Breaking Down the Garcia Extension

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Chad Garrison's disappointment notwithstanding (tee-hee), the news of the Cardinals and Jaime Garcia reaching an agreement on a four-year contract extension should come as music to any Redbird fan's earholes. Locking up their most talented pitcher (and yes, I say that including Adam Wainwright in the mix), for the next four seasons at least, and possibly the next six, is exactly the kind of good news this team needs. 

It's also a major win for the Cards' player development wing, as Garcia is the first real cornerstone player the minor league system has produced since Jeff Luhnow took over the reigns back in 2005. (And for anyone who thinks that sounds like an awfully long time, just remember they were essentially rebuilding the farm system from scratch following the disastrous run of drafts in the early 2000s.) Wainwright certainly qualifies as a cornerstone player, but he was brought in via trade before Luhnow came on board. 

Plus, Garcia won the Best Athlete's Butt award from a prestigious local paper just this past year. How can you not be excited about having that guy around for awhile? 

As far as the contract itself, it has the potential to be a massive bargain for the club, and is right in line with some of the other deals clubs have signed their young stud starters to in recent years. 

A pair of Boston starters, Jon Lester and Clay Buccholz, both received similar contracts from the Red Sox, buying out their arbitration years and some of the early free agency. Lester signed a 5 year, $30 million contract before the 2009 season that had an option attached for 2014. At the time he was coming off a 5.1 WAR season as a 24 year old. He followed that up with two even better seasons at 25 and 26, posting FIPs of 3.15 and 3.13 in 2009 and '10, respectively. 

Buccholz signed a four year extension of his own in April, with a pair of option years tacked on the end. In fact, the deal Buccholz got is almost eerily similar to Garcia's, with a total haul of 4 years, $30 million. (Okay, so it's actually $29.945 million, but you'll have to forgive me for rounding up.) Buccholz's contract doesn't actually kick in until 2012, so both he and Garcia are essentially locked up through 2017 if they're any good. I'll be very interested to see how these two contracts stack up by the end. Buccholz in 2010 was borderline brilliant, with a 2.33 ERA (but a 3.61 FIP, one of the larger gaps in all of baseball, if I remember correctly), in the American League East. No mean feat, that. You may also recall Buccholz was my preseason pick to win the AL Cy Young Award, a pick that is not doing so well as of yet. He began the year in a desperate funk, and while he's turned it around since, I don't think he's winning any awards this year.

Chad Billingsley of the Dodgers is another decent comp as far as recent contracts; he signed a deal for 3 years, $35 million in March for 2012-2014 with a 2015 option for $14 million. Billingsley had a fair bit more MLB service time than Garcia, which is one of the primary reasons his deal was more expensive per year. Billingsley has been consistently solid in the big leagues to date, with a career 3.65 FIP. 

Zack Greinke is an interesting case. He signed a 4 year, $38 million contract before the 2009 season, which I remember thinking was a little pricey at the time. Of course, that was before he went out and put together one of the most dominant pitching seasons in recent memory in the first year of that deal, essentially earning the entire contract in one year. Still, in 2008 he was a 3.56 FIP pitcher, which is excellent but not completely out of range with what Garcia has done so far. Again, Greinke's service time was higher, though, and the big money essentially was all tacked on to the last two seasons of the contract. ($13.5 million in 2011 and '12.) 

Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers signed a 5 year, $30 million deal with the Brewers covering 2010-2014, coming off a 2009 season in which he was worth almost 3 wins and posted a 3.97 FIP. Gallardo was spectacular at times last season and has been extremely solid again this year, with a 3.78 FIP so far in 2011. 

So looking over some of these deals, we see Lester getting an average annual value of $6 million almost three years ago. Buccholz is at roughly $7.5 AAV beginning in 2012, not counting the options. Billingsley will earn $11.6 AAV starting in 2012, Gallardo got $6 million AAV before 2010. Greinke's deal paid him $9.5 million AAV, but the Royals essentially stole his first two seasons of that contract at just $11 million total. 

So how does Garcia stack up against these guys? Well, last year he posted a 3.41 FIP and 2.70 ERA in his age 23/34 season. That's almost as good as Lester's age 24 season, though Jaime did it, of course, in a much weaker division. Much better than Buccholz was at the same age, as he suffered through a massive comedown in 2008 after his brilliant partial season in 2007 in which he threw a no-hitter and looked like the second coming. Gallardo is almost the exact same age as Garcia, and was actually slightly better in 2010. Jaime has him beat so far in '11, though, by a fair amount. In fact, Garcia has been the best pitcher on this list in 2011. Greinke has similar numbers, but I'll give Jaime the edge for being healthy all season. 

Garcia's extension will pay him slightly less than $7 million AAV over the life of the contract (w/o the options), which is roughly comparable in terms of value to the others on this list. In short, the Cardinals locked up one of the best young starting pitchers in all of baseball to a contract which should, barring any unforeseen injuries or the like, prove to be a huge bargain for them. Jaime gets financial security and the comfort of knowing where he's going to work for the next several years, and the Cardinals get a top of the rotation pitcher at an affordable cost. If that isn't a win-win situation I don't know what is. 

Plus, just think of all the beard-grooming tools Jaime can buy with this new contract money. I don't know if the man could honestly get any more gorgeous, but he's definitely got the cash to try now. 
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