This year’s free agent market has already provided a steady trickle of deals, with many involving short-term arrangements for starting pitching. Bigger contracts are yet to come, but those already handed out have committed fairly large sums, albeit on limited terms.
With many of these deals landing in a similar range, it’s interesting to compare. Here are the rotation pieces, who happen all to be right-handers, who have received major league pacts thus far (from smallest to largest in terms of total dollars):
Jesse Chavez, Angels, $5.75MM over one year (plus incentives): Chavez worked exclusively in a relief capacity last year, but he started quite a bit in 2014 and 2015 and Los Angeles views him as a part of their rotation for 2017. For a team in need of sturdy innings, the 33-year-old brings the promise of durability and palatable results at a reasonable price.
R.A. Dickey, Braves, $8MM over one year (plus 2018 club option): A similar calculus was at play with Dickey, whose knuckleball makes him a solid bet to eat up a lot of frames despite the fact that he’s already 42 years old. Though he’ll cost a bit more than Chavez, Dickey also arguably comes with greater upside, and the organization was able to take advantage of Atlanta’s proximity to the righty’s Nashville home to land him at a budget-friendly amount.
Andrew Cashner, Rangers, $10MM over one year: There’s much more variability, perhaps, baked into the price paid for Cashner, who only just turned 30 and still has a power arsenal at his disposal. The results haven’t been there in either of the last two years, and health questions persist, but Cashner is only two years removed from a high-quality campaign in which he looked like a top-of-the-rotation arm.
Bartolo Colon, Braves, $12.5MM over one year: Atlanta doubled down on aging starters, following up the Dickey signing with the even-older Colon, who’ll turn 44 before the season begins. If he was 15 years younger, Colon’s four-year platform — over which he averaged 195 frames of 3.59 ERA pitching — might well have made him the biggest earner on this winter’s market. Instead, it garnered him a strong payday but only a single-season commitment.
Charlie Morton, Astros, $14MM over two years: The only starter to score a multi-year promise, Morton only made four starts in 2016 — though that was due to a hamstring injury, not a more worrisome arm problem. He did show a fair bit of promise early last year (including a velocity bump), and carries a 3.96 ERA with strong groundball results (58.2%) over his last five campaigns, but Morton has only twice topped 25 starts and 150 innings in a single season.
Jeremy Hellickson, Phillies, $17.2MM over one year (accepted qualifying offer): Most had Hellickson penciled in to reject the QO and pursue a rather sizable, reasonably lengthy contract on the open market. After all, he’s yet to turn 30 and just turned in 189 frames of 3.71 ERA pitching. Instead, he opted for the sure thing, and the Phillies will pay a rather hefty single-season rate a pitcher who had endured his fair share of struggles prior to his quality 2016 season.
All of the teams listed above were looking to fill a rotation spot without mucking up their future balance sheets, and sought some blend of upside and dependability. So, the question for the MLBTR readership is a straightforward one: which of these contracts provides the best value to the signing organization?