Chris Tillman Rumors

Chris Tillman, Orioles Begin Extension Discussions

MARCH 26: Tillman told Orioles reporters today, including Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (Twitter link), that not much has changed on the extension front since January. He’s open to a long-term deal but is letting his agent handle the situation. MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli tweets that Tillman also said he’d prefer that talks didn’t carry on into the regular season.

MARCH 25: Starting pitcher Chris Tillman and the Orioles have initiated extension talks with a goal of completing a deal by the start of the season, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. The talks have not gotten specific yet in terms of dollar figures, a source tells Heyman.

I profiled Tillman as an extension candidate in January. Tillman has established himself as a workhorse in the past two seasons, pitching over 200 innings with good ERA numbers in both. His peripheral numbers have suggested he’s a somewhat worse pitcher than that, however, and his velocity has fallen in each of the past two seasons, dropping to an average fastball speed of 90.7 MPH last year. He might, however, be able to outperform his peripheral numbers to a degree due to his excellent work controlling the running game. He also pitched very well in the second half last year, and he’ll be 27 next month, an age at which he could take a step forward.

If no extension is reached, Tillman will make $4.315MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility this season. That should set the Beverly Hills Sports Council client up to make $20MM or so in his three arbitration seasons, depending on how he performs this year and next. Any extension discussions for a contract of three or more years would have to begin there, with the ultimate total of the deal dictated by its length. At the long end, Tillman could ask for something like the five years and $55MM Matt Harrison received prior to the 2013 season, although the Orioles might perceive such a contract to be a risk given the underwhelming numbers (6.5 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 4.20 xFIP in 2014) beneath Tillman’s ERA.


AL East Notes: Steinbrenner, Tillman, Matusz, Norris

Yankees owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner covered a number of topics in a recent chat with Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Among other things, Steinbrenner credited the front office with having “better drafts of late,” naming prospects Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, and Aaron Judge as some of the players to show promise. He also addressed the team’s offseason spending, which — while still substantial — was not as extraordinary as it has been at times in the past. Steinbrenner noted that the team still put out a lot of money on the international market even as it missed on Yoan Moncada. He also gave some thoughts on the team’s future intentions in free agency: “I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”

Here are some more links from the AL East:

  • The Orioles continue to discuss contractual matters with starter Chris Tillman even after agreeing to an arbitration salary for 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this year that the sides have “mutual interest” in an extension. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined his extension case.
  • Meanwhile, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz has seen his name come up in trade rumors. After tossing four scoreless frames today, he acknowledged the chatter, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Matusz is still hoping to line up a starting role, but says he is most focused on providing value in any capacity. “I mean, it’s no secret. I’m well aware of talks and things going on,” said Matusz regarding the possibility of a deal. “But for me all I can control is what I can control. To be able to go out and pitch and get extended and throw all four pitches and mix. Be able to pitch my game is really what it’s all about.”
  • Young lefty Daniel Norris seems to have all but established himself as the Blue Jays‘ fifth starter, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. While veteran Marco Estrada is still considered part of the competition, Kennedy says that it would take a major change to move Norris out of the role now. Both Norris and fellow youngster Aaron Sanchez would stand to put themselves on track to hit arbitration eligibility in 2018 before qualifying for free agency in the 2021 season, if they can hold onto their big league roster spots for all or most of 2015. (Norris 29 days of big league service at present, while Sanchez has 69 days.)

East Notes: Ichiro, Tillman, Blue Jays

The Marlins‘ level of interest in free agent outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has begun to increase, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. He adds that while the Marlins are set for outfield starters, they lack depth behind Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, and they can use Ichiro’s combination of experience and speed. The Blue Jays and Orioles have also been connected to the 41-year-old outfielder. Here are more notes from the East divisions.

