The Brewers on Thursday announced a new, five-year contract for right-hander Yovani Gallardo that will keep the club’s home-grown, 24-year-old, Opening Day starter in-house through at least his first season of free agent eligibility.
The Associated Press reported that Gallardo is guaranteed $30.1 million in the deal and could earn $42.5 million including an option for a sixth season in 2015. The details of that option will be among the topics covered in a press conference at Miller Park scheduled for 3 p.m. CT.
According to the AP, Gallardo receives a $1.25 million signing bonus; $500,000 payable when the contract is approved by Major League Baseball, $500,000 on July 15 and $250,000 on Nov. 15. His 2010 salary was bumped up to $500,000 and he will earn $3.25 million next season, $5.5 million in 2012, $7.75 million in 2013 and $11.25 million in 2014. The 2015 option calls for a $13 million salary with a $600,000 buyout.
Before Thursday, Gallardo was set to earn $450,000 in his final pre-arbitration season. He would have been salary arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, putting him on track to reach free agency during the 2013-14 offseason.
Now Brewers general manager Doug Melvin has succeeded in delaying his young ace’s entry into the market. Melvin struck a similar deal nearly two years ago with left fielder Ryan Braun, whose extension runs through 2015 and covers two years of free agency. Braun was also 24 when he signed.
Teams take on risk in deals for such young players but in return get cost certainty and perhaps the chance to delay free agent departures. Players may leave some money on the table versus going year-to-year through arbitration, but they get a lifetime of financial security in return.
The Mexican-born, Texas-raised Gallardo, Milwaukee’s second round Draft pick in 2004, lost his Opening Day start against the Rockies but is showing signs of growing into a four-pitch Major League ace.
He returned in 2009 from an ’08 season lost almost entirely to knee injuries and went 13-12 with a 3.73 ERA. He became fourth different Brewers pitcher to top 200 strikeouts in a season — his Mexican countryman, Teddy Higuera is the only Brewer to do so twice — and ranked third among National League starters with a .219 batting average against.
“He could be in the top handful in the game,” said new Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun. “He’s got all the ability, so now it’s going to be about polishing. He can polish some command, some different pitch sequences, adding and subtracting velocity here and there. He definitely has tremendous life on his stuff.”
The Brewers now have their top two starters signed through 2012 and under control through 2013. Left-hander Randy Wolf signed a three-year contract during the Winter Meetings in December that includes a club option for 2013.
Melvin has kept his talks with Gallardo’s agent, former Major Leaguer Bobby Witt, out of the spotlight since the sides agreed to a one-year contract early last month. At the same time, Melvin has been in ongoing discussions with first baseman Prince Fielder about an extension of his own, though Thursday’s press conference is not expected to include any new information about Fielder.