The unanswerable question about Sabathia
November, 28, 2008
Anthony McCarron writes that the list of pitchers with $100 million contracts is neither long nor encouraging:
Long-term contracts for pitchers are generally considered risky by baseball executives, but when deals reach the $100 million mark, teams flirt with doom. In the brief history of $100 million contracts for pitchers - there have been only four, including Kevin Brown who signed a seven-year, $105 million deal with the Dodgers before the 1999 season - every pitcher except Johan Santana last season has been plagued by injuries, ineffectiveness or both.
Still, CC Sabathia figures to make much more than $100 million this winter, and several teams have determined he's worth the gamble of a mega-deal. The Yankees have already offered him $140 million over six years, and some in the game believe the Angels will come close to that. The Brewers have a five-year, $100 million offer on the table, too.
While Sabathia has proven he's a terrific, durable pitcher, there are plentiful cautionary tales for the Yankees, Brewers and Angels to consider. None of the four previous $100 million pitchers - Brown, Santana, Barry Zito and Mike Hampton - has pitched in the playoffs for the team he signed with. In fact, none of the teams that have signed a pitcher to a nine-figure deal has made the playoffs while that pitcher has been on their roster.
"The dangers in these kinds of deals are tremendous," said a baseball executive who spoke on condition of anonymity. "How old is the pitcher? What is his history of injury? Based on his age, how fast will his performance decline, because most pitchers, as they get older, they lose their velocity and have to become more of a pitcher and mix it up, change.