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  • Estimating Starting Pitching Contracts

    How close was TwinsCentric in estimating contracts for the big names like CC last year?Each year in our Offseason Handbook, we put together a list of all the upcoming free agents at every position. Beyond the write-ups and statistical breakdowns for each player, we estimate the contract we expect them to get, so that armchair GMs can fit prospective acquisitions into their budgets.

    This is an aspect of the publication that we take very seriously. In fact, every year, we set aside a day for the entire editorial staff to get together and reach a consensus on each what each free agent might get. This process takes several hours and invariably leads to numerous fisticuffs, but the end result is a fair measure of accuracy. We feel that giving readers a reasonable idea of what each free agent will command is a cool feature of the product, and so we want to get as close as we can.

    Given the Twins' current needs, the starting pitcher free agent section is inevitably going to be one of the most important in this year's Handbook. So I thought today I would take a look back at last year's edition and review our contract estimates for starters compared to the actual contracts that those pitchers ultimately received. We certainly weren't always perfect, but in the instances where we missed, perhaps there's a lesson to be learned that can carry over to this year's crop.

    CC Sabathia
    Estimated Contract: 5 years, $130M
    Actual Contract: 5 years, $122M
    Notes: Sabathia's last contract ran through 2015, but it was widely expected that he would opt out and try to get more money out of the Yankees. He did just that, and we were pretty close on what the two sides ended up agreeing upon.

    CJ Wilson
    Estimated Contract: 5 years, $85M
    Actual Contract: 5 years, $77.5M
    Notes: We were pretty close on this one as well. The 31-year-old Wilson signed a five-year deal with the Angels for slightly less than we guessed.

    Edwin Jackson
    Estimated Contract: 3 years, $33M
    Actual Contract: 1 year, $11M
    Notes: We had the annual salary correct, but we didn't expect that Jackson would end up settling for a one-year deal. He probably could've gotten a multi-year contract but ended up signing with the Nats, hoping to pump up his value for the following offseason. I'd say that worked out well for him. He may get that $33 million contract this winter.

    Mark Buehrle
    Estimated Contract: 3 years, $30M
    Actual Contract: 4 years, $58M
    Notes: Apparently, we grossly underestimated Buehrle's market value. Despite the fact that he was about to turn 33 years old, the Marlins gave him a four-year deal. It's not clear that decision will ultimately work out well, but he was very Buehrle-like in the first year, posting a 3.74 ERA over 202 innings.

    Hisashi Iwakuma

    Estimated Contract: 3 years, $25M
    Actual Contract: 1 year, $1.5M
    Notes: We just sort of misread this situation. In the 2010-2011 offseason, the Athletics won the bidding on the Japenese hurler with a $19 million posting fee but Iwakuma ultimately decided to return to Japan after the two sides couldn't agree on a contract. We figured it would take a substantial chunk of change to land him one offseason later, but as it turned out the Mariners landed him on the open market for a huge bargain and he made good with a 3.16 ERA. Still only 31 years old, he may land that three-year deal this time around, and the Twins Ė who reportedly finished runner-up to the A's in the posting system two years ago Ė could be a player for him.

    Roy Oswalt
    Estimated Contract: 2 years, $22M
    Actual Contract: 1 year, $5M
    Notes: There was a fair amount of interest in Oswalt last offseason, but rather than signing with a club, he semi-retired, only to sign with the Rangers in late May on a pro-rated $5 million deal. It didn't work out well, as he pitched poorly and ended up getting demoted to the bullpen.

    Aaron Harang
    Estimated Contract: 2 years, $15M
    Actual Contract: 2 years, $12M
    Notes: We were pretty close on this one, as well as the next three.

    Hiroki Kuroda
    Estimated Contract: 1 year, $11M
    Actual Contract: 1 year, $10M

    Bruce Chen
    Estimated Contract: 2 years, $10M
    Actual Contract: 2 years, $9M

    Paul Maholm
    Estimated Contract: 1 year, $4M
    Actual Contract: 1 year, $4.75M
    Notes: This deal worked out brilliantly. Not only because Maholm pitched extremely well for a modest fee, but also because they included a team option for $6.5 million, so the Braves will be able to bring him back at a reasonable price next year. This is the kind of contract the Twins should be looking to ink.