  • The Orioles have discussed extensions with a small handful of players, including starter Chris Tillman, and could revisit those talks in the future, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. The Orioles signed Tillman to a one-year, $4.315MM deal earlier this week to avoid arbitration. MLBTR looked at the possibility of a long-term deal for Tillman in a recent extension candidate piece.
  • Starter R.A. Dickey is cautiously optimistic about the the Blue Jays‘ upcoming season, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star writes. “I’m as excited as I was in 2013,” says Dickey, referring to the splashy offseason in which the Jays acquired him. “Now, we all know what happened in ’13.” Dickey says he’s excited about the Jays’ additions of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, although he’d still like to see them acquire bullpen help.


Arbitration Roundup: 54 Players Exchange Figures

With today’s flurry of activities in the books, 144 players have agreed to deals to avoid arbitration for a total spend of $433MM. But that leaves 54 players who have exchanged figures and have ground left to cover before their 2015 salaries are settled. That number is up from last year’s tally of 39, and may point to the possibility that we will see more hearings than the three in 2014 (which was itself up from zero the year before).

MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker is a great resource for seeing where things stand. It is fully sortable and even allows you to link to the results of a search. (The MLBTR/Matt Swartz arbitration projections are also quite handy, of course.) Using the tracker, I compiled some broad notes on where things stand in the arbitration process this year.

Remember, deals avoiding arbitration can still be reached even after the exchange of numbers. Hearings will be scheduled between February 1st and 21st, so there is plenty of time for the sides to come together before making their cases.

That being said, some teams are known for their “file and trial” approach to arb-eligible players, meaning that they refuse to negotiate after the exchange deadline and go to a hearing if agreement has not been reached. Among those clubs (the Brewers, Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, and White Sox, per the most recent reporting), there are several open cases remaining: Mat Latos and Michael Dunn (Marlins), Josh Donaldson and Danny Valencia (Blue Jays), Mike Minor (Braves), and Aroldis Chapman, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier (Reds).

Meanwhile, some other clubs have historically employed the “file and trial” approach on a modified or case-by-case basis: the Pirates, Nationals, and Indians. Among those clubs, the Pirates (Neil Walker, Vance Worley) and Nationals (Jerry Blevins) have open cases, though all of them feature relatively tight spreads.

And there are some other interesting cases to keep an eye on as well. Consider:

  • The Orioles and Royals not only faced off in last year’s American League Championship Series, but find themselves staring at by far the most unresolved cases (six and eight, respectively). They are also the only teams with eight-figure gaps between their submissions and those of their players ($10.85MM and $10MM, respectively).
  • Among the Orioles players, two stand out for the significant relative gulf separating team and player. Zach Britton, who excelled after taking over as the closer last year, filed at $4.2MM while the team countered at $2.2MM, leaving a $2MM gap that is worth nearly 91% of the club’s offer. Even more remarkably, the O’s will need to bridge a $3.4MM gap ($5.4MM versus $2MM) with surprise star Steve Pearce. That spread is 1.7 times the value of the team’s offer and easily beats the largest difference last year (Logan Morrison and the Mariners, 127.3%).
  • Of course, it is worth remembering that first-year arb salaries have added impact because they set a baseline for future earnings. (Each successive year’s salary is essentially calculated as an earned raise from that starting point.) For the Reds, the outcome of their cases with Frazier ($5.7MM vs. $3.9MM) and Mesoraco ($3.6MM vs. $2.45MM) could have huge ramifications for whether the team will be able to afford to keep (and possibly extend) that pair of strong performers.
  • Likewise, the Angels face an important showdown with Garrett Richards, a Super Two whose starting point will factor into three more seasons of payouts. As a high-upside starter, he has sky high earning potential, so any savings will be most welcome to the team. The current spread is $3.8MM versus $2.4MM, a $1.4MM difference that equates to 58.3% of the team’s filing price.
  • Interestingly, the biggest gap in absolute terms belong to Pearce and the Orioles at $3.4MM. After that come Bud Norris and the Orioles ($2.75MM), David Freese and the Angels ($2.35MM), Greg Holland and the Royals ($2.35MM), Dexter Fowler and the Astros ($2.3MM), Eric Hosmer and the Royals ($2.1MM), and Aroldis Chapman and the Reds ($2.05MM).

