Over the past week, we’ve seen multi-year deals signed by Yordano Ventura (five years, $23MM), Carlos Carrasco (four years, $22MM), Corey Kluber (five years, $38.5MM) and Rick Porcello (four years, $82.5MM). As usual, there’s been no shortage of reactions to these contracts, and here are a few reactions/opinions from around the baseball world to each of the deals…
- Signing Ventura to a five-year deal was a necessary risk for the Royals, opines Fangraphs’ Craig Edwards. Ventura has long been seen as a risky commodity due to his smaller stature and a fear that he may be bullpen-bound, and he also produced results that were more good than great in 2014. However, only three Royals starters — Zack Greinke, James Shields and Ervin Santana –have matched Ventura’s modest 2.4 fWAR over the past five seasons. The Royals’ rotation is typically occupied by journeymen starters, and the upside for a mid-rotation or front-line starter at that price makes the risk worth taking, writes Edwards, even if there’s a risk he may not hold up as a starter.
- The Carrasco and Kluber extensions appear to be the latest in a long line of contracts signed with the intent of developing a long-term core. As GM Chris Antonetti said recently on MLB Network Radio (Twitter link): “This nucleus is going to be in place for awhile. Ownership has given us incredible resources.”
- Mutually beneficial extensions have been a key component of successful Indians’ seasons since John Hart began pioneering them in the 1990s, writes MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. Bastian spoke to other members of that growing core — Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes — each of whom has signed extensions of their own in the past year-plus. The Cleveland core expressed excitement about being able to grow and express excitement together in the coming years as they enter their primes.
- Cleveland.com’s Zack Meisel looks at the financial implications of the latest pair of Indians extensions, and he also spoke with Antonetti about the decision to offer Carrasco a long-term deal based on a relatively small sample of success. “His mix of pitches has always been a strength from the time we acquired him,” said Antonetti. “But we’ve seen the continued development and maturity and improvement in his routines, his consistency and his focus and we saw it translate to his success as a starting pitcher last year. We believe that now, not only does he have the physical attributes, but the other attributes to be a successful starter.”
- Carrasco’s deal may appear team-friendly, but an irregular heartbeat that required offseason surgery and a newborn baby played a role in Carrasco’s decision to accept the contract, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and FOX Sports writes that Porcello’s age-23 through age-25 seasons mirror those of Justin Masterson, and Masterson experienced a breakout in his age-26 season — the same that Porcello is currently entering. While that certainly doesn’t guarantee a breakout for Porcello, Cameron notes that the Sox are betting on a breakout or step forward of sorts — one that would’ve launched Porcello’s free agent price considerably beyond the $82.5MM figure upon which he agreed. Judging contracts based on average annual value is all too common a mistake, Cameron notes, as the years accompanying that AAV are a critical factor of any deal. Boston is showing a tendency to pay a premium to keep contracts short in an effort to avoid rostering expensive non-performers down the line, with Porcello’s deal and the Hanley Ramirez contract serving as recent examples, he adds.
- Tim Britton of the Providence Journal offers a similar take, using CC Sabathia as an example of the dangers of signing a pitcher into their 30s. As Britton notes, Sabathia would’ve been one of the best free agent signings in history had the Yankees let him walk after he exercised an opt out clause following the third season of his initial contract. However, they re-signed him through age-36, and Sabathia’s contract has become an albatross on the Yankees. While Porcello isn’t as good as prime Sabathia and likely never will be — a fact Britton acknowledges — his situation still aids the argument that it’s better to pay a premium for a pitcher in his prime than commit exorbitant amounts of money to their decline years.
- I’ll echo my thoughts on the Porcello deal that I tweeted out and included in MLBTR’s write-up of his extension and agree with both Cameron and Britton. While Porcello is not now and may never be a front-of-the-rotation arm, the Red Sox clearly believe that he’s capable of taking a step forward from a career year in 2014, and they’re willing to pay what currently seems to be an above-market annual price in order to secure his prime. It’s commonplace for teams to sign older free agents knowing that the final year or two (and sometimes more) will likely be a sunk cost, and yet as observers we accept that as part of free agency. The Red Sox are taking an opposite approach, seemingly making a strong bet that Porcello’s best years are ahead. Paying for an expected outcome that has yet to take place is risky, to be sure, but it’s no riskier than guaranteeing a pitcher north of $20MM in his age-36 season, as we saw with James Shields, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer this winter. The notion that a player must first “prove” that he is worth upper-market dollars over a long-term implicitly requires that those upper-market dollars will be awarded after or at the tail end of his peak, thereby negating much of the logic in committing such a sizable sum. Whether or not the Porcello deal ultimately looks wise or turns into an albatross, the thinking behind the deal is sound: make projections based on scouting and analytic input, and invest. The alternative — wait and see, then pay for the downswing of a player’s career — is hardly a less risky approach.