    Joel Pineiro
    Estimated Contract: 1 year, $3M
    Actual Contract: Minor-league deal
    Notes: Even though he struggled in 2011, we figured that Pineiro would be able to land a guaranteed major-league deal given that he'd turned in a 3.66 ERA over 366 innings the prior two seasons. Injury issues robbed him of that chance and he ended up pitching 24 innings in the minors for the Orioles.

    Jason Marquis
    Estimated Contract: 1 year, $5M
    Actual Contract: 1 year, $3M
    Notes: Based on our estimate, the Twins got a bargain! Yay.

    Freddy Garcia
    Estimated Contract: 1 year, $3M
    Actual Contract: 1 year, $4M

    Brad Penny
    Estimated Contract: 1 year, $2.5M
    Actual Contract: 1 year, $4M in Japan
    Notes: Weird case. Penny followed the money to Japan but was apparently miserable, as he was granted his release from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks after one start. He returned to the States and made 22 appearances for the Giants but pitched horribly.

    Interested in seeing our estimates for this year's robust free agent starting pitching class? Pre-order your copy of the Offseason Handbook today and save 30 percent!
    This article was originally published in blog: Estimating SP Contracts started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Regarding Iwakuma... we later found out that he was hurt. He had had injuries to his back and his shoulder. That's why he was only able to get the contract that he got.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Pretty darn accurate. I enjoyed last year's handbook very much.
    1. Harrison Greeley III's Avatar
      Harrison Greeley III -
      Terry's at least getting a phone call from Miami about Mark Buehrle, right? Miami only paid him $6m of the $58m due to him this year. So therefore he's got a 3 year, $52m deal ahead of him which I'm sure Miami will be looking to ditch. He's quite reliable though, and there's no better case study as to how it's possible to be successful with a Rick Anderson approach to pitching. I doubt anything would happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if I saw line items come across about this possibility on mlbtr this winter.
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Harrison Greeley III View Post
      Terry's at least getting a phone call from Miami about Mark Buehrle, right? Miami only paid him $6m of the $58m due to him this year. So therefore he's got a 3 year, $52m deal ahead of him which I'm sure Miami will be looking to ditch. He's quite reliable though, and there's no better case study as to how it's possible to be successful with a Rick Anderson approach to pitching. I doubt anything would happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if I saw line items come across about this possibility on mlbtr this winter.
      You're probably right about the Marlins shopping Buehrle at some point and not expecting much in return. But I'm not sold on the idea that the Twins will make up much ground on the Tigers by spending $17+ million a year for 3 years on a middle-aged guy who'd be the 4th starter (or maybe 5th at the end of his contract) in Detroit. And they'd be done in free agency unless the Marlins picked up a big part of the tab, which they won't.

      As depressing as it is to use him as an example, Joe Saunders could give 90% of Buehrle's performance for half the money.


      Great job on the forecasts, Nick.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Harrison Greeley III View Post
      Terry's at least getting a phone call from Miami about Mark Buehrle, right? Miami only paid him $6m of the $58m due to him this year. So therefore he's got a 3 year, $52m deal ahead of him which I'm sure Miami will be looking to ditch. He's quite reliable though, and there's no better case study as to how it's possible to be successful with a Rick Anderson approach to pitching. I doubt anything would happen, but I wouldn't be surprised if I saw line items come across about this possibility on mlbtr this winter.
      You're probably right about the Marlins shopping Buehrle at some point and not expecting much in return. But I'm not sold on the idea that the Twins will make up much ground on the Tigers by spending $17+ million a year for 3 years on a middle-aged guy who'd be the 4th starter (or maybe 5th at the end of his contract) in Detroit. And they'd be done in free agency unless the Marlins picked up a big part of the tab, which they won't.

      As depressing as it is to use him as an example, Joe Saunders could give 90% of Buehrle's performance for half the money.


