10 months ago

I don’t see the Yankees throwing a 100 M to this guy, if the price comes down to the weaver/burnett/lackey [85 M] Yes, the Yankees will do it. Wilson is a good pitcher, but the only reason he is a an Ace is because Lee picked the Phillies, a No. 2 starter at Best. 

The Mets? What is that?

Beau Buchholz
3 years 10 months ago

uhhhh what? perception is not always reality.  Wilson is 11th in IP, 7th in strikeouts, 13th in ERA, 7th in walks, 10th in K/9, 10th in quality starts.  

Is he Justin Verlander?  No.  Is he a “top flight”  pitcher?  Yes.  

Joe Valenti
3 years 10 months ago

you really think sandy “moneyball” alderson is going to give him $100 mil? he’s already said how much he hates longterm contracts. he already has to do it with reyes. i really seem to doubt he will do it with wilson too

East Coast Bias
3 years 10 months ago

Your sound logic looks alien in this topic.

vtadave
3 years 10 months ago

I wouldn’t do it as a GM, but if your team has money, this is what the market may be. The Yankees will certainly be in the market for starting pitching (when aren’t they?), and I expect a bidding war between them and the Rangers.  I’d say 5/80 is a starting point, but a team may need to go a year too long at 6 years and push the total near $100 million.

notsureifsrs
3 years 10 months ago

under-rated

AL FIP- last two years (FIP adjusted for park and league)

verlander
weaver
sabathia
hernandez
lester
wilson
price

signed-by-blue-jays

TartanElk
3 years 10 months ago

Under-rated, perhaps. I’m betting he’ll get $100 million, but honestly, has he done enough to deserve it? I feel as if he’s 1 more solid year away from deserving that kind of money.

Currently, I’d say he’s more of a 4/70-80 player. He’s currently a very good pitcher, but he’s not quite over that cusp of being elite in my mind.

JacksTigers
3 years 10 months ago

Justin Verlander – 5 Years/$80MM
Jered Weaver – 5 Years/$85MM
CC Sabathia – 7 Years/$161MM
Felix Hernandez – 5 Years/$78MM
Jon Lester – 5 Years/$30MM
David Price – 6 Years/$8.5MM

Sabathia is the only $100MM man when looking at the AL’s top FIP pitchers. There is no way that CJ Wilson makes more than some of the other top pitchers in the league. And yes, I am aware that Lester and Price would make much more in free agency, but this is all that I have to work with at the moment.

notsureifsrs
3 years 10 months ago

i didn’t claim that he will or ought to get $100M, just that he’s underrated

but exactly one of the contracts you just mentioned was signed in free agency, and it’s the $100M one. so i don’t think that list helps make the argument that he won’t make $100M

3 years 10 months ago

Exactly, I don’t see Wilson getting $100MM. I also doubt you see him getting more than 4 guaranteed years at 31 years old. 4 years/$72-75MM with maybe a 5th year team option at $20M is more likely.

Ta-Kuan Fuan
3 years 10 months ago

Anything more than 5/75 would be crazy.

cubsfan97
3 years 10 months ago

Hes put up numbers the last two years a 100 million dollar pitcher would.  But most 100 million dollar pitchers put up good numbers for 5 or 6 years.  Im not saying he wont be good, but thats too narrow of a track record for someone to give him a 100 million dollars.

bjsguess
3 years 10 months ago

This is my exact argument. Each of those guys had a track record that was significant. Two years of starting, with one really great year, is still too risky for me.

Other thing to point out – look who signed those 4 comparables – Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, Yankees. Point is that there are maybe 5 or 6 teams in all of baseball that would be prepared to shell out $100m for a 31 YO starting pitcher. Phillies are set. I don’t see the Red Sox making a play for him. The Yankees could always do something but if they retain CC that’s a lot of money in the rotation. 

captainjeter
3 years 10 months ago

Yankees only conern is keeping CC. Banulous is  coming along  very nicely and he ‘s a lefty/

Ta-Kuan Fuan
3 years 10 months ago

Even though I completely agree with you, but to play the devil’s advocate here, Cliff Lee didn’t exactly have a long track record either for all the big teams to be swooning over him. He had a solid 2005 before falling way off (and subsequently sent back down to the minors) before he had that amazing Cy Young season in 2008. His 2009 season was pretty good coupled by an outstanding postseason. Ditto with 2010. So that’s basically 1 great year and 2 good years that got him a 5yr / $120 million contract. He could’ve easily gotten more had he gone to the Yankees.

