Gavin Floyd and the Market of Pitching

Gavin Floyd and the Market of PitchingLet’s start the Braves section of this blog off with something simple and easily contested. The Gavin Floyd signing was not the deal that many Braves fans expected or necessarily wanted. He is about as average as a signing can be as NotGraphs explained wondrously. When Tim Hudson moved on to more San Franciscan pastures it was to the dismay of many a Braves shirsey owner. However, the money and years Hudson was given by the Giants was never within the realm of reason in Atlanta. The rotation would be helmed by much younger guys, but everybody assumed that Wren and co. would add  veteran pitching depth somehow. Thus, Gavin Floyd was brought to the team from the disabled list of Chicago.

Floyd is a veteran pitcher who is not quite past his prime years. He was signed on a one-year deal for $4 million plus incentives worth up to another $4.5 million. Many were disappointed that it was not David Price or even Jeff Samardzijzxzaija1. There was also a smaller group of outraged fans who were more upset about the amount of money given to a guy who won’t be available until May or June and who has never been exactly stellar. This would be a reasonable line of thought if we had found our way to the Nexus of Star Trek Generations where all pitcher salaries are exactly what we remember them being in the days of our youth. However, that would theoretically require the destruction of Veridian III’s sun; both a morally questionable and fiscally inefficient use of resources.

$4 million seems like a lot of money to pay for a risky guy like Floyd until you think about even just a little bit. Just as a facile comparison, here are some guys who made between four and five million dollars last year in baseball: Eric O’Flaherty, Mat Latos, Kyle Kendrick, Bruce Chen, Doug Fister, Shaun Marcum. Of this group of pitchers, only Eric O’Flaherty (Owing mostly to having his elbows tendons retied together) managed to garner enough WAR to theoretically pay for themselves.2

It remains to be seen whether Floyd will perform well this season, but it is safe to say that $4 million for a guy with consistently average numbers is not a bad deal.

The fact of the matter is that baseball continues to make more money every year, and so the players responsible for its product also make more. In 1992, Greg Maddux signed the biggest contract to date with the Braves for 5 years, $28 million. He was 26 and had just won a Cy Young award. That was over 20 years ago. If he was becoming a free agent under the same circumstances today, it’s likely that we would be talking about a 10 year/$300+ million deal for Maddux like we are with Clayton Kershaw (Who has two Cy Youngs at 25 years old).

Gas costs more than it did 20 years ago and more than it did just 10 years ago. So do pitchers. It’s time for fans (Mostly the casual ones) to realize that the industry is worth more and thus the product becomes more expensive to put together. For Braves fans the ignoring of this trend upwards in free agent salaries may just be an act of denial related to the TV deal and what looks to be a hard decade or so to come in terms of payroll. Regardless, the monetary facts are real, the Nexus of Veridian III is not, and we have to deal with both of those issues honestly. Fortunately, the Braves are in good hands in regards to spending money carefully and wisely.

With only a few notable exceptions, Wren has proven himself to be baseball’s version of the dad who buys his kids an 11 year old used Volvo once they turn 17. Especially in regards to pitching, he has waded the waters of the inflating market to find bland, unheralded arms that show themselves to be far more reliable and valuable than what they command in salary. Hopefully that trend continues with Floyd.

1It’s Samardzija.
2This is based on my admittedly weak understanding of the value of a win. Feel free to correct me and/or scoff at my ignorance.

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