Of course, plenty of deals already got done today. Here are some of the more notable among them:

  • David Price agreed to a $19.75MM salary with the Tigers that stands as the single highest arbitration payday ever, by a fair margin.
  • Interestingly, the Rays agreed to rather similar, sub-projection deals with all seven of their arb-eligible players. Discounts on Swartz’s expectations ranged from 3.23% to 13.21%. In total, the club shaved $1.525MM off of its tab.
  • The opposite was true of the Tigers, who spent a total of $1.4MM over the projections on just three players. Of course, since one of those players was Price, the commitment landed just 5.2% over the projected total.
  • Detroit’s overages pale in comparison to those of the Cubs, who handed out several of the deals that beat the projections by the widest relative margin and ended up over $2.5MM (14.5%) over their projected spend.
  • The MLBTR/Swartz model badly whiffed (over 50% off) on just three players, all of whom earned well over the projections: Chris Coghlan of the Cubs (78.9%), Carlos Carrasco of the Indians (66.9%) Tony Sipp of the Astros (60%).
  • On the low side, the worst miss (or the biggest discount, depending on one’s perspective) was Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who fell $2.2MM and 28.9% shy of his projected earnings. Danny Espinosa (Nationals) and Chris Tillman (Orioles) were the only two other players to fall 20% or more below their projections. Of course, in the cases of both Melancon and Tillman, Swartz accurately predicted that they would fall short of the model.

Orioles Avoid Arbitration With Wieters, Davis, Tillman, Matusz

The Orioles have avoided arbitration by agreeing on one year deals with three players, according to reports. Catcher Matt Wieters, corner infielder/outfielder Chris Davis, righty Chris Tillman, and lefty Brian Matusz all have reached terms for 2015.

After missing most of 2014, Wieters will earn $8.3MM in his final year of arbitration, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). That represents a $600K bump over his salary last year, a much lower figure than would have been expected coming into the season. The 28-year-old saw only 112 plate appearances, slashing an impressive .308/.339/.500 in that short sample, before succumbing to right elbow issues that ultimately required Tommy John surgery.

Davis also will receive a much lower raise than seemed likely before 2014, in his case due to performance issues and a late-season suspension. He will take home $12MM, up from $10.35MM last year, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter link). MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz was right on the mark with a $11.8MM projection for the slugger. Davis can also earn bonuses of $150K upon his 500th and 575th trips to the plate and $50K each for an All-Star appearance, Gold Glove award, or Silver Slugger nod.

Tillman, meanwhile, has settled for $4.315MM, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. Connolly was first to report (on Twitter) that a deal had been reached. The 26-year-old becomes the second-highest-paid first-time arb-eligible starter in MLB history. As Swartz wrote recently, Tillman seemed likely to come in just under the record, and fall shy of the $5.4MM projection that Swartz’s model produced.

As for Matusz, he will play for $3.2MM next year, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets. That constitutes a nice increase over Swartz’s projection of $3.2MM. Soon to turn 28, Matusz was again effective from the pen last year, tossing 51 2/3 frames of 3.48 ERA ball.


Orioles Notes: Duquette, Rasmus, Tillman

The ongoing rumors about Dan Duquette leaving Baltimore to become the Blue Jays’ new team president have cast a fog over the Orioles’ offseason, Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes.  While Peter Angelos’ statement yesterday allegedly ended the matter, Schmuck notes that Duquette himself has yet to address the situation, and the speculation will continue until Duquette makes a definitive statement about his future.  Here’s more from Camden Yards…

