It’s a little bit counterintuitive that it takes the threat of a lockdown to finally inspire some strong November action, but Major League Baseball finally has a quick-fire hot stove on its hands. A day after the Detroit Tigers made the winter’s first major free-agent signing with Eduardo Rodriguez, another big name came off the board when the Angels signed Noah Syndergaard for one year and $21 million.
But before we get to that, the Toronto Blue Jays made their own financial commitment to a pitcher, albeit one who was already in their organization. After trading two of their top prospects to Minnesota for José Berríos at the deadline in July, the Jays reportedly reached an agreement with Berríos for a seven-year, $131 million contract extension. The deal brings some stability to a Toronto rotation that might lose both Robbie Ray and Steven Matz to free agency.
Beyond being the news of the day, the Berríos extension and Syndergaard contract have implications for what the White Sox have done and might do, because the moves supply us with fresh financial figures for players in those neighborhoods.
José Berrios vs. Lucas Giolito
Berríos was set to earn an estimated $10.9 million in his final year of arbitration, so if you count that as the first year of his deal, the new portion of his contract is six years and $120 million. More details will shake out once the extension becomes official. For now, all that’s been said is that he can opt out of his deal after five seasons.
This is a good starting point for any discussions about extending Lucas Giolito, who has two arb years remaining. While Giolito has a couple of Cy Young finishes in his past, Berríos has the advantage in workload over the past three years.
Berríos tilts the advantage if you go back one year further, because that incorporates another sturdy season from Berríos while roping in Giolito’s season as the Worst Pitcher in Baseball, Presented By Guaranteed Rate, but I’m guessing that version of Giolito no longer factors into fresh contract discussions, except for its minimal impact on his remaining arbitration projections.
The only knock on Giolito is that he hasn’t yet topped 180 innings in a season, whereas Berríos has thrown at least 190 in each of the last three 162-game schedules. Since Giolito has averaged 30 starts a season over those same three years, he can’t be really be slagged for unavailability. This is one part of baseball that isn’t zero-sum; a point for Berríos is not necessarily a point against Giolito.
So if you’re going to draw up a contract extension for Giolito at this time, you can probably count on the first two years taking about $20 million, because that’s a nice round number reasonably approximating arbitration projections. The same total outlay to Berríos goes a little further in Giolito’s case, because that post-arb commitment would be five years and $111 million (AAV of $22.2 million), but Giolito can probably nudge that price tag higher if the other signing on Tuesday shows where the pitching market is headed.
Noah Syndergaard vs. Carlos Rodón
Syndergaard became the clubhouse leader for the most surprising contract of the winter, and he stands a non-zero chance at holding the edge for the remainder of the winter. It’s mildly surprising that he was able to command $21 million on a one-year deal despite the Mets issuing the qualifying offer. The shock is more that the Los Angeles Angels, of all teams, took the risk.
Syndergaard has thrown just two innings over the last two years, missing 2020 due to Tommy John surgery, followed by setbacks that limited him to just a pair of one-inning appearances at the end of this season. The Mets decided to extend him the $18.4 million qualifying offer because he’s not a bad bet for a pitching-starved team with deep pockets.
The Angels meet that billing, but their brand of pitching-starved is closer to pitching-cursed. Shohei Ohtani was just the second pitcher to throw 130 innings for them since the end of the 2017 season, and he topped that threshold by one whole out. None of their other starters even reached 100 innings last year, and now here comes a guy who has averaged one (1) inning over the past two seasons.
Syndergaard’s situation would make him a great upside play for a team that only needs depth with upside, rather than front-line help. A two-year deal would help keep everybody’s eyes on the prize. With the way the Angels are currently constructed, however, Keith Law says the player and team could be operating at cross purposes:
But beyond the question of giving a one-year deal to a player whose best years are probably more than 12 months away, this contract creates as extreme a case of misaligned incentives as you can possibly find. The Angels have Syndergaard’s services for one year, a year during which, once again, they will try to get to the playoffs with two of the best players in baseball. There is immense pressure on this team to win, and doing so will likely require that the Angels squeeze every drop of value they can from Syndergaard and any other pitcher on their staff capable of producing even league-average results.
Syndergaard, however, does not have the same incentives: He wants to pitch well enough to get a multiyear contract next winter, but he also needs to maximize his odds of staying healthy through the end of the season. Doing that will require moderating his workload, particularly at a time in the calendar when the team will need him most if it is contending. That assumes he doesn’t have any setbacks that lead to skipped starts or injured-list stints earlier in the year, which would be unsurprising for a pitcher in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. But if he’s able to take the ball every fifth or sixth day for the first four months, he and his camp will have to weigh the benefits of continuing to pitch as a starter on schedule against the risk of fatigue, injury or just reduced stuff down the stretch, which might drop his perceived value to clubs next winter.
