Tag: Cliff Lee

MLB 2015 NL East Preview

There isn’t much intrigue to speak of here. The Nationals will probably have the division all but locked up by the all-star break. As a whole, the NL East comes down to groups of teams trending rapidly in opposite directions. The Nationals added the top free agent pitcher available, The Marlins locked up Giancarlo Stanton for 68 years and 984 billion dollars, and picked up some productive pieces in Dee Gordon, Mike Morse, and Dan Haren. The Mets didn’t add a ton apart from Michael Cuddyer, but the healthy returns of Matt Harvey, David Wright, and Bobby Parnell, figure to help. And then there’s the other guys…

The Phillies are looking to…they’re in a…they should probably… Ok, let’s just call it what it is. If Ruben Amaro had a shred of sense, he’d have gotten what he could for aging slugger Ryan Howard, still productive veteran Chase Utley, and now injured hurler Cliff Lee last year, or at the latest, this off-season. I don’t know that trading your best pitcher is ever the answer, but if it was, Cole Hamels would also fetch the best return of prospects.

Then there’s the Braves. I’m not sure they needed to blow everything up, but at least they committed. Out with Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward, and in with… Shelby Miller and a bunch of guys they hope to see in a couple years. While the future may be brighter for one of these teams, this season figures to be a long one for fans of both.

Projected Winner: The Nationals. I get angry at weird things sometimes. I don’t know why. I just do. Last year, the Nats had a pitcher win 15 games and sport a sub-3.00 ERA. Moreover, his fielding independent pitching (FIP) supported those numbers being reflective of excellent pitching, rather than luck. And he isn’t good enough to crack their rotation. What. The. Fudgesickles? My point is this. If Tanner Roark isn’t good enough to crack your starting rotation, you either have an embarrassment of riches in starting pitching, or you have no clue who he is. So the Nationals will win this division. Because they have a guy who could secretly trade places with Zack Greinke and very few people would notice… and he’s not good enough to make their rotation. Ridiculous. 

Is there a Wild Card, perhaps?: If you asked me this question and no form of bet hedging was an option, I’d say yes. I think the Marlins have done enough to improve the roster to be in the conversation, and if Jose Fernandez successfully returns from TJ surgery in June, I think they have enough to make a run. I also think Christian Yelich is an all-star this year. You heard it here first. Unless you heard it somewhere else first, in which case you heard it here second. The Mets might also be a part of the conversation, but ultimately I think they’ll fade.

$215 Million: Breaking Down the Clayton Kershaw Deal

The number is staggering. 215 million. That’s how many dollars the Dodgers will be paying Clayton Kershaw, baseball’s best pitcher, for the next 7 years, provided of course that Kershaw does not exercise his out clause after five years. For those of you counting at home, it works out to just under 31 million a year, or roughly 10 million a year more than the Houston Astros’ entire player payroll in 2013.

And you know what, the Dodgers got a bargain. Let’s make some assumptions here, never a great idea, but for the purposes of argument, you have to take some liberties. Assumption one, Kershaw does not suffer an injury that requires Tommy John surgery, or something similar that costs him an entire year. Assumption two, Kershaw does not suffer a sudden and precipitous decline in performance along the lines of, say, Dontrelle Willis. That’s it. Just those two. I’m fine making them because you can bet the Dodgers’ front office made them when they offered the contract.

So, why did the Dodgers essentially get a steal here? Let’s take a look at what baseball’s other top paid pitchers are making. Cliff Lee? 25 million per. CC Sabathia? 23 million. Hell, Tim Freaking Lincecum makes more than 22 million per, and he’s been hardly average (save for his brilliant no hitter) the last two seasons. Other top paid guys include Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and teammate Zack Greinke. Now, you can argue that most of these guys are true number ones, and despite baseball salaries being on the bloated side, are paid proportionately what they should be. There’s also one other important thing they have in common. They’re all at least 29 years old. Lee is 35. Sabathia 33. Seven years from now, in the final year of his contract, Kershaw will be 32. Again, assuming no horrid injuries and that Don Mattingly doesn’t leave him in for 16 innings in a meaningless September game, there’s no reason to think Kershaw won’t be still able to perform at peak level at age 32.

Here is some more food for thought. During the course of Kershaw’s contract, here are some of the other stud pitchers who will become eligible for free agency for the first time: Stephen Strasburg and fellow Nat, Jordan Zimmermann, Madison Bumgarner, Mat Latos, and Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez. What do you think those bad boys are going to command a few years down the line? 35 million per? 40 million? I guess it all depends on their performance. But you can say this, apart from Hernandez, upon whom the jury is still out on just how awesome he can be, none of those guys are on Kershaw’s level. Even the older guys, what do you think Adam Wainwright would command right now if he were a free agent? Well, he’s 32 now, so he should still have juice in the tank. He’s coming off a marvelous season, and let’s be frank, is simply brilliant. Wouldn’t he get more than Cliff Lee’s 25 million annually? What about a similar pitcher who hits the market in, say, 2017 after a brilliant year. 20 wins, and a sub 3.00 ERA. If baseball’s average annual salary continues to increase annually at a consistent rate, that pitcher’s annual salary will blow Kershaw’s out of the water. And in 2017, Kershaw will still only be 28 and presumably an ace.

Oh, one more thing for perspective. The injured Johan Santana was due to make 25 million in 2014, a figure the Mets paid 5.5 million to not have on their books.

Still not convinced? Go to your fridge, pop open a beer, and read this again.