  • Schmuck noted that the lack of resolution with Duquette could create tension within the front office, and according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com, this could already be the case.  More than one source within the organization described the situation as “toxic,” Kubatko writes.
  • The Orioles are preparing a preliminary list of candidates who could potentially fill Duquette’s position if he did leave, The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly reports.  The list includes four former general managers (Ned Colletti, Kevin Malone, Omar Minaya and Kevin Towers) though none have yet been contacted.  If a hiring is necessary, this new front office figure would join manager Buck Showalter and VP of baseball operations Brady Anderson in making personnel decisions, and the new hire could be working under Anderson on the team’s depth chart.
  • The “ball is in the hands of” Blue Jays’ ownership now, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets (multiple links), as it seems as if “an extraordinary offer” will be required to get the O’s to release Duquette from his contract.  Since Duquette hasn’t come out and said he wants to stay in Baltimore, Olney notes that the remaining scenarios are that a deal is worked out between the two teams or Toronto decides to look elsewhere for its next president.
  • Colby Rasmus is looking for a raise from his $7MM salary in 2014 and the Orioles aren’t eager to pay him more than that amount, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports.  While the O’s are still interested in the free agent outfielder, they’re hoping to land him on a relatively team-friendly one-year deal, Encina notes.  It had been widely assumed that Rasmus would pursue such a pillow contract in the wake of his underwhelming 2014 season to potentially set him up for a richer multiyear deal next offseason.
  • Also from Encina, right-hander Chris Tillman confirmed that he’s interested in an extension with the O’s, though he is leaving the negotiations up to his representatives at this point.  “I think it’s smart to listen, and I think it’s dumb not to,” Tillman said. “You weigh all the options and go with it. I don’t know a whole lot about it, to tell you the truth. My agent called me about it, and I told him, ‘You know what? Call me back when you know something.’ That’s not me. I’m day to day. I roll with the flow.”  MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined Tillman as an extension candidate.

Extension Candidate: Chris Tillman

With his youth, solid performance, strong health record and history of eating innings, righty Chris Tillman certainly seems like the kind of player who ordinarily would get extension consideration. It comes as no surprise, then, that the Orioles are interested in extending the Beverly Hills Sports Council client. It doesn’t sound like discussions have gotten very far, however, and it’s not clear where they’ll end up once they do.

USATSI_8036927_154513410_lowresTillman has pitched over 200 innings in each of the last two seasons, establishing himself as a workhorse at the relatively tender age of 26. After struggling through half-seasons in the big leagues in 2010 and 2011, he’s gotten above-average results. What’s not immediately obvious, however, is why he’s gotten those results. Tillman’s K/BB numbers (6.5 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 2014; 6.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 for his career) are fine but nothing special, and he also isn’t a ground ball pitcher. He’s posted very low BABIPs (.221, .269 and .267) in each of the last three seasons, and he’s stranded runners at a very high rate in each of the last two. Unsurprisingly, Tillman’s xFIP and SIERA figures have run well behind in his ERAs in each of those years, suggesting a back-of-the-rotation type who looks better than he is thanks to the Orioles’ excellent defense. His velocity has also dropped in each of the past two seasons.

Tillman does benefit from the fact that it’s nearly impossible to steal bases against him, however, which doesn’t turn up in peripheral numbers. Also, it’s possible he turned a corner at some point last season — he posted a 4.11 ERA in the first half, then a 2.33 in the second half, with 7.7 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. That kind of decisive improvement might be mostly variance (Tillman also pitched significantly better in the second half in 2013, but didn’t carry that improvement into the first half of 2014), but it’s also possible he simply got better as the season went on, particularly given his age. Tillman changed his release point as 2014 progressed, perhaps suggesting that at least a portion of his improvement is sustainable. And even if Tillman reverts to his career norms next year, his ability to soak up innings has value. Exactly how good Tillman is can be debated, but if he keeps pitching 200 innings a season, extending him has limited downside (at least by the standards of multi-year pitcher contracts) even if he’s merely average.

It’s difficult to find precedents for a Tillman extension that don’t come with significant caveats. Tillman has between three and four years of service time, and via MLBTR’s Extension Tracker, most recent extensions for starting pitchers with that much service are either very short (two years each for Mat Latos and Clayton Kershaw, for example) or out of date (Johnny Cueto got a four-year deal plus an option prior to the 2011 season, while Ervin Santana got four plus an option two years before that). A long-term deal for Tillman would potentially recalibrate the market for pitchers with similar service time.

