Goold has an interesting article today about the rising cost of filling the closer role. Cards are facing this right now with Motte in his second year of arbitration eligibility and due a hefty raise.http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball ... dc724.html
Here is a portion of his article:
That is a price the Cardinals have purposefully stayed away from in recent years.
The market is inflated. The role is overvalued for its volatility. Et cetera.
"When you look at the closer market as a whole, it's not the most efficient with regards to salary," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told me during the 2011 playoffs when discussing the benefit of filling that position "from within."
That's still the idea. But prices are going up at Busch.
Today is the deadline for tendering – or, in non-baseballese, offering – contracts to arbitration-eligible players. As of earlier this week, the Cardinals planned to offer deals to all five of their arb-eligible players: Marc Rzepczynski, Edward Mujica, David Freese, Mitchell Boggs, and closer Jason Motte. Those players will be considered under contract for 2013 and they can use the arbitration process to set their salary or negotiate a deal with the Cardinals before an arbitration hearing.
The Cardinals expect to approach the players about deals after next week’s Winter Meetings. For a few of those players, the Cardinals will consider multi-year deals – ones that either wipe out the rest of their arb-eligible years (more players get three) or eat into their free agent years.
The player from the above group that fits the profile for a multi-year discussion is Motte, because none of the others are about to get paid like Motte.
The righthander is coming off his first full season as the team’s closer. He tied for the league lead with 42 saves; was the only pitcher on the staff to collect a save this season; and posted a 2.75 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 72 innings. That year comes after he was the team’s closer in October and threw the final pitch of the Cardinals’ 2011 World Series championship.
This winter is his second bite at arbitration. Last year, he used his eligibility to receive a $1.95-million base salary. (He earned $2 million with bonuses.) This year he’ll get closer to $5 million. MLB Trade Rumors uses past salaries to estimate arbitration rewards and it pegged Motte for a $4.7-million salary in 2013.
That would make him the highest-paid closer for the Cardinals since 2008.
That was the final year of Jason Isringhausen’s contract. The Cardinals exercised an $8-million option for 2008 on Izzy, the team’s all-time leader in saves, but Izzy did not finish the year as the closer. Ryan Franklin took over. That started his run in the ninth and the Cardinals’ run of cost-conscious approach to closing. A flirtation with lefty Brian Fuentes several years ago – remember La Russa saying Fuentes was the “priority” target for the team – fell short when the lefty was able to get a longer, richer deal elsewhere. Franklin remained.
Drawing the Reds back into the discussion, consider how the two teams have spent on their designated closer coming into each season:
2008 – Isringhausen $8 million, Cordero $8.5 million
2009 – Franklin $2.5 million, Cordero $12 million
2010 – Franklin $3 million, Cordero $12 million
2011 – Franklin $3.25 million*, Cordero $12 million
2012 – Motte $1.95 million, Madson $8.5 million
2013 – Cardinals TBD, Broxton $4 million**
2014 – Cardinals TBD, Broxton $7 million**
2015 – Cardinals TBD, Broxton $9 million**
* Fernando Salas took over the ninth and led the team in saves before Motte’s September/October hold on the role. Salas made slightly more than the minimum.
** Broxton’s breakdown comes from Cot’s Contracts and in other reports.
It is a good time to be a late-game reliever.
The Cardinals’ interest in a lefty reliever has run into a robust market for the higher-end options. Jeremy Affeldt signed a three-year, $18-million deal to remain with San Francisco. Sean Burnett is expected to command a similar deal from somewhere. Three years are en vogue. Brandon League re-signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for $22.5 million over three years and was immediately installed as their closer. Even some of the short-term deals are still rich. Madson signed with the Los Angeles Angels for one-year, $3.5-million – and that comes after missing the entire 2012 season with an elbow injury. The class of this era’s closers, Mariano Rivera, re-signed with the New York Yankees for a deal worth a reported $10 million. He missed most of 2012 with a knee injury.
These are the rising costs the Cardinals have sought to stay away from when it comes to the ninth inning. Four relievers are eligible for arbitration and due raises for the Cardinals this season. Combined, that foursome made $4.6 million in 2012. One of them, Motte, is likely to make more than that in 2013. The Cardinals can peer into their system and see a few future options for the ninth inning. Boggs did well as the setup man. Trevor Rosenthal was a power revelation in the minors. But Motte has seized the job. The framework for an extension that includes his first year of free agency (2015) is there in the marketplace. Cubs’ closer Carlos Marmol signed a three-year, $20-million extension at the same point in his career.
It really begs the question -- what do we do with Motte? Part of me says let him walk before he hits his big arbitration payday next year. With Boggs, Rosenthal, Martinez, Wacha, Lynn, Kelly, and probably a few others around we should be able to have a steady stream of pre-arbs and 1st and 2nd year arb players capable of filling that role. At the same time, it's nice having the security of a shutdown closer -- and Motte fits that profile well. Even with the apparent depth we have in RH'ed power relief, we know historically that quality closers are hard to come by and without one, you're in trouble.
I think that I would probably cap the amount I'm willing to spend on a closer at around $8M and for no more than 3 years. You're not likely to get an elite guy off the market to sign for that price -- Broxton just got about that this year, but he's not an elite closer. $8M is what I would think someone like Motte, if he continues to have success, will get in his 3rd year of arbitration. If we can get Motte to sign a 3 year deal this offseason worth $5, $6.5, and $8M, I would do that. If we can't, I would probably cut ship after this season and go with Rosenthal, Martinez, or Wacha. You would have them -- or a combination of those guys -- in the 9th for 4-5 years at discounted rates before you faced this decision again.
I just don't see any reason, if a team drafts and develops players well, to ever pay a reliever anything more than 3rd year arbitration costs. Few of these deals for high priced closers work out. Just look at Cordero and the Reds in Goold's example...
Q: What year is it?
A: Ty Wigginton