Author: Geoff Young
from: Clairemont/Kearny Mesa
Blogging since: June 2001
Post Date: December 6, 2006
Post Title: Maddux Comes to San Diego
Okay, people know who Greg Maddux is, so I can't just make stuff up on this one. As you probably are aware by now, the Padres have signed Maddux to a 1-year deal worth $10 million that includes a player option for 2008, which will be worth $6-$10 million depending on his 2007 performance. With the fat contracts being handed out to mediocre pitchers this winter (Adam Eaton, 3 years, $24.5 million; Vicente Padilla, 3 years, $34 million), I shudder to imagine what the likes of Jason Schmidt and Barry Zito will end up landing. In that context, now is a great time to invest short term in someone who can provide immediate help and who won't tie up a lot of resources in the future.
How do you do that? Simple: find an old guy.
Seven starting pitchers age 37 or older filed for free agency this winter. All but two of them (Roger Clemens, 44; David Wells, 43) have signed. Recognizing that Maddux's career took a downward turn in 2003, here is how the five old starting pitchers (not an elegant description, but accurate) have fared since then -- see Old Starting Pitchers, 2003-2006 chart.
In terms of performance and money commitment, Glavine probably is the best investment, Hernandez the worst. If I had to rank these signings, I'd do it as follows: 1. Glavine, 2. Maddux, 3. Mussina, 4. Williams, 5. Hernandez.
Mussina is the most difficult to figure -- you have to do the conversion rates for Yankees money. His $23 million probably comes out to around $13-$15 million for most other clubs, and that's a pretty good deal. You could make a strong case for putting him ahead of Maddux, and I wouldn't argue the point.
Either way, Maddux is a solid investment in the current market. He's old, but he's durable, reliable, and reasonably effective -- certainly effective enough to be someone's #3 or #4 starter, which is all the Padres are asking. Maddux really takes over the role held by Wells in 2004 and Williams in 2005-2006. He's pricier than either of those two guys were, but today's market is more insane than the one that existed when Wells and Williams signed.
In Maddux, the Padres get a solid innings eater in the back of the rotation without tying up long-term resources. They also get a guy who doesn't cost them any draft picks. The Dodgers, fearful that he might accept, didn't offer Maddux arbitration.
The only potential downside to this deal is that, at his age, Maddux could fall off the proverbial cliff any moment. But you have to like 19 consecutive seasons of 199+ innings pitched and 100+ ERA+.
An added benefit to having Maddux on the club, as Jake Peavy notes, is that other pitchers on the staff will have the opportunity to "sit on the bench and talk baseball with him." There was some discussion in yesterday's comments about the extent to which this might be true and, if so, how much value it would provide, but apparently Peavy and Maddux are friends, so at least one pitcher will have a chance to pick the professor's brain. Obviously, you bring a guy in for what he can give you on the field, but something like this seems like a nice little bonus to me.
Another benefit is that, with Todd Walker and the Padres apparently headed to arbitration (and with Walker likely to cost around $3 million), there should be plenty of room in the budget for a power-hitting left fielder. Off the top of my head, I believe the Pads have spent about half of the $30 million or so they had available coming into the off-season. That should be enough to land a replacement for Dave Roberts in left -- if not in the market as it stands right now, then perhaps closer to spring training or even after the season starts.
(It's important to remember that payroll flexibility benefits a team even after winter has passed. If it turns out that there isn't a good fit for the Padres right now, I expect the doors will remain open to finding a legitimate left
Signing Maddux is a solid short-term move that should help the Padres stay competitive in 2007. It doesn't hurt them long term, in terms of money or draft picks.
I don't believe the Padres are done yet (in addition to finding a left fielder and a platoon partner for Walker at second, there's talk of resigning Wells). The front office still has work to do if they want to bring a third straight division title to San Diego, but adding Maddux to the staff is a nice start.