So to map out a Tillman extension, we’ll begin with his likely salary heading into his first year of arbitration. Matt Swartz’s model for MLBTR projects that Tillman will get $5.4MM in his first arbitration season, but as Swartz noted last week, that figure is probably unlikely. The current record for a one-year deal for a pitcher eligible for arbitration for the first time is $4.35MM, and Swartz thinks Tillman would approach or match that figure rather than crashing through it.

If Tillman were to make $4.35MM next year, that would still set him up to clear $20MM in his arbitration seasons, depending on his development. If Tillman’s contract were to match the Cueto and Santana deals in structure (four years plus an option), that would put him between $32MM and $40MM. That figure seems low, given more recent extensions for pitchers with slightly less service time, like Chris Sale (who had between two and three years of service time when he got $32MM guaranteed for five years, plus two options) and Derek Holland (who had roughly the same service time as Sale and got $28.5MM guaranteed for a five-year deal with two options). Julio Teheran signed for six years and $32.4MM last offseason despite having just over a year of big league service.

Of course, Tillman and the Orioles could aim longer. For five years guaranteed, Tillman could perhaps ask for the five years and $55MM given to Matt Harrison, who had a year more service at the time of his extension than Tillman has now. Phil Hughes‘ recent deal gave up three years of free agency eligibility at $14MM per season, and a five-year deal for Tillman would give up two. Given what Tillman is set to make in arbitration, a $55MM total, or perhaps a bit less, for the next five years makes sense. Alternately, the two sides could strike a two- or three-year deal, although that would likely be done purely on Tillman’s arbitration projections and probably wouldn’t contain any options.

Given the money Tillman is already set to make in arbitration, it would be hard to blame him for aiming high in extension discussions. The question is whether the Orioles would want to pay $50MM or more for a pitcher with so many sabermetric question marks. If a large percentage of Tillman’s success is due to the Orioles’ defense, it doesn’t make sense for the Orioles to pay a premium for him going forward. Unless Tillman is willing to take a substantial discount, the Orioles’ best route might be to take him year-to-year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Tillman, Orioles Mutually Interested In Extension

Righty Chris Tillman and the Orioles have “mutual interest” in an extension, executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette tells Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Tillman is represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council.

There are a few candidates for that,” says Duquette. “We haven’t spent much time on that, but contract discussion is always a good time to explore that.”

Matt Swartz’s model projects Tillman will make $5.4MM in his first year of arbitration eligibility. As Swartz notes, that would break Dontrelle Willis‘ record (later tied by David Price) for first-time eligible starting pitchers, which has stood at $4.35MM for eight years. Swartz suspects, however, the model’s $5.4MM guess is a bit high.

Still, with a 13-6 record in 2014 (not a particularly important figure analytically, but a consideration in arbitration), a 3.34 ERA and 207 1/3 innings pitched, Tillman can make a very strong arbitration case. Of course, one reason Willis’ mark has stood for so long is because some candidates to break it (such as Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and Mat Latos) have signed extensions first. All three of those pitchers initially signed two-year deals. It’s unclear if the Orioles would have interest locking Tillman up long term, or if they would want a shorter deal primarily intended to provide cost certainty for the 26-year-old’s arbitration years. If it’s the latter, Latos’ two-year, $11.5MM deal from before the 2013 season might provide a reasonable starting point for discussions.


Arbitration Breakdown: Lance Lynn, Chris Tillman, Alex Cobb

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors, but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Way back in 2006, Dontrelle Willis set a record for first-time eligible starting pitchers by earning a $4.35MM salary. Arbitration records rarely last eight years, but Willis’ record has. This year, however, three pitchers emerged as possible contenders to top this record. There have been a number of pitchers who looked destined to break this record before. Notably, Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw had cases that were far stronger than Willis. But each signed a multi-year deal, which does not count towards arbitration records. As a result, there have been a number of pitchers who have crept closely up to Willis’ record but failed to top it. Had Lincecum or Kershaw signed a one-year deal to avoid arbitration, it is likely that other pitchers would have ended up earning more than the $4.35MM that Willis earned in 2006.

