New Premium on Pitching
There was a time when people believed Major League Baseball was immune to the ebb and flow of the economy. It was only a matter of time, though, before this Great Recession showed us that even America’s great institution was not invulnerable. After this off-season, a new truth has appeared to emerge: Only MLB pitchers are immune to the economy.
Tim Lincecum is the latest in a long string of pitchers to sign a lucrative contract during the winter months. The lanky 25-year-old pocketed a two-year, $23 million dollar deal that is loaded with extra incentives.
Twenty-something phenoms Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez recently earned contracts of $80 million and $78 million, respectively. Both deals are of the five year variety, locking them into their clubs throughout their prime.
The Red Sox kicked off the sign-an-ace-to-a-huge-deal trend with the surprise inking of John Lackey in December. Lackey, 31, netted a 5-year, $82.5 million deal that set the tone for pitchers looking to sign.
Deals like these are hinting at a new strategy in the baseball world of “pitch first, score runs later.” The days of one-dimensional sluggers grabbing bajillion dollar deals seem to be, if not ending, certainly slowing down.
Players like Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye, who several years ago would have had money thrown at them, are both ardently searching for employment. At this point it would be surprising if Damon got more than a one-year deal. Yes, both these players are 36 years old, but that never stopped desperate teams in the past.
With teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees boasting strong rotations front-to-back, other teams have realized the importance of young, reliable pitching. Position players with a spark in their bat can be found all over baseball, but a pitcher who can lead their team for years is a rarity that cannot be passed up.
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