The Los Angeles Dodgers signed free-agent pitcher Brett Anderson on Monday. The soon-to-be 27-year-old left-hander got $10 million for a one-year contract.
This is the same Brett Anderson who made only eight starts last season for the Colorado Rockies. He did well, posting a 2.91 ERA. But he made only eight starts.
This is the same Brett Anderson who has made only 32 starts in the past four seasons. The same Brett Anderson who has pitched 206-1/3 innings in those four seasons and has posted a 3.97 ERA
He got $10 million for one season.
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You can count this as the obligatory once-in-a-while complaining about high salaries column. But this particular signing struck me. It’s more bothersome than the six-year, $155 million deal Jon Lester got from the Chicago Cubs.
The only red flag on this contract is Lester’s age. He’ll turn 31 in January, so he’ll be paid an average of $25.8 million for his age 31-36 seasons. Lester has been tremendous, however, in his first nine seasons in the big leagues. He’s 116-67 with an ERA of 3.58. That includes six 15-win seasons, and he has made at least 31 starts in each of the past seven years. Last year, Lester had an ERA of 2.46 in 32 starts between Boston and Oakland.
OK, that’s a lot of money for someone with a lot of pitches thrown, but Lester has done the job. He has proved himself as a big-game pitcher, with a 2.57 ERA in 14 postseason appearances. Lester is, by all accounts, one of the best left-handed pitchers in the game.
Great pitchers are going to make between $750,000 and $1 million per start in the next half-decade. Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez, Zach Greinke, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and now Lester are all in that category. Sabathia and Lee are battling injuries, but the others are pretty much living up to their billing as tremendous ace pitchers.
But a guy with an ERA near 4.00 for the past four years gets $10 million for one season? Now, that is crazy.
Baseball in now a $9 billion industry, so players are going to get paid. But the more we see players get big contracts, the more skeptical the fans seem to get. The Braves would have loved Lester, and he wanted to pitch in Atlanta. But they can’t compete for a pitcher who will be paid $25 million a year. That would be 27 percent of their payroll on one player.
The Braves have already been burned on contracts. They’ll pay Dan Uggla $13 million next season to sit at home or perhaps play with another team. He was so awful, the Braves just had to let him go. And B.J. Upton has another nightmare contract. The Braves have tried to give Upton away, but no team wants him. Would you want to pay a player $15.45 million for each of the next three years who has hit .198 the past two seasons?
That’s why the Braves are probably stuck with Upton, at least until he can show whether he can hit again. If not, he might join Uggla as a player paid a ton of cash to stay away.
Of the 28 players scheduled to make $20 million or more next season in the big leagues, half of them would be considered grossly overpaid. Sure, you might think all of them are overpaid. But when half of the players deserve nowhere near what they are going to be compensated, you know there are problems.
This is why the Braves must rebuild the farm system. It pays to develop your own talent. Some teams can go after the big stars, but you have to wonder if they’ll really think it’s worth it. Will the Los Angeles Angels really enjoy paying Josh Hamilton $25.4 million next season? He hit only 10 home runs last season.
Philadelphia is trying to give Ryan Howard away. He’ll make $25 million next season. But since Howard has hit only .233 with 48 home runs the past three seasons, the Phillies are probably stuck with him. Mark Teixeira has hit only .253 in his five seasons with the New York Yankees, but they’ll pay him a little more than $23 million in 2015.
But it can’t be worse than Brett Anderson, can it? Perhaps it pays to be mediocre in baseball, and Anderson’s deal proves if you have a baby boy and want him to play baseball, put that ball in his left hand.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at www.twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.