3 years 10 months ago

Simply put, he doesn’t have enough experience/track record (as a starter) to warrant such a deal. You can’t go throwing around 100M contracts to every SP who pitches two good years straight. the salaries in mlb are getting more ridiculous each year and if you do it for CJ, EVERY 2 year stud is gonna look for it.

Isaac
3 years 10 months ago

Yankees could

Ta-Kuan Fuan
3 years 10 months ago

Cliff Lee got a super lucrative contract with just 1 outstanding year and 2 good years. Before that, he only had 1 solid year and was even sent down to the minors prior to his Cy Young season.

TheFreak2011
3 years 10 months ago

I suppose there’s a sucker out there born every day, or seemingly so, but I don’t see him getting any more than what Lackey or AJ Burnett got.  There’s not enough quality years to back his performance of this year, imo.  I also think he will re-sign with Texas.

corey23
3 years 10 months ago

I think someone gives him $100 mill, and they regret it.

Anthony Polito
3 years 10 months ago

he’s not wrote it 100 mill

jfretless
3 years 10 months ago

If C.J. Wilson gets $100 mil, Giants fan should start getting ready to say good bye to Lincecum and/or Cain.

Isaac
3 years 10 months ago

Amen

Dan Wohl
3 years 10 months ago

Why? Giants can afford it, with their boatload of idiotic contracts mercifully going off the books soon enough (Tejada and DeRosa after this year, Huff and Rowand after next, Zito, at long last, after the next). Assuming, of course, Sabean doesn’t hand out any more idiotic contracts, which is admittedly not at all a given.

Dan Wohl
3 years 10 months ago

That being said, I do get the feeling Cain is a goner pretty soon. Probably should have traded him before this season when he would have had a lot of value, going into next season with 1 year before FA and 15 mil coming his way not so much. But I get the sense Giants will try to lock up Lincecum longterm this offseason and figure to roll with him and Bumgarner going forward.

bmoneyy20
3 years 10 months ago

they might want to use some of that money and finally get a bat

3 years 10 months ago

If the Giants end up tying up all the young pitchers… you guys will never have a worthwhile offense. What you’ll be losing in the bad contracts, will be replaced by monetarily by Lincecum, Cain, Posey, Wilson, and potentially Sanchez and Bumgarner. You won’t have any cash left to to bring in any worthwhile bats.

captainjeter
3 years 10 months ago

both Cain and Linecum would net around 150 million

3 years 10 months ago

Barring injuries and the like, Lincecum is a $100M pitcher in two years. Cain is at least $70M after next season. If Bumgarner continues as he has… he might end up worth more than Lincecum.

3 years 10 months ago

It wouldn’t be the first crazy contract the Nats gave out.

Encarnacion's Parrot
3 years 10 months ago

5/$80MM sounds about right for the maximum he would get. 4/$60MM makes the most sense.

rizdak
3 years 10 months ago

The contract that isn’t mentioned here is Jered Weaver’s 5-year, $85M deal. So I have a tough time seeing CJ Wilson getting $100M unless it’s from Boston or New York.

3 years 10 months ago

Well, I’m talking about what Wilson would get if he makes it to free agency.

0bsessions
3 years 10 months ago

Given that using him as a comparable takes some damage when accounting for Weaver being an extension as opposed to a free agent signing, BUT, teams will almost certainly use him as a benchmark during negotiations.

3 years 10 months ago

Any time you’re getting compared to John Lackey and A.J. Burnett, you should be worried.

3 years 10 months ago

I said no but it only takes one Rizzo… I mean GM to make it happen.  I didn’t think Werth would get what he got either.  I think Wilson is to pitching as Werth is to hitting, both good at what they do but not necessarily an ace or the best hitter on a good team.  I’d take Wilson in a heartbeat but I don’t think he’s worth $100 million.  Then again neither are a lot of the guys who are making that now.

3 years 10 months ago

Hello? Hiroki Kuroda? Much better value than Wilson