Friday Rockpile: The Cost of Elite Pitching

Jonathan Ferrey

If there is any aspect of the GM game the Rockies won't partake in, it is paying market value for elite pitching. At that market price, would you want them to?

The Rockies' projected starting rotation is due to make roughly $15 million total in 2013, $11 million of which is going solely to Jorge de la Rosa. By contrast, ten different MLB pitchers made $15 million or more in 2012 all by themselves, and three of those had their paychecks signed by the division and World Series champion Giants.

High salary rotations are just not going to be the Rockies' game plan, not with the current perception (or even reality) that pitchers are such great health risks a mile above sea level. In a way, that provides some sort of advantage in roster construction. We know the majority of financial resources are likely to be utilized on the offensive side of the game, thereby equalizing their payroll allowance for offense to organizations with higher payrolls...they just have to wait until they get lucky with a few good scrapheap or developed arms.

At any rate, Rockies fans are not likely to be digesting news any time soon like Mariners fans are digesting right now....that their team just devoted $175million to one man's arm, namely the right arm of Felix Hernandez. Keep in mind that this Mariners team finished dead last in the AL West, 14 games behind the next team. They scored fewer runs than 27 MLB clubs, and their payroll was just $3million more than the Rockies.

Given the SOP of the Rockies, it is kind of difficult to imagine shelling out a 7-year contract, even to a 26-year-old prodigy, giving him the richest contract signed by a pitcher in MLB history. As it often seems to be the case, ZiPS projects Hernandez to be worth almost identically that salary total , meaning they are paying for him to average roughly 4.3 WAR per season over seven years.

He is certainly capable of reaching that level given his past performance, but even considering the hometown hero requirement, one can't help but think of the opportunity cost in addressing the offense...or worse, if his production declines. Hernandez was not even set to be a free agent for two years, and the pitching leaderboards from two years ago are quite the cautionary tale: Tim Lincecum, Josh Johnson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Dan Haren, Adam Wainwright, Francisco Liriano...

It could be worse, I suppose. Hernandez is absolutely a top pitcher in the game, and they are paying him from ages 26-33 at a 4.3 WAR level he has attained many times. That's certainly better than paying a pitcher from ages 28-36 to pitch at a 5.0 WAR level that he had attained just once. I have my qualms about devoting so much money to one man's arm, but there is no doubt that Hernandez' contract is much more sensible than the nightmare from December 2000.

Links

Felix Hernandez Reportedly Getting Blockbuster Contract | FanGraphs Baseball - Jeff Sullivan, former lead Baseball Nation writer and Mariners fan, gives his take:

Hernandez's side should be thrilled, because it's landing the biggest pitcher contract ever. The Mariners' side should also be thrilled, because the team's locking up one of the game's greatest talents. There are tremendous, impossible risks here, and this most certainly isn't a bargain. But this is something that felt like it had to be done, so upon finalization, Hernandez will be further on his way to being a Seattle Mariner for life.

Details emerge in DUI case involving Rockies star Todd Helton - The Denver Post

Todd Helton cites "two igloo cups" of wine before arrest, report says - The Denver Post

Colorado Rockies' Todd Helton hit median before arrest, witness says - ESPN - No, we don't want to read about it, but it is likely all the Rockies news we will have until Sunday. Helton is due in court on Monday, May 20, which happens to be day 4 of a 6 day homestand.

Fantasy Baseball 2013 Head-to-Head Points League Rankings: Shortstop - Fake Teams - Given his injury concerns, Tulowitzki is no longer considered the best fantasy shortstop in the game, at least by this writer. MLB Network may have something different to say, as they count down the top 10 shortstops in the game tonight at 8PM MST. Tulo was #1 last year and isimpressing Walt Weiss in his quest to return healthy.

A Complete Log of Brad Boxberger’s Defensive Chances | FanGraphs Baseball - If you like Jeff Sullivan's trivial quirky pieces and GIFs, this is a good one for you.

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