Getting into the long-term contract business with younger talent has become standard operating procedure for Dave Dombrowski with the Detroit Tigers, and we saw another example of that this afternoon as the team signed Nate Robertson to a three-year deal worth $21.25 million. (The Freep's Jon Paul Morosi is on top of the story, once again.) Gum Time chews for three more years, Detroit.
(Of course, some news was going to break on the one afternoon I couldn't be near a computer. Such is my lot in blogging life, I suppose. Out to lunch - almost literally. To continue with my recent analogy of the Tigers blogosphere to a sandbox, by the time I got back, most everyone else had already built their castle, while I was left holding shovel and bucket. Okay, enough about me.)
I was a little bit surprised when I first read this news. But as I've written before, I'm not the biggest Nate Robertson fan, so maybe I have kind of a blind spot on this. (And as densogirl commented yesterday, this was a move that was coming.) I can see the value in locking up a homegrown pitcher when the Tigers will face at least one hole in the 2009 starting rotation after Kenny Rogers calls it a career. And if Rick Porcello isn't ready for prime time by then, Robertson's inning-eating prowess might be even more important.
But I guess I feel much like Rob Neyer did after the Dontrelle Willis extension was announced. Is Robertson a pitcher you really want to pay a $10 million salary to? That's what the Tigers are facing in 2010, the final year of this new deal. It's a big chunk of change for a below .500 pitcher. But that's clearly the market these days, even for a fourth or fifth starter. (Maybe it's even below market.) Compared to the back halves of other teams' starting rotations, Robertson stacks up rather well.
Perhaps the Tigers also have faith that Robertson will be more honest about his health after Jim Leyland sat him down for an office chat in early June, just before he went on the DL for a "tired arm." Don't try to be a tough guy. If you need a break, say so. And with some contract security now, maybe Robertson will feel a little more comfortable doing so and can stay fresher throughout the season.
What this definitely provides is a sense of stability. The Tigers have most - if not all - of their starting rotation spoken for through 2010 now. But just in case, keep those fingers crossed for a Willis revival and continued prosperity for Bondo and Nate.
UPDATE: Here's a random thought I had while chatting with Mike McClary. Do the Tigers give Robertson a three-year deal if Jair Jurrjens and Andrew Miller are still in the organization? Of course... maybe that's the point.