      Great job on the forecasts, Nick.
      Agree that they wouldn't take on a contract like Buehrle's, but I reject the premise that Terry Ryan is realistically "competing with Detroit" move for move. I don't think the Twins ever play like that as an organization. How can you, when the biggest FA signing they've ever made is 3 years/24 million to Josh Willingham. Detroit makes moves that nobody expects them to make and does so on a HUGE scale. The idea that they only thought to commit $200 million to Prince Fielder because V-Mart got hurt for one year seems insane, but they ended up with a good player. Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller were elite prospects in 2007, but the Tigers flipped him for a Triple Crown winner. Prospects, even good ones, usually disappoint. Which is why you either need to stockpile a LOT of them, or flip them for value. The Twins haven't allowed themselves to do either.

      Much like with the entire organization (coaches, GM's, etc.), the Twins believe in promoting from within. The problem is that they got a little intellectually arrogant about their strategy, and through a combination of bad drafting, farm development, and bad luck, their starting pitching prospects are TERRIBLE. John Bonnes tried to name the "top starters" in the organization, and they were stuck after Gibson (hurt) and Berrios (who's like 18). If there's a worse organization in baseball for pitching depth, I would struggle to identify it. They drafted guys for years who had the CEILING of being a serviceable #3 starter, and then some of those guys failed or got hurt, and we don't even have many of those guys now.

      And if you look at all of the good pitching prospects that have changed hands over the past few years, the Twins weren't "eligible" for any of that either because they never really became "sellers" at any point during back to back 95+ loss seasons. Which is AMAZING to me. Liriano doesn't really count because was a combination rental player and "sell low" candidate, and the weak returns reflected that.

      I just struggle with the whole Twins approach of "we're too good to waste money on free agents" or "we're too good to trade proven guys for pitching prospects". You can defend any approach at a given time, but at some point, aren't you just doing NOTHING?
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Agree with almost all of your points, Storm. But I'm not suggesting that the Twins try to match the Tigers player for player. The Buehlre/Tigers staff comparison was just meant to differentiate between 'improving' and 'competing'. Buehrle would improve the Twins. He would not, as staff ace and sole significant 2013 FA pitcher addition, help them compete against the Tigers.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      I still think the Twins are more likely to trade than to sign. They have around $20 mil if the budget numbers are accurate and that might have to bring 3 pitchers/players with that. Twins need to trade for pitching from strenght, outfield or first base.
      Iwakuma... is possible to take a chance on They could probably sign Liriano to a make good contract(just a joke).
      The handbook estimates seem to be very close in most cases. THis makes a good read.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      Nick, I was wondering if you've heard LEN3's assertion (he's repeated it on the radio and in print several times) that Jeremy Guthrie will get a contract approaching $10m/year.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Boom Boom View Post
      Nick, I was wondering if you've heard LEN3's assertion (he's repeated it on the radio and in print several times) that Jeremy Guthrie will get a contract approaching $10m/year.
      He might get that but I doubt it. I'd guess somewhere more in the 2/$16m range. In any case, Guthrie is a guy with a huge "STAY THE HELL AWAY" sign around his neck. 33 years old, just had a career season. Someone is going to vastly overpay for that guy and I sure hope it isn't the Twins.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I don't give the buhrle love... He's the type of guy who walks that fine line and could fall off the cliff at any time. To his credit, he's managed to do it quite well and never had the Nick Blackburn collapse... but at 50 some million left on his deal, I wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole. I do think there are some decent trade tragets out there, but I'd rather see the Twins go younger and go hard after some of the Reds AA pitching with their trade chips... not target an aging pitcher that could collapse at anytime.

      Oh, and emulating Detriot might be the dumbest thing this organization can do. They were an overrated team coming into the season and forked out 200M on a contract they will most certainly be regretting in a few years.. they did nothing to address their needs, and saw regression from a number of guys. I've played on beer league softball teams that are better defenders at most of their positions, and that problem isn't getting better.... if you thought our middle infield was bad, take a look at theirs.

