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Chewing on Nate Robertson's Deal

For those still wondering whether the Detroit Tigers made the right move in signing Nate Robertson to a three-year contract today (I'm raising my hand), Danny Knobler argues in its favor.

Welcome to baseball in the 21st century. Sorry, but this deal makes sense for the Tigers. First off, they get Robertson for $4.25 million in 2008, when he may well have gotten more than that in arbitration. They get Robertson for $7 million in 2009, again possibly for less than he would have made in arbitration. And while $10 million sounds like a lot, it's at or below where the market is pricing average big-league pitchers who give you about 200 innings (as Robertson does).

Oh, but wait! As I look around the room, somebody else is raising his hand. It's J.C. Bradbury.

As a free agent, I have him valued at $30 million over the next three years. But the Tigers would have gotten him for about what they will pay him during his arbitration years--$4.5 (2008) and $7 million (2009)--without much risk. If he has a phenomenal year in 2008 it's possible that he gets more in 2009, but if he pitches poorly they get him for less. Why not just go to arbitration and take a small risk? A small fluctuation in performance means little to the Tigers, but is quite significant to a single player whose livelihood depends on his talent. The cost savings are supposed to occur in 2010 when he gets $10 million. But I have him valued at about $11 million in his first year as a free agent, which isn't much of a cost savings.

(via MLB Trade Rumors)

I'm glad to see someone else question this at least a little bit, because I'd spent most of the afternoon reading and soliciting favorable feedback on the contract, while hiding in the corner of a closet with my minority opinion. I really can't give any better reason for my apprehension over this deal, other than "it just doesn't feel right." I'll probably come around after sleeping on it.