|Or, you know, driving.|
I have this thing that I do quite often. I can't help it. I wouldn't classify it as a bad habit or anything, and I can't imagine it annoys anybody or anything. It's just a thing that I do, probably a bit weird.
I have Cot's bookmarked, and I go and read up on contracts like once a week. Usually, I'm just picking a random team and reading contracts, often ones that I already know exactly what is written about them, thus learning nothing. These things evolve, from time to time, though, as a player gets awesome or terrible all of a sudden. My favorite is the Yankees' page, mostly because of the ARod, Teixeira, Sabathia, etc. deals that have all these goofy incentives and perks, though all of the contracts negotiated by Theo Epstein are usually hilarious: John Lackey's clause that stipulates that the team gets a club option for league minimum if he misses time with an elbow injury, or Carl Crawford's "if we trade you, you can't be traded to the Yankees" clause.
More than any other team though, obviously, I'm looking at the Jays' page. Looking towards the future for payroll commitments, checking options, seeing who is arbitration eligible, free agency eligible or 0-3 at season's end, and so on.
Naturally, this morning, I was laying in bed with my computer on my stomach reading the Jays' page, and was looking at all the club options they have on their players. There are options on the contracts of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, RA Dickey, and Maicer Izturis for next season, at various values.
The Bautista and Edwin options are for $14MM and $10MM respectively, and, barring some hilarious misfortune like gigantism from consuming too much brain and nerve tonic, or falling down a bottomless pit, those two are getting their options exercised, even if they miss the season due to injury or go all Chris Davis on us. The other two are kind of interesting though.
We'll start with Izturis, I suppose, since he's the least interesting. Despite being completely terrible in year one of his deal, and breaking his leg or something and missing 90+% of year two of his deal, Izturis has a totally reasonable option on his contract. He'll make $3MM this season, which, on a value level, should get something like 0.5 WAR. He's cheap, and there isn't exactly a bunch of competition trying to pry the 2B job away from him; Devon Travis seems to be the heir-apparent, but he's yet to see AAA, and after him, it's just a bunch of also-rans in Muni, Ryan Goins, and maybe Steve Tolleson against LHP. He is a switch-hitter who can play a few infield positions, but certainly doesn't do any of those things spectacularly. Still, we've seen guys, especially at premium(-ish) positions put up a WAR practically by accident.
If Izturis happens to have a halfway decent season (by which I mean "if he can get out of his own way defensively, sit his ass on the bench if and when Steve Tolleson plays against lefties, and put up even a win), then picking up his option seems pretty palatable. The option is for $3MM, but comes with a $1MM buyout, so in essence, it's a $2MM decision that the Jays will be saddled with. Perhaps, by that time, Devon Travis is ready, or Ryan Goins learns how to hit .200, or Chase Utley becomes a Blue Jay, rendering Izturis more or less useless, but a $2MM decision, these days, makes a pretty small, low-risk investment.
I'm guessing that this one gets declined, and that AA would take a do-over on this one if given the chance, but it wouldn't be a huge shock if the guy was worth a WAR and justified that option.
Dickey's deal is for $12MM in 2015, and has an option for '16 at the same cost, with a $1MM buyout. $12MM, on the open market, should buy you about 2 WAR, which is right in line with Dickey's performance as a Blue Jay so far, depending on where you look (and you should be looking at B-Ref for him, and maybe all pitchers depending on your feelings about fip-WAR). He was worth 2.0 rWAR in 2013 and 2.5 in 2014. That suggests that he's an approximately league-average pitcher, solid but not spectacular. Certainly not the Cy Young guy that he was in 2012, but wholly valuable nonetheless.
From a strict cost-per-win standpoint, the option is probably a wash, and the Jays would likely get more or less what they paid for. There are a few other circumstances to look at though.
First, Dickey is 40 years old. Sure, knuckleballers can throw till they're fucking 70 if they want to, and Dickey has said that he's planning on pitching for at least another few years, and there's not exactly a shitload of data out there that determines what the normal aging curve should resemble for a knuckler (though Breaking Blue tried shortly after the trade). Tim Wakefield was useful in to his mid-40's, for example, and Phil Niekro was useful through 46. But most baseball players peak at age 28 or so, and there are a few grey hairs in Dickey's beard.
Second, Dickey has thrown at least 200 innings four years in a row now, which is certainly a good thing to have around. We don't know what's going to happen with Mark Buehrle after this year (he's a free agent), but I'd guess that he'll walk or retire or something that isn't pitch for the Toronto Blue Jays. That's based off of nothing, of course, and he seems to like it in Toronto and is building a good rapport with the team's young pitchers, so who knows? My point is that Dickey is a stabilizing force in the Jays' rotation, even if he isn't as good as he was a few years ago. He's that guy who takes the ball every fifth day and throws 6-ish innings for you 34 times a year. He doesn't have a Tommy John ligament, so that's not a worry, and he doesn't throw hard enough to do any damage to the rest of his arm. As long as he doesn't take a comebacker to the face, or break a nail, there's not really a whole lot to worry about.
Third, Dan Norris seems to have taken a liking to him. You'd like to keep that guy happy.
Fourth, if Dickey leaves, (and again, assuming Buehrle walks), Drew Hutchison is suddenly the dad of the rotation (not that that is a bad thing, but he's still 24, and you know how much AA likes his vets). This could certainly change between now and then, if the Jays acquire someone between now and the start of 2016, but there doesn't seem to be any money there for 2015, and we all know how tough it is to get people to sign in Toronto, especially to pitch in the dome.
Fifth, his defense should improve a bit, with Donaldson playing at third and Smoak soaking up a few more errant throws at first. Not that such a thing changes a ton about how well he pitches, but he certainly does seem to get his ass kicked a bit more from the stretch (.603 OPS with bases empty, .833 with men on in 2014), and if there's anybody in the league who induces weak contact, and thus needs a bit of defensive help, it's Dickey.
It seems as though AA likes guys that can throw innings, guys that can help with team chemistry, and guys who don't have a choice on whether or not they come to Toronto. With an option, they don't need to pitch it to an agent, or compete with other teams, or worry about how much it's going to cost, or convince someone to pitch in a park that cedes all the homeruns-- this is a known entity, under control, and he's already here.
I would guess that Dickey gets his option exercised if he has a year that is anywhere close to what he had last year, and has it declined if he has a dumpster fire, so the real issue here is what happens if he's in the middle ground. There is value in resting the bullpen, and it's not a complete impossibility that he gets better, either. Niekro had a 4.6 WAR season at 45, Wakefield a 4.5 WAR season at 38. 3 WAR isn't completely absurd, especially if his whole schtick about still learning the pitch and adjusting to the various environments is to be believed. One factor we need to consider is how well Hutchison, Norris and Sanchez perform this year, and if anybody in the minors (i.e. Osuna) develops. Stroman should be good to go for opening day of 2016, there are plenty of options on the 2016 free agent market, and we could always see a trade, so it's not like there aren't other avenues to find pitching.
It sure would be a lot easier if Dickey went and kicked ass this season, though.