      There are some decent pitching FAs out there. I just hope Ryan does his research like he did with The Hammer.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      He might get that but I doubt it. I'd guess somewhere more in the 2/$16m range. In any case, Guthrie is a guy with a huge "STAY THE HELL AWAY" sign around his neck. 33 years old, just had a career season. Someone is going to vastly overpay for that guy and I sure hope it isn't the Twins.
      Career season? He posted a 94 ERA+, second lowest in the past six years.

      I actually kind of like Guthrie. Durable, good control, hard thrower despite the low K-rates, and probably somewhat underrated by his numbers since he's spent most of his career pitching in the AL East (and most of this year pitching in Colorado).

      But no, I don't think he'll get 10M/yr. Not in this market.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      He might get that but I doubt it. I'd guess somewhere more in the 2/$16m range. In any case, Guthrie is a guy with a huge "STAY THE HELL AWAY" sign around his neck. 33 years old, just had a career season. Someone is going to vastly overpay for that guy and I sure hope it isn't the Twins.
      Career season? He posted a 94 ERA+, second lowest in the past six years.

      I actually kind of like Guthrie. Durable, good control, hard thrower despite the low K-rates, and probably somewhat underrated by his numbers since he's spent most of his career pitching in the AL East (and most of this year pitching in Colorado).

      But no, I don't think he'll get 10M/yr. Not in this market.
      I was looking at the wrong stat line. Something didn't seem right. I was wondering how that performance had escaped my notice until now... turns out I had only been looking at his 2012 stat line with the Royals, not his overall line.

      I need to stop drinking so much cough syrup at work.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      I believe that the Twins will have to overpay to persuade free agents pitching to sign with them.

      If you tend to agree, that somehow must be reflected in your handbook.

      Unless the Twins plan to wait out the market and sign a few leftovers, they will need to do better than match competing offers.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      FYI, from the Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/2...text|FRONTPAGE

      Obviously, it's just a speculation piece about the Tigers wanting to retain a good starter, and it's not like their GM is going to say during the playoffs..."Oh Sanchez? Yeah, his ass is gone after the playoffs!"

      But I posted it because Anibal Sanchez was probably the highest-end pipe dream that I thought the Twins might look at signing. Greinke and Dempster aren't going to happen and Sanchez isn't even 30. Unfortunately, he's pitched better of late, which only improves his stock.
    1. Craig in MN's Avatar
      Craig in MN -
      I don't give the buhrle love... He's the type of guy who walks that fine line and could fall off the cliff at any time. To his credit, he's managed to do it quite well and never had the Nick Blackburn collapse... but at 50 some million left on his deal, I wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole.
      The Buerhle love should be pretty obvious. He's got a 12 year track record of not falling off a cliff...better than any pitcher the Twins has had in the past 12 years or more. He's been a very consistent, very good pitcher, pitching in a hitters park, who averages 32+ starts a season. My only concern with him is is salary, and no team is going to pick up that full salary in this pitching market. If the marlins want to move him, they'll have to eat a big chunk of that salary, and there's a chance that it gets to a point where the Twins are interested. Terry Ryan hates signing free agent pitchers and needs a workhorse in his rotation and the organization has always had good things to say about Buerhle. Any pitcher can fall off a cliff, free agent or not, old or young, cheap or expensive. There are higher upside guys, there are younger guys, and there are cheaper guys, but I'll gladly take a good 34 year old pitcher who's never had a hint of injury or decline. And as a bonus, I suspect, no one except Greinke would sell more seats at Target Field. He's not the answer to all the Twins problems, but he could be part of the answer.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Buerhle at 3/43.5 wouldn't have been terrible. I did not know that they broke down his contract like that.
    1. Wookiee of the Year's Avatar
      Wookiee of the Year -
      You're right that you guys did an overall good job of estimating contracts, but it's interesting to note that with a few exceptions, you were more likely to overestimate than underestimate contract size. That might mean you should tone down your estimates this year ever so slightly, but not necessarily; it could also mean (1) you expect the Twins need to pay a little more for a player than the average team coming off a big losing season, and/or (2) for the Twins to have landed any of the names above, they would have had to outbid the offer that the player did land, which often would have put the contract right at your estimate.
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