It’s a quiet morning around the game, so let’s conduct a quick poll.
The Red Sox just agreed to rather an unusual contract with starter Rick Porcello, who had been set to hit the open market after this season. Still just 26 years old, the righty has been a steady presence for several years. But while he has shown some signs of breaking out, and did put up a career-best 3.43 ERA while topping 200 innings last season, Porcello has yet to establish himself as more than a solid, middle-of-the-rotation arm.
Nevertheless, Boston bet on Porcello’s ability to deliver value through his late twenties, buying four free agent years for a $82.5MM guarantee. That’s quite a significant average annual value for a pitcher with Porcello’s track record, but is offset by the fact that the team bought his age-27 through age-30 campaigns.
That trade-off is not often seen, as most pitchers look to score the lengthiest contracts they can, and Porcello almost certainly could have found more years. But it also makes sense: the deal’s structure means that the Red Sox will be relieved of obligations into Porcello’s decline phase, while he in turn will have a chance to hit the market at a reasonably young age.
Somewhat notably, James Shields signed with the Padres for four years and $75MM earlier in the offseason. That’s not insignificantly lower than Porcello’s guarantee, but is still in the same ballpark. Shields, of course, has been one of the game’s best and most durable arms for some time. But he also signed that deal to run through his age-36 season.
Had the Red Sox preferred, perhaps they could have signed Shields to approximately the same deal they gave Porcello, which would have had the added benefit of inserting the former into their rotation this year. Obviously, Boston did not believe that to be a wise investment, in part due to their assessment of Shields’ fit at Fenway and his ability to produce as he ages.
So, will the club regret betting on an arguably less-talented, inarguably much younger arm? Was the Porcello extension a wise investment of the club’s resources?