The Brewers followed a trend when they signed 24-year-old right-hander Yovani Gallardo to a contract extension on Thursday. Develop young pitchers, test them in the big leagues, then lock them up.
That was the path followed by Gallardo and the Brewers, who struck an agreement on a five-year, $30.1 million contract that buys out all three of Gallardo’s arbitration seasons and one year of free agency. There’s also an option for 2015, which could give the Brewers their ace through a second season of would-be free agency and could push Gallardo’s take all the way to $42.5 million.
It’s essentially a Jon Lester contract. Lester, the Red Sox left-hander who overcame cancer, agreed last March to a five-year, $30 million contract that included a $13 million club option for a sixth season. If that option is exercised, Boston will have bought out two of Lester’s free agent years.
According to Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, who broke the news of Lester’s deal, that contract was the richest ever for a pitcher with around two years of Major League service (Lester had two years, 75 days). Now it appears that Gallardo, who has two years and 108 days in the big leagues, has him beat by just $100,000.
Here’s the breakdown of Lester’s deal as reported by WEII.com last March:
2009: $1 million
2010: $3.75 million
2011: $5.75 million
2012: $7.625 million
2014 club option: $13 million or $250,000 buyout
And Gallardo’s as reported by the Associated Press on Thursday:
2010: $500,000 plus $1.25 million signing bonus
2011: $3.25 million
2012: $5.5 million
2013: $7.75 million
2014: $11.25 million
2015 option: $13 million with $600,000 buyout
When Lester signed his contract, he had 27 Major League wins in 60 games and 354 2/3 innings with a 3.81 ERA and 262 strikeouts. Gallardo entered this season with 22 wins in 54 games and 320 innings with a 3.57 ERA and 325 strikeouts.
The Brewers and Red Sox are far from the first teams to take this approach with a pitcher, trading the obvious risk for the potential reward that comes with a productive, relatively young and cost-certain arm for a few extra years. This year alone, the Rangers have struck a similar pact with Scott Feldman, and that came after Matt Cain and the Giants, Nick Blackburn and the Twins, Felix Hernandez and the Mariners and Josh Johnson and the Marlins. All of those pitchers were either drafted and signed by those teams, and all of their extensions gave the team control of at least one year of free agency.
I am working on a story about this trend that will appear later on Brewers.com and MLB.com. And, of course, we will have Gallardo’s thoughts about his suddenly-fat wallet and the team’s explanation of that option.