The Milwaukee Brewers exercised Yovani Gallardo‘s club option, meaning the starting pitcher will be back in 2015. But is he really worth the $13 million the Brewers will be paying him?
In order to answer this question, let’s first take a look at his last four seasons.
At 28 years old, Gallardo should be entering the prime of his career. However, in terms of Wins Above Replacement, he hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was in 2011 and 2012. Since 2011, he’s averaging 2.3 WAR a year, but a 9.2 total WAR. How does he compare with other qualified starting pitchers during that time period?
At one point in time, Gallardo was in the “ace” discussion, but that conversation has long been put to bed. He ranks in the top 30 in only one of the major pitching categories since 2011, yet the Brewers value him as a $13 million pitcher.
To find out if he’s overpaid, I took five pitchers who are just above Gallardo in WAR since 2011, and looked at how much money they’re going to make in 2015. However, I only looked at players with guaranteed contracts to make things easier, and I also excluded Kyle Lohse and Matt Garza because if the Brewers truly are overpaying Gallardo, they might be overpaying them too. Here’s what I found:
Yovani Gallardo: 9.2 WAR, $13 million
Ricky Nolasco: 9.8 WAR, $12 million
Dan Haren: 10.1 WAR, $10 million
Phil Hughes: 10.5 WAR, $8 million
Jose Quintana: 10.6 WAR, $3.6 million
R.A. Dickey: 10.8 WAR, $12 million
Gallardo is getting the most money while being worth the fewest number of wins. He’s even making more money than R.A. Dickey, a former Cy Young Award winner. Granted, he’s old, but still. Phil Hughes, who is earning $5 million less than Gallardo, is just a few months younger and has a higher WAR. Based on just this, the Brewers are overvaluing Gallardo. Steamer projection system says he’ll be a 1.6 WAR pitcher in 2015, and by no means is that worth $13 million.
Picking up his option was the expected move, even with the prospect of Jimmy Nelson taking his place. But the Brewers clearly weren’t satisfied with what Nelson did in limited action last season.
If Milwaukee isn’t going to trade Gallardo, it will be $13 million down the drain. The Brewers are paying him for what he’s done in the past, not what he’s going to do in the future. He’s shown no signs of improving, and odds are, 2015 will be Gallardo’s last season in Milwaukee (he’ll demand too much in free agency). It’d be smart if the Brewers would try and move him and get something in return instead of just letting him walk.
Not disagreeing that $13 million is too much for 1.6 wins, but some of the arguements made while comparing with other pitchers aren’t neccesarily fair. Over half of Phil Hughes accumulated WAR came last year, after he signed his contract. When he received his contract, he was coming off a 3 yr stretch averaging 1.4 WAR per year, and that’s what the $8 million contract represents.
The real discussion needs to be whether or not the projected difference between Yo and either Nelson or Fiers (and the trickle effect for the bullpen) was worth $13 million, or if we could have used that money to add wins to a different part of the roster, such as a left fielder that’s significantly better than davis/parra, or a middle infielder better than scooter or segura.
That’s a really good point about Hughes that I overlooked. Thanks.
I agree that there are issues with the nearest comparisons. Not only is the Phil Hughs circumstances, but we need to consider age AND service time. It is unrealistic to expect Quintana who only has 3 seasons under his belt to be locked in at a rate near Gallardo’s since service time/arbitration years are a different. Quintana’s Age 29 season pays 8.8mm and his free agent season bought out (which this is for Gallardo) is at 11.5mm, which is much closer, especially considering he will be older than Gallardo now. And while it may be a small difference, really this was a 12.4mm decision not a 13mm when factoring in the 600k buyout. Comparing pitcher’s with similar contracts might have made more sense.
But the real discussion is based on either the difference of an in-house replacement (which would amount to the combined input of Fiers/Nelson over a combined input of Gallardo/Nelson or Gallardo/Fiers since one of them will already likely occupy the 5th spot in the wake of the Estrada trade) or the market cost of a similar player which may be the real key. Can the Brewers get cheaper on the market, especially on a one-year deal?
Also I’m assuming you are using Fangraphs WAR? Since it is worth noting that Gallardo averaged a lower b-rWAR since ’11 but produced 2.4 b-rWAR last year. It may be especially worth discussing the difference since fangraph’s WAR values K’s more which would account for a lower expectation in light of Gallardo’s decreasing strikeout numbers.
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