This type of situation is one that can break a model of arbitration salaries. My model sees Lance Lynn earning $5.5MM, Chris Tillman earning $5.4MM, and Alex Cobb earning $4.5MM. Of course, “The Kimbrel Rule” would cap Lynn and Tillman at $5.35MM, letting them only eclipse the previous record by $1MM. But these are all sort of path-dependent. Only Lynn looks likely to break the arbitration record on his own, but if he does that it is likely to affect what Tillman and Cobb earn. The effect that records have for a given service class and role can make the model look bad in that respect. There have been nine different pitchers in the last five years who have gotten within $50K of Willis’ record, but in each case something led the players to earn just less than him.

The lower run-scoring environment in the league in recent years has certainly helped Lynn, Tillman, and Cobb put together better cases than some of the other nine guys. Last year, Lynn had a 2.74 ERA while Cobb allowed 2.87 earned per nine. The only two starting pitchers in recent years to reach their first year of arbitration eligibility with ERAs under 3.00 have actually been Lincecum and Kershaw. Stephen Strasburg had an ERA of 3.00 exactly and earned $3.97MM last year, but he struggled with run support and only had an 8-9 record. Travis Wood and Mike Minor earned $3.90MM and $3.85MM last year with low ERAs of 3.11 and 3.21, but their records were 9-12 and 13-9. Lance Lynn had a 15-10 record, which should help him put together a better case than any of them. Cobb only mustered a 10-9 record despite his 2.87 ERA. Tillman went 13-6 with a 3.34 ERA, so his ERA is more in line with these other pitchers, but he had a better record than many of them. Tillman also has a lot of innings under his belt for a first-time eligible pitcher. He not only threw 207.1 innings in 2014, but logged 473 innings in his pre-platform years, which is basically as many as any of the nine pitchers who earned within that $3.85-4.35MM range that I mentioned earlier.

David Price actually matched Willis’ record with a 12-13 record in 2011 and a 3.49 ERA in 224.1 innings, so he might be that person that would be considered if any of these pitchers try to set a new high mark. Lance Lynn seems the most likely to do so, and his case actually compares pretty favorably to Price’s. Lynn had a better record and ERA (15-10, 2.74) than Price (12-13, 3.49) in his platform year. Although Price threw 224.1 innings, Lynn did throw 203.2. Lynn also had a 34-18 record with a 3.82 ERA in 412.1 innings in his pre-platform seasons, while Price had a 29-13 record with a 3.31 ERA in 351 innings. Lynn’s case also is pretty good compared to the next highest case in recent years. In 2010, Jered Weaver went 16-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 211 innings, after having a 35-19 record with a 3.71 ERA in 460.2 innings in his pre-platform years. Lynn’s pre-platform numbers are very similar to Weaver’s but his platform year ERA is a run better. Putting Lynn’s case up against Price and Weaver makes it look likely that he could set the record.

That being said, I doubt that Lynn will crush the record and end up with the $5.5MM the model projects without applying the Kimbrel Rule, or even the $5.35MM that he would earn once the Kimbrel Rule was applied. But it does seem likely that he will find himself earning north of $4.35MM.

If Lynn established the record, then he may be used as a comparable for Tillman and/or Cobb. But I suspect that they will still not be able to top $4.35MM despite what the model says. Cobb’s 10-9 record will hurt him, although his 2.87 ERA is obviously outstanding. Price’s numbers look better when you consider the fact that he threw 58 more innings than Cobb in his platform year and won two more games. He also had 80 more pre-platform innings and four more pre-platform wins with a similar pre-platform ERA. I suspect Price will be seen as a ceiling for Cobb unless his ERA matters more than I suspect. I could see Doug Fister’s 2013 case, which earned him $4.00MM, serving as a floor for Cobb though. Fister also struggled with run support and only went 10-10, so he had the same number of wins as Cobb. Fister only had 161.2 innings, too, which is almost equal to Cobb’s 161.1. But Fister had a 3.45 ERA, which is more than half a run higher than Cobb. Fister also had only a 20-31 record pre-platform with a 3.49 ERA in 448.1 innings, while Cobb had a 25-14 record and a 3.39 ERA in 332.1 pre-platform innings. Obviously Fister has the edge in pre-platform innings, but I suspect the superior ERA will make Cobb’s case look better. I think somewhere between $4-4.35MM is likely for Cobb, falling somewhat short of his $4.5MM projection but still in the same ballpark.

