Hot Stove, Felix Watch

Q.  So the 6 / $110m estimate has found its level?

A.  Since our kibitz on Buster Olney's fine video blog, we notice that the blog-o-sphere generally takes Olney as the baseline for a Felix deal.  Walkabout the cyber outback and six years, roughly $100m seems to be accepted as best guess.

What Olney actually estimated -- actually relayed from the GMs' estimates -- was 6 years and $105 to $110m.

As detailed at Mariner Central, that's $11m next year, $13m the year after, and $20-22m for four years of FA buyout.


Q.  Any new precedents to add to the discussion?

A.  Tim Dierkes, at, points out interestingly that Alan Nero gave the Red Sox an extension that paid for all of Jon Lester's arb years, plus 1 FA year, and get this, one club option year beyond that.

Lester wasn't quite Felix going into 2009, but he was definitely in the "smokin' hot young superstar pitcher" category.

He had three years to FA, not two, but still -- our baseline guess is 4 guaranteed FA years for Felix, and Lester accepted 1 guaranteed plus the 2nd year is at Lester's sole risk.   If Lester gets hurt, no salary.  If he is the best pitcher in the league, the Sox still get him for only $13m (and the buyout is a mere $250,000).

Lester wasn't as valuable pre-2009 as Felix is now.  But the point is, Nero is no Scott Boras.  Alan Nero is in it for the money, but he doesn't hit the same level of leering, drooling greed and "Hey look what I got for my client everybody" that a Boras is.  You can work with Nero.


Q.  I see Dierkes mentioned Cole Hamels.

A.  Dierkes gives Hamels' $6.65m as the highest salary so far for a pitcher in his 5th year.

That doesn't sound right to me, but still ... bear in mind that an $8-9m salary for Felix next year would be precedent-setting.  

So when you start talking $11m next year, $13 the next, up to a 6/$105m contract, you've got to assume that will get it done.


Q.  Is keeping Felix an emotional decision or a rational one?

A.  LL published a fascinating 2-part discussion on this.  Good on yer, mates.

Agreeing with the basic points in these posts, I would phrase it slightly differently.  Keeping Felix isn't a mathematical decision; it's one that takes into account ballclub chemistry / intangibles.

By "intangibles" I don't mean "phantom benefits from the baloney dump."  I mean "real benefits we can't capture with our math formulas."


Q.  Why isn't it mathematical / rational?

A.  As LL reminds, long-term contracts for pitchers just aren't as safe as contracts for position players.   Examples like Willis, Webb, and Bonderman are body blows.   Erik Bedard goes in there also.

The problemo here is that a few GM's have tried giving the money to hitters and going year-to-year on pitchers.  John Hart tried this with the 1990's Indians, giving nice money on short-term deals to guys like Jack McDowell, John Smiley, Bud Black...

Star pitchers who don't have huge question marks, can't be had short-term.


There is a paradox involved in some of these decisions.  We asked James about drafting a catcher #3 overall; his reply spoke for the Red Sox' power consensus on it.  "You don't want to risk those resources on a catcher, but you've got to have a catcher, right?" he said.

You can't live with big pitcher contracts, and you can't live without them.

You don't want to risk the $$$ on a Cy Young pitcher.  But the Big Dogs have Cy Young pitchers, babe.


Part II


Taro's picture

Guys like Willis and Bonderman have horrendous mechanics. Webb as well. Bedard obviously throws a high risk curve and is plagued with injury problems in his career.
Felix is near picture perfect. The mechanics, the youth, the arm. Hes one of those rare pitchers like Verlander or Lincecum who I wouldn't worry too much about arm troubles at least until their mid to late 30s.
I'd give Felix 7 or 8 years ($110-130mil) and I wouldn't blink. Felix just had a 7 WARish season (worth $31+mil in last years FA market) and there may be several more seasons like that left in him. Hes not replacable in any way and is likely going to be well worth the investment.

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