Matthew Pouliot

Albert Pujols

Alex Rodriguez for Albert Pujols…. who says no?

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Sure, this is as far-fetched as they come, but wouldn’t both the Yankees and the Angels have to think about this?

Alex Rodriguez currently has about $100 million left on his 10-year, $275 million contract that expires in 2017. Along with a $3 million portion of his signing bonus due next January, he’ll receives salaries of $25 million in 2014, $21 million in 2015 and $20 million in both 2016-17. Plus, he’s still owed about a third of his $28 million salary from 2013.

Albert Pujols, on the other hand, has about $218 million left on his backloaded 10-year, $240 million contract through 2021. His salary jumps from $16 million this year to $23 million next year and then increases by $1 million each season until he makes $30 million in year 10.

So, basically there’s a $120 million difference between the contracts. If you equate A-Rod’s deal as being $100 million of completely dead money, then it’s essentially taking on Pujols at $120 million for 8 1/3 years, a bit less than $15 million per year.

At this point, that’s overly expensive. If Pujols were declared a free agent today, no one is giving him $120 million. Maybe someone would take a chance on him at $15 million per year for two or three years.

Except, for the Yankees, the math is actually a bit more generous. Pujols’ deal, being worth $24 million annually rather than $27.5 million, would aid the Yankees with the luxury tax and make it a little easier to come in under the threshold in 2014 as they desperately want to do.

Frankly, I still think the Yankees say no. I expect Pujols to bounce back and have a couple of better seasons than his 2013 campaign, but the last five years of his deal are a killer. He’s going to make $140 million from ages 37-41. Plus, the Yankees already have Mark Teixeira presumably vastly overpaid at first base. The swap would make a bit more sense if the Angels kicked in the $20 million they’ve saved these first two years by backloading the contract.

With all of the money they’d shed, the Angels would be foolish not to accept the deal if it were proposed to them. After all, there’s the added bonus of not having to pay Rodriguez while he’s suspended by MLB. And maybe he will someday be ruled permanently disabled, at which point insurance would cover 80 percent of his salary.

And, no, I didn’t forget Pujols himself. He has no-trade protection and almost certainly would say no to such a deal. Even if he were curious about playing for the Yankees, it’d be quite the drag on his legacy if he were traded straight up for the most toxic player in baseball.

Mark Buehrle throws two-hitter for ninth career shutout

Mark Buehrle
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Mark Buehrle almost single-handedly snapped the Blue Jays’ seven-game losing streak on Thursday, throwing a two-hitter against the Astros for his ninth career shutout.

Buehrle’s previous two shutouts were his two no-hitters, the first against the Rangers on 2007 and the other being a perfect game against the Rays in 2009. He hadn’t thrown a shutout that wasn’t a no-hitter since 2005.

Buehrle, never a big strikeout guy, also fanned nine for just the third time in his stellar career. He struck out 12 Mariners on April 16, 2005, but that was his only double-digit strikeout game. He also had nine strikeouts way back on June 26, 2003 against the Twins.

Buehrle said afterwards that he was inspired to have a quick outing tonight  (the contest took just 2:18); he was slated to attend a Tim McGraw concert following the game.

Justin Verlander has a 4.00 ERA and $167 million coming his way

Justin Verlander
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Even though the Tigers still had Justin Verlander signed for two more years, they signed their right-hander to a huge contract this spring that essentially made him the highest-paid pitcher ever. He’ll receive $28 million per year every year from 2015-2019.

That’s kind of a scary thought right now, isn’t it? Verlander gave up seven more runs Thursday in a loss to the White Sox. He fell to 10-8 with a 3.99 ERA for the season. Six times this year he’s allowed at least five earned runs in an outing. Only Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Jeremy Guthrie, with seven such outings, have done so more frequently.

That’s certainly not to say Verlander has been all bad. He has eight outings in which he’s allowed one or no earned runs, including two this month. His ERA ranks just 24th in the AL, but he is sixth in strikeouts and seventh in innings pitched. He’s hardly been a liability.

What is worrying is that Verlander’s average fastball has tumbled to 92.7 mph this year, according to Fangraphs’ Baseball Info Solutions data. He came in at 94.3 mph in 2012, and he was in the 95-96 mph range each of the three years before that.

Verlander isn’t falling apart, but it seems pretty likely that his peak has already come and gone. Before his Cy Young season in 2011, his career best ERA in six seasons was 3.37 and WHIP was 1.16. The mid-3.00 ERAs seem like the better bet for the future than the mid-2.00s of 2011 and ’12. And that’s probably the optimistic scenario for the Tigers, considering that he was baseball’s hardest working pitcher from 2009-2102.

The Tigers still had Verlander under control for two more years when they extended him this spring. Technically, it was announced as a brand new seven-year, $180 million contract, but in reality, it was a five-year, $140 million extension for 2015-19. At that rate, the deal had very little upside. Verlander needs to remain one of baseball’s best pitchers to justify that kind of salary, and that’s an awful lot to ask. There aren’t many pitchers in history who can claim to have had an eight- or 10-year run as one of baseball’s best.

If not for the extension, the Tigers would currently owe Verlander $27 million through the end of 2014. That sounds a whole lot better to me than $167 million through 2019.