Within hours of the Cardinals signing Jake Westbrook to a 2 year contract with a mutual option for a 3rd year, much has already been said and written about the deal itself. If you spend enough time searching the blogosphere, you’ll find that the reactions cover the spectrum, and it’s very much a “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears” scenario. It’s far too much money. It’s not really that much money for 2 years. It’s just right for someone who fits the clubhouse culture. I’m not here to talk about those things (or the past). *cough**cough*
Instead, I’m looking at the big picture for both 2011 and 2012. With the Westbrook deal, the Cardinals have given themselves the option of setting the starting rotation for the next 2 years. Naturally, there are a lot of relatively big and small “ifs” that will determine whether or not this actually comes to pass. As usual, the big “ifs” are related to health. 80% of the starting rotation has gone under the knife at some point in recent history, and that doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling as a fan. Sure, Carpenter and Westbrook held up pretty well last year, but Garcia was shutdown without knowing it, and Lohse was …..well Lohse’d. As for the small “ifs”, the Cardinals hold options on Wainwright for 2012 and 2013 which can either be triggered by Adam winning the Cy Young in 2011 and staying healthy or by the team choosing to exercise the option years simultaneously. A slightly larger “if” is the 2012 option on Carpenter which is for $15M with a $1M buyout. Somewhere in the middle of all that is the no-brainer “if” of Jaime Garcia who is pre-arb3 this year and arbitration eligible after 2011. If he has a year in 2011 similar to his 2010 season, the Cardinals might want to think about locking him up for a few years and buying out his arbitration years.
Now that I’ve covered the “ifs”, let’s take a look at the really big $$$ picture. For a team that projects to a 2011 opening day payroll of just over $100M, the Cardinals have $41,375,000 invested in 4 starting pitchers, and none of those are named Jaime Garcia. Jaime is cost-controlled for another year, so his salary should push the total to around $42M for 2011. That’s roughly 40% of payroll, and I’ve randomly selected “% of payroll” as the comparative value for passing judgment on the “Goldie Locks Pitching Cost Scenario” (yes, I made that up just now).
- Chris Carpenter – $15,000,000
- Adam Wainwright – $6,500,000
- Jake Westbrook – $8,000,000
- Kyle Lohse – $11,875,000
- Jaime Garcia – pocket change (couch cushion variety)
Depending on your perspective, that may or may not seem reasonable. To help provide that perspective, let’s look at what some of the other NL teams are probably going to spend on their rotations for 2011:
- Giants -> $38.5M for Lincecum, Zito, & Cain with Bumgarner (pre-arb) & Sanchez (arb1)
- Phillies -> $54M for Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, & Blanton
- Braves -> $30.7M for Hudson, Lowe, & Kawakami with Hanson (pre-arb) & Medlen (pre-arb) & Jurrjens (arb1)
- Reds -> $11M for Arroyo with Cueto (arb1) and some holes to fill
Oh look, I just happened to choose the 2010 NL playoff teams. At this time, the baseball-reference.com front page has estimated payroll numbers for each team. For 2011, the aforementioned teams have respective estimates of $152.5M (Phillies), $96.0M (Braves), $71.2M (Reds), and $103.1M (Giants). Since there are still many variables left in play (trades, arbitration, non-tenders, and re-signings), it’s difficult to do much more than give “ballpark” estimates here. Based on the rough numbers, it appears that at least the Giants, Phillies, and Braves will be spending at least 33% of total payroll on starting pitching. Is the approximate % difference of 7% significant? Well, I’d have to say “yes”. I’m just slightly concerned that the Cardinals have strayed outside the “Goldie Locks Zone”, and I hope that they find their way back inside of it soon.
FYI – That $41,375,000 + Jaime’s pocket change in 2011 potentially becomes $44,375,000 + Jaime’s bigger payday in 2012.
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