Here's my criteria for separating the enormous pitcher contracts from the more common big pitcher contracts: if I am able to make a snide remark about how much Kyle Lohse is being paid, it's big; if I am not able to do same, it's enormous. (Of course, having gotten Kyle Lohse's name in this way... well, I'm not prepared to deal with the implications.)
Justin Verlander's deal falls into the second category. Five years, $80 million is a higher annual value than Chris Carpenter gets in 2010 and 2011, at the top of his contract. As has been noted all over the place, it's basically the same deal the Mariners gave Felix Hernandez, which should make for an interesting pseudo-challenge-trade over the next several years. As for why long-term deals for pitchers make me dizzy, and why evaluating pitcher makes me vague, here's one timely reason: Verlander is several years older than Hernandez, which might actually make his deal better for the Tigers. No: I'll stick to hitters, thanks, where men are men and everyone peaks in their late twenties.
Speaking of hitters in their late twenties: We have been speaking of David Freese as the Probably-Average-ish Third Baseman for so long that it occurred to me, today, that I'm not sure what I expect that to look like for him. Players who get a late start in the minor leagues—and then a late start in the major leagues, as a result—confuse me like that, sometimes.
Regardless, it is time we put our collective understanding of The Cheap Third Baseman to the test. After the jump I have some MLEs and the link to the community projection form.
Exciting, right? Bullet points:
- Freese's 2007—.302/.400/.489—gets dinged because it happened in the Cal League, which is to hitters what the FSL is to pitchers. I'd like to say that that was why I was against the trade when it happened, and I'll maintain that it had some effect on my decision, but let's be honest with ourselves: I would have been upset with the Cardinals trading Jim Edmonds for anything short of the key to the J.D. Salinger vault. My subjectivity aside, I have to credit John Mozeliak for deciding Freese's skills were real; the MLEs show even more clearly than his untranslated numbers how much of an improvement Freese has made since joining the Cardinals.
- That said, he's going to be 27 in 2010; there's less room between these MLEs and the ceiling than there was for Colby Rasmus, the subject of our last community projection. Is 2008-2009 David Freese a solution at third base? It's a little better than league average for the position, but league average includes the Joe Thurstons of baseball—a concern unless your projection has David Freese playing 162 games in 2010. For this and the next several Cardinals squads a cheap and average third baseman is ideal.
- Decent batting average, 15 home run power, good glove, late start after minor league numbers that suggest there's an unfulfilled need for the word "whelming"—my community projection line is going to be a random year from Joe Randa's career.