FanPost

Given what we know now, was Guthrie overpaid?

The dust is beginning to settle on the free agent starting pitcher market and some guys are getting a fair amount of money and/or years for not a lot of projected performance. Lets take a look at most of the 2013 class (h/t McKinney's previous analysis) with their ages, projected WAR, and contract terms:

Pitcher

2013 age

Projected
2013 WAR

Years

Total $ (in millions)

Salary (AAV)

Greinke

29

4.64

6

$147

$24.50

Kuroda

38

3.38

1

$15

$15.00

Sanchez

29

3.14

5

$80

$16.00

Peavy

32

2.99

2

$29

$14.50

Dempster

36

2.86

2

$26.50

$13.25

Jackson

29

2.82

4

$52

$13.00

Haren

32

2.34

1

$13

$13.00

Marcum

31

1.99

-------

---------

--------

Lohse

34

1.94

-------

---------

--------

McCarthy

29

1.87

2

$15.50

$7.75

Guthrie

34

1.80

3

$25

$8.33

Baker**

31

1.76

1

$5.50

$5.50

Pettitte

40

1.76

1

$12

$12.00

Maholm

30

1.66

1

$6.50

$6.50

Colon

39

1.66

1

$3

$3.00

Liriano

30

1.57

2

$13

$6.50

Saunders

31

1.31

------

-------

-------

Francis

32

1.27

1

$1.50

$1.50

Feldman

30

1.09

1

$6

$6.00

Blanton

32

1.03

2

$15

$7.50

Pelfrey

29

1.00

1

$4

$4.00

Lannan

28

0.87

1

$2.50

$2.50

Gorzelanny

30

0.81

2

$5.70

$2.85

Santana

30

0.72

1

1/$13

$13.00

Villanueva*

29

0.72

2

$10

$5.00

Roberto Hernandez***

32

0.26

1

$3.25

$3.25

Correia

32

0.24

2

$10

$5.00

Marquis

34

0.13

1

$3

$3.00

*Spent significant portions of 2012 as reliever

** Spent all of 2012 on DL

***a.k.a. Fausto Carmona

The projected WAR is roughly calculated by using the 8-5-4-3 weighted average for the last 4 years using both Fangraphs and BRef WAR.

A quick glance shows that Guthrie might be making a bit more than his counterparts but only slightly so. The only players with lower projected 2013 WAR and a higher salary are Pettitte (whose WAR numbers are likely distorted by not pitching in 2011 and only part of 2012 and whose salary might be distorted by the Yankees' loyalty) and Santana (cardinal rule of analyzing a GMDM move: one deal cannot be justified by pointing out how bad GMDM's other deals were). However, only Brandon McCarthy projects to put up more 2013 WAR and make less money (assuming Marcum and Lohse get deals of over $8.33 AAV), so it's hard to call this an overpay based on salary vs. WAR terms.

In fact, Guthrie's projected 2013 WAR/salary is $4.63mm/WAR, which is 12th lowest among the 25 pitchers. Blanton, Pettitte, Haren, Feldman, Greinke, Sanchez, Peavy, and Dempster are the big names that are all projected to cost more for each WAR they produce. Jackson, Kuroda, McCarthy and Liriano are all projected to make just cost slightly less for each WAR they produce. Francis, Colon, Lannan, Baker, Gorzelanny, Maholm, and Pelfrey appear to be the best potential bargains, though this is likely because of their minimal upside or health/age concerns.

[sidenote: Another interesting aspect of this analysis revealed that these pitchers are collectively getting paid $517mm for their contracts. If the pitchers with multi-year deals (like Greinke) pitch at their projected WAR throughout the contracts (big assumption, I know, but I don't care to read up on regression right now), they will collectively put up 102.3 WAR. Which means that (using this rough calculation), pitchers are getting paid $5.05mm per WAR.]

However, the final aspect of the deals is the total years. So far, only Greinke, Sanchez, Jackson and Guthrie have received deals of 3 years or longer. Those three are each going to be 29 years old and each projects to put up at least 2.8 WAR in 2013. Their relative youth mitigates the risks of a long-term deal and their above-average production gives each pitcher a large amount of bargaining power in demanding 3+ years. The only player over 32 who received a multi-year deal is 36 year old Dempster, who projects to put up 2.86 WAR, and he only got 2 years. Three 32 year olds (Blanton, Correia, and Peavy) also got 2 year deals. So, based on this years' contracts, teams appear to be very reluctant to give 3+ year deals to any starting pitchers over 30, or 2+ year deals to any starting pitchers over 32 unless they are above-average. Guthrie is 34 and does not project to put up 2+ WAR. A 3 year deal seems like an overpay of at least 1 year, probably two.

These are all projections, so it's possible Guthrie stays healthy and productive in 2013, 2014, and 2015. But it's a gamble, and most teams do not take this sort of gamble on a 34 year old pitcher. Moreover, this gamble, if it goes wrong, puts the greatest downside of the risk on the 2014 and 2015 season, when the Royals will be paying Guthrie $10mm per year while staring down the increasingly expensive years of their other contracts and while the arbitration salaries start increasing for the youth.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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