There’s a chance that Syndergaard could benefit from the same six-man rotation that accommodated Ohtani suitably after his own Tommy John surgery, but there’s a lot of history to overcome before it can be trusted. We’ll see if Syndergaard’s contract is an Arte Moreno-inspired aberration, or whether the pitching market is the latest to suffer inflation due to supply chain issues.
At any rate, it does lend credence to Scott Boras when he said that Carlos Rodón wasn’t planning on accepting the qualifying offer. Draft-pick compensation didn’t seem to affect Syndergaard’s market, even though Syndergaard signed when he signed in order to use the QO as a fallback option in case he failed the Angels’ physical. There aren’t many pitchers to whom Rodón compares favorably in terms of durability, but Syndergaard is certainly one of them. Throw in Rodón’s All-Star appearance and (potentially) Cy Young support, and he should be fine.
If Rodón’s market plays out as such, then you can downgrade Rick Hahn’s decision to withhold the qualifying offer from “toss-up” to “a minor mistake.” Maybe the White Sox have their reasons for not wanting to even entertain the risk of having Rodón on the roster at $18.4 million, especially since they wouldn’t be able to trade him until June if he accepted. It’s only a major mistake if they don’t direct those resources in an authoritative fashion elsewhere.
(Photo by KeithAllisonPhoto.com)
Syndergaard jumped ship for only 3 mil more than the QO on a Moreno-special rather than gamble on something more substantial. Not sure how much that really says about the market.
Is the Giolio extension talk an academic exercise or have there been recent reports the Sox are seriously considering a Giolito extension?
More academic, although Giolito said earlier this month that he’s open to it. But it’s worth knowing what it would take to actually make an offer worth floating his way.
I think the Sox should wrap Giolito up now in a Berrios similar deal. I think the Rodon QO decision was baffling unless the Sox have some information that we just don’t know. That being said, I’d rather have one year of Verlander at 21 mil if he is willing to take the Thor deal for one year.
I think the Syndergaard deal just upped the ante for getting Verlander. A second year or a higher AAV or both.
I see why teams might gamble on a multi-year deal for Verlander, but I don’t think it’s worth the risk, especially if the AAV is high.
Did you post this before or after you read Nightengale’s tweet saying that the Sox have a strong interest in Verlander? He also said they are planning an “aggressive offseason”. Per mlbtraderumors.
Maybe the Tigers lit a fire under the Sox
Or the Bulls. I mean JR is up a net of like 200M since 2020, maybe he wants to have some fun at the end of his life. Bulls look like a legit force now. Maybe he wants the same for the Sox.
From what I saw of Hahn’s public statements, I didn’t get the sense he was signalling much. Whereas some GMs have made it more clear they are looking to be serious. If Nightengale is right about the team getting aggressive, it does feel like a bit of a change. Though I would still be surprised with anything out of character for the org
Nightengale has not exactly proven to be reliable. But all else equal I’d rather hear that they might actually have an interest in spending and improving than not.
I was just admonished on Twitter for saying that Nightengale’s reports have to be taken with a grain of salt as an organizational mouthpiece.
Worst Pitcher in Baseball, Presented By Guaranteed Rate ®™
Good read, but I think you also have to factor in that Thor has been good most of his career. Rodon has been meh except for 2021.
Yep, I had the same thought. I’d expect Rodon to beat this, but it wouldn’t shock me if Syndergaard got more money.
Yeah, people (Boras) can try and spin this any way they want, but that doesn’t change the facts. Rodon has been a mediocre pitcher over the course of his career, one with a laundry list of injuries that have kept him off the field. I love the guy, but that doesn’t mean I fault the Sox for a sober assessment of his value.
It is also a guy theoretically “rested” vs a guy had to work pretty hard, at least relative to what he done recently. Anyone’s guess whether he bounces back strong.
Refusing to offer Rodon the QO isn’t a mistake at all. There’s a difference between a player being worth x dollars in a vacuum and a player being worth x dollars to a particular team. Unless Jerry is planning to push that payroll up near $200m, there are better ways to spend $18m than giving it to Rodon.
I think it can be a mistake if the offseason continuously reaffirms that Rodón would’ve been foolish to not find that vacuum price, because it’s the front office’s job to have a better sense of the market than we do. But it’s going to take more than Syndergaard’s deal to determine what that market for fringe QO cases is.
Its relatively early but so far the market is screaming it was a mistake, heaney, rodriguez, syndergaard…. and miley getting plucked immediately.
But still early as you say. There are always some guys who sign early (CBA may be forcing the issue as well) and then a few left where everyone is scratching their heads wondering why they haven’t been signed
If anything, Miley is a point in favor of not offering Rodón the QO. He was plucked immediately on waivers, but before that he was waived—and before that, apparently, was shopped around to little interest.