Chris Tillman’s projection looks less likely to be close. Tillman went 13-6 with a 3.34 ERA in 207.1 innings last year and 32-25 with a 4.28 ERA in 473 pre-platform innings. His case actually looks a lot like Price—he has one more win with an ERA 0.15 lower in his platform season, but with 17 fewer innings. He also won 29 games pre-platform, shy of Price’s 32, but had a 4.28 ERA. Price’s ERA was nearly a run better at 3.31. At the same time, Tillman had 473 pre-platform innings to Price’s 351. So depending on whether pre-platform ERA or pre-platform innings are more important, Tillman could beat Price or fall short of him. Mike Minor from last year might serve as a solid comparable for Tillman too. He won 13 games like Tillman did, with a 3.21 ERA and 204.2 innings. However, he had only 19 pre-platform wins in 302.2 pre-platform innings and an ERA even higher than Tillman at 4.37. So Minor would actually be more of a floor at $3.85MM. I suspect Tillman will probably match Price, but if not I doubt that he will fall below Minor’s numbers.

Overall, I think the model is going to be high on all three of these pitchers. They will probably move together, so if one of them ends up hitting the model, then the others are more likely to do so as well, but if they fall short, they will probably do so together. I think that Tillman and Cobb are probably not going to top the $4.35MM record, although I suspect Lynn will. If any of them do—and without signing multi-year deals—then they may make it easier for future starters to do so as well.


AL East Notes: Drew, Orioles, Blue Jays, Rays

On this date 21 years ago, the Blue Jays signed free agent starter Jack Morris to a two-year contract. The right-hander had recently led the Twins to a memorable World Series win over the Braves, out-pitching John Smoltz with ten shutout innings in the deciding seventh game. Morris won 21 games for the 1992 Blue Jays, and Toronto captured its first World Series title. Though Morris struggled in 1993, the Blue Jays successfully defended their title. Now 57, Morris is a candidate for Hall of Fame induction. Here are today's AL East links…

  • Stephen Drew will obtain $500K if he reaches 500 plate appearances in 2013, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Drew agreed to terms with the Red Sox on a one-year, $9.5MM deal yesterday.
  • The Orioles have spoken with at least six teams about possible trades, Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com reports. The Orioles are seeking a middle of the order bat, but aren't willing to trade their best prospects to obtain one. While there's some interest in pitchers such as Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and Zach Britton, there are indications the Orioles wouldn't want to trade more than one of them. Plus, their trade value isn't particularly high.
  • The Blue Jays are prioritizing present gains over future potential, Shi Davidi writes at Sportsnet.ca. But it's not about a one-year gamble for GM Alex Anthopoulos. "This allows us to really put what we feel is a contending team together for an extended run, for a three-to-five year period," Anthopoulos said. An interesting note from Davidi's piece: Zack Greinke will out-earn Dickey's $30MM contract about a month into the 2014 season. The two contracts were signed under different circumstances, of course, but it’s still noteworthy.
  • Curtis Granderson expects to hit free agency after the 2013 season, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports. The Yankees have a team policy of waiting until players hit free agency before negotiating extensions, and Granderson doesn’t expect GM Brian Cashman to make an exception for him. “I’m just excited to play this year, and then, once we get to the end, we’ll take it at that point,” he said.
  • In a separate piece, Davidoff suggests that the best-run teams — he cites the Rays as one example — look to contend every year instead of targeting specific windows.