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Ricky Romero Rumors
If a team signs a pitcher to an extension and he becomes an Opening Day starter, the club has an indication that the deal is going well. It’s too early on in the extensions for Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo and Ricky Romero to call them successes or failures, because none of the extensions expire before 2013. But all three starters will pitch this Opening Day, a sign that the deals are going well for the teams so far.
The three extensions, signed within 18 months of one another between March, 2009 and August, 2010, are all for five years with a club option for a sixth year and are all valued within the narrow $30-30.1MM range.
The pitchers signed similar extensions because they were on statistically similar career paths before finalizing the deals. And fortunately for the Red Sox, Brewers and Blue Jays, the pitchers have performed just as well – maybe even better – since accepting their clubs’ multi-million dollar offers.
Lester, the first to sign, has been one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game since 2009 (WAR says Cliff Lee is the only lefty who pitched better in ’09-’10). In 411 1/3 innings (64 starts) since signing, Lester has posted a 3.33 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.
Gallardo, the lone right-hander in the group, signed last April, a year after the Red Sox locked Lester up. Since the ink dried on his deal with Milwaukee, Gallardo (pictured) has logged 178 innings (30 starts) and posted a 3.84 ERA with 9.9 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9.
Romero broke out last year, posting a 3.73 ERA in 210 innings. That prompted the Blue Jays to lock him up in August, so he has made just nine starts since signing his deal. The 26-year-old posted respectable numbers over the final month and a half of the season: a 4.26 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9.
The trio has stayed healthy and effective so far, but with three to five years remaining on the deals, there’s ample time for the extensions to backfire. All three teams were willing to take that risk when they offered tens of millions to the promising pitchers and, at least so far, the investments have paid off.
Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
Sunday night linkage..
- Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports implores the Nats to get a deal done with Bryce Harper.
- Nats pitcher Stephen Strasburg had some interesting comments to make about the club's negotiations with Harper, writes Bill Ladson of MLB.com.
- Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times (in these tweets) says that rival agents think that the Dodgers will offer first-round pick Zach Lee roughly $3MM and at least one of them thinks that will be enough to get a deal done.
- Toronto manager Cito Gaston told David Ely of MLB.com that he didn't think Ricky Romero would feel any pressure after signing a lucrative contract extension. The lefty didn't show any signs of jitters today as he allowed just one run in seven innings against the Angels.
- Boston outfielder Jeremy Hermida is making the most of his time in the minors, writes Daniel Barbarisi of The Providence Journal. Hermida was just thirty days shy of accruing enough major league time to decline a demotion when he was sent down by the Red Sox.
Technically, the Blue Jays entered uncharted territory today. They committed more money ($30.1MM) to Ricky Romero than any team has ever committed to a pitcher with less than two years of service time. But in reality, the extension is all about precedent.
“It’s all about comparables and comparable deals and what else has been done,” Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said this evening, comparing Romero to Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester and Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo.
Both Lester ($30MM) and Gallardo ($30.1MM) signed deals worth virtually the same amount as Romero’s. The three extensions cover the exact same five seasons (one year of pre-arbitration, three arbitration seasons and one free agent season) and all include $13MM team options for the players’ second free agent years. It would be hard to construct three more similar contracts.
And it would be hard to find three more similar pitchers. If you compare Romero to Lester and Gallardo at the time they signed their respective contracts, you notice striking similarities. All three had made between 52 and 59 starts, posted ERAs between 3.57 and 3.94, allowed between 28 and 33 homers and walked between 134 and 141 batters. All three were selected within the first two rounds of the amateur draft and all three were 24 or 25 when they agreed to their respective deals.
There are differences, of course. Gallardo is right-handed and walks and strikes out more batters than the two lefties. Lester and Gallardo missed time early in their careers, whereas Romero has been fully healthy. Anthopoulos realizes the inherent risk of committing tens of millions to a pitcher, but says Romero has the stuff to improve over the course of the deal.
“You always have concerns when you make a commitment,” Anthopoulos said. “What the reaction might be on the part of the player, but we see a guy like Ricky continuing to improve. We think he’s going to be an innings eater, we think he’s going to be a horse [and] we think he’s going to continue to evolve.”
There's no question that Lester and Gallardo have continued evolving since signing their contracts. Lester has improved his strikeout rate since signing his extension two offseasons ago. And Gallardo, who signed his contract this April, leads the National League in strikeout rate and is on pace to post the lowest full-season ERA of his career. The Blue Jays hope and believe Romero will develop, but they won’t be disappointed if he keeps pitching the way he has.
“Even if there wasn’t much improvement or any at all,” Anthopoulos said. “We think what he’s doing right now [is good enough]. He’s had a tremendous year for us.”
The deal is designed to save the Blue Jays money in arbitration and keep Romero in Toronto for what the Jays expect to be his prime years. Even though Romero wasn’t going to hit the open market until four winters from now, the contract is all about market value. If Romero pitches like Gallardo and Lester, the deal will be a win and if he misses extended periods of time with injuries it will be a loss. Until then, it’s neither an overpay nor a discount.
4:57pm: Romero will receive a $1.25MM bonus, according to Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulous via conference call. The lefty will earn $750K in 2011, $5MM in 2012, and $7.5MM each year from 2013 through 2015. The option in 2016 will be for $13MM with a $600K buyout.
3:24pm: The contract includes a club option for the 2016 season, according to the Blue Jays (via Twitter).
The contract matches Yovani Gallardo's deal for the largest guarantee for a pitcher with fewer than three years of service, excluding foreign hurlers. Rosenthal adds (via Twitter) that this is the largest guarantee ever for a pitcher with fewer than two years of major league service.
Romero, 25, has a 3.53 ERA in his sophomore campaign with 7.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. The extension will buy up all of the former sixth overall pick's arbitration years.