Felix Hernandez is close to signing a seven-year, $175 million deal with the Mariners, which would break CC Sabathia’s record of $161 million for the largest contract ever given to a pitcher.
King Felix may not hold that record for long, however, because Clayton Kershaw has two seasons under the Dodgers’ control before he’s eligible for free agency and it’s hard to imagine Los Angeles not trying to lock him up before then. And considering how the Dodgers are throwing around money lately it’s even harder to imagine Kershaw not asking for more than Hernandez.
Kershaw will make $11 million this season and figures to approach $20 million next year in his final season of arbitration eligibility. He won the Cy Young award in 2011, finished runner-up last year while again leading the league in ERA, and won’t be 25 years old until next month. Throughout baseball history it’s hard to find many pitchers who were better and more accomplished than Kershaw at such a young age and the Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball history with a television deal that all but guarantees a future of similar spending.
Not only can Kershaw use Hernandez’s $175 million deal as a starting point for any talks with the Dodgers, he might be able to use it as a way to top $200 million.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.