Totally disagree with that. Reds made a mistake like the sox and a rebuilding team immediately pounced on Miley he had 0 chance of getting thru waivers. They may have been bluffed or may be using the “we couldn’t trade him” as an excuse as management cleans their payroll to the bare bones
But why wouldn’t they shop him before dropping him for nothing? And then say they did? It just makes them look like idiots.
Plus, it’s not like he was nabbed by the first team that saw him. There were a handful of teams before the Cubs, and it’s not like the Cubs are in a tear down, all out rebuild. They could still be competitive.
Yeah, this isn’t like some sort of gaffe like with Viciedo where they committed money to him in the hopes of trading him. It’s money they were stuck with and they were unable to find anybody willing to part with any sort of meaningful asset to get him. Several teams passed on him even on waivers. The Reds still get what they want: salary relief, while the Cubs get a player who they’re probably looking at as a potential midseason trade asset to assist in their rebuild (something they can afford to gamble on in a way the Reds cannot).
I’m still failing to see the mistake. Perhaps it’s a mistake under the assumption that the only factor teams should consider is a player’s market value. But that’s clearly false. In fact, it doesn’t really much what Rodón’s market value is: if Hahn is tasked with making the 2022 White Sox as good as possible with ~$25-30m, then the only lens through which he should look is the degree to which $18m to Rodón helps or hampers that end. At best, you could say (and I’d agree) that it’s a mistake for the Sox not to run a payroll high enough so that paying Carlos Rodón $18m makes sense.
For Hahn’s part, the failure to offer Rodón a QO is only a mistake if Rodón definitely wasn’t going to accept the QO and the Sox could get draft compensation from him. Maybe that is what you’re saying and I’m misunderstanding you.
Hahn must have had at least some inkling that Rodon might accept the offer. Even it is was unlikely, it was reasonable for a team that needs to stretch its payroll not to take that risk only for the reward of a draft pick and pool money.
That is indeed what I’m saying.
The potential reward for losing a player is not like it once was. Whatever happens, the risk/reward tradeoff Hahn made does not seem unreasonable. And even if Rodon gets a decent deal, we cannot say with certainty he would not have taken the QO in order to achieve some quick certainty.
Fair enough. I think we’re a long way from “definitely,” and given Rodón’s unique history probably can’t get there—but it’s certainly reasonable to question the move.
With Rodon’s unique injury history as you said, I don’t think there was anything definite about him turning down the QO. If they thought it was a given that he would turn it down they would have offered it to him, obviously.
He is exceedingly unlikely to have high value for any team in October when he hasn’t finished a season healthy and strong the past 6 years, bottom line. It makes sense that they were unwilling to risk a QO to someone who won’t help in the playoffs.
Giolito is really smart. Too smart to sign with an org where the largest contract ever is $80MM.
They’re gonna talk about it, he’s gonna ask them to open the checkbook for real, and Jerry isn’t gonna do it.
*not even $80m.
I like Giolito and I might be in the minority, but I don’t like the idea of giving him a huge deal. Something just tells me that would be a really bad idea.
So much for the brief Verlander talk.
It was beyond a pipe dream to start with since Verlander wanted a Florida ST team.
It was another planted Bob Nightengale tweet; I never really considered the White Sox legitimate contenders for Verlander.
Nightengale has been a tool, agreed. Hopefully he at least got it right about them being aggressive.
I’m already into the Bulls to the point where I could care less about the Sox. Bulls are legit, probably have a better shot than the Sox do of making anything exciting in a postseason. Bulls are taking down good teams, even on the road, making it look easy. Sox could not do that vs good opponents all year.
If MLB had a salary cap like the NBA has, Jerry would be ecstatic.
Thank god. I’m already sick of the Kate Upton jokes.
If I’m Carlos Rodon and the sox offered me a QO, I’d absolutely take it, for the same reason Syndergaard took a 1 year deal in Bananaheim. Both of them need a solid year to lock in value for the big contract later. Peak Rodon isn’t as good as peak Syndergaard, so $18M would have been a realistic move on Carlos’ part.
I believe he would have taken it. Even with some of the lower-end multi-year deals he could possibly sign, we won’t know if those would have been available if he had had a QO attached to him. So Boras can posture all he wants now.
I still think an incentive-laden deal is the route to go with him. Guaranteeing him a QO-type payout for one year of work but making him be at least minimally healthy to guarantee more than that seems like a reasonable enough route. Whether or not Boras will accept such a deal is another matter.
I wouldn’t have guessed this before, but based on what we’ve seen happen with free agency the past few days I think the Sox declining to issue the QO to Carlos might scare other teams off him more than the draft compensation would have.
I’m pretty sure other teams will at least do their own due diligence if they’re interested in Rodon. This isn’t some sort of gamesmanship by Hahn.
But by that logic, Syndergaard should have accepted the QO with the Mets. He took a gamble and it paid off.
Not that it matters much but nice to see Liam get some Cy votes. And i wonder who gave Gio the single 3rd place vote.
Looks like it was a 5th place vote.