Two more players signed to contracts with Arizona - as noted, this leaves just Eric Byrnes and Doug Davis left unsigned for 2007. Gold Glove winner Orlando Hudson settled for $3.9m, which seems fair enough as far as an increase from $2.3m last year. He did have career highs in BA, OBP, SLG, SB, HR and RBI, in addition to the defensive prize, so we can't say he had too bad a year. Particularly promising was the improvement over the course of the summer: next year should see him fully adjusted to Chase Field and the NL, so I'm looking for big things from him.
Brandon Lyon will also become a millionaire for his efforts in the season ahead, earning $1.5m, up from $830K. He pitched a career high 69.1 innings, with a solid 3.89 ERA. Though the highlight of his year may have come on August 25th, when he had his first-ever plate appearance in the bottom of the fifteenth inning at Chase against Chavez, with the score 7-7. He coaxed a five-pitch walk, then came home on Hudson's two-out homer, to get the win and become a member of the elite club of players who have scored more runs than they have at-bats...
This will be their last season before both of them become free-agents (I notice that both were also originally picked by Toronto - Hudson, all the way down in the 43rd round of the 1997 draft). It'll be interesting to see whether the organization attempts to sign either, or both, to a multi-year deal during the upcoming campaign. Hudson seems to be coming into his prime, and if Lyon can manage to avoid further injury, he could also become a valuable member of the bullpen. I expect both men to have solid seasons, as they play for their furture paydays, and Hudson, in particular, I expect will be signed. Even if we decide Callaspo is the future, and trade O-Dawg, his value will be higher with a contract locked down.
The debate over whether Eric Byrnes and Doug Davis are worth the money, however, promises to be a bit more tricky. The gulf between AZ and Davis is particularly chasm-y: we offered him $5.25m, and he wants $7.5m. That seems like an awful lot for a man with an ERA+ of only 91 last year, but don't forget, this is the market which rewarded career 96 ERA+ Gil Meche with a 5 year, $55m deal. I do expect Davis to be significantly better next year, but the question would be, how much of that will be due to the defense behind him? He hardly deserves a pay increase if that's the main cause of any improvement.
But I think the market will be the main thrust of Davis's case to the arbitrator, if it gets that far, rather than debates over his actual skill. On that basis, let's review the other deals reached by left-handed starting pitchers during the off-season.
Name Age 2006 ERA+ Car. ERA+ Contract Davis 31 91 102 ??? Lilly 30 109 99 $40m/4 yr Mulder 29 62* 109 $13m/2 yr Pettitte 34 108 119 $16m/1 yr Wolf 30 83 103 $8m/1 yr Zito 28 116 127 $126m/7 yr * = injured, threw only 93.1 innings
Randy Wolf would seem the closest contender; eleven months younger, with an almost identical career figure, and coming off a poor season. However, Wolf's health is a big concern: over the past three seasons, he's averaged 16 starts (and only 12 last year) compared to Davis's 34. If Wolf is worth $8m, then $7.5m suddenly seems very reasonable - even a bargain - for Davis.
This one might not go so far, however, with the parties apparently looking to negotiate a multi-year deal instead. Said Josh Byrnes, "We had positive discussions about a multiyear. Hopefully, that could be the resolution." It'd be nice: at the moment, we just have Webb and Johnson confirmed for 2008. Though we can reasonably expect one of the prospects to step into the rotation full-time by then, I'd rather not be trying to fill two more holes through trade or free-agency. Comments on yesterday's entry suggest we would happily settle for something like $23m over 3 years, and I tend to concur. Davis will be better this season, and I seriously doubt he'll be any cheaper next winter.
Eric Byrnes seems on wobblier ground: at time of writing, in our poll, less than a third of voters support giving him what he wants, compared to half for Davis. I know the arbitrators take position into account, but the key question for Byrnes could be, is it the position they did play, or the one they will play? For that's a significant issue here: as noted before, EB's performance last year was fine for a CF, but mediocre as a left-fielder. Still, 25 HR and 25 SB are gaudy numbers; if arbitrators dig the long ball as much as chicks supposedly do, this one could also swing towards the player.
One quick final note. Looks like a potential trade has now evaporated, with the Pirates trading their closer Mike Gonzalez to the Braves, for first baseman Adam LaRoche. Gonzalez's name had cropped up as a potential trading partner for Chad Tracy, but it seems the Pirates now have their left-handed slugger at first. As the current sponsor of Chad Tracy's page on Baseball-Reference.com, we're heaving a sigh of relief at that one!