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January 17, 2013

Harrison's Vesting Option

Tonight, Matt Harrison signed a five-year contract, giving him $5mm in 2013 followed by $8mm and three years of $13mm. By my quick calculations ($4.5mm/WAR in 2012, 5% inflation, which may be conservative given the explosion in cable rights fees), Harrison needs to average about 2.1 WAR annually to break even. That's not quite true, as the first two years are arbitration-controlled, but the point holds that he can pay off with relatively modest production relative to the 4.1 WAR he's averaged during the past two years. Of course, signing any pitcher for five years is risky, but this risk is manageable, I'd say.

As for that 2018 option, which vests if he pitches at least 200 innings in each of 2015-2017: That's a tall order. Here's the complete list of pitchers achieving that during 2010-2012:

Felix Hernandez -- 715.3 total innings
Justin Verlander -- 713.7
James Shields -- 680.3
CC Sabathia -- 675.0
Clayton Kershaw -- 665.3
Matt Cain -- 664.3
Cliff Lee -- 656.0
David Price -- 644.0
Cole Hamels -- 640.0
C.J. Wilson -- 629.7
Mark Buehrle -- 618.0

I hope the option doesn't create a perverse incentive down the road, such as Harrison neglecting to rest an injury properly in order to reach the vesting goal. The Rangers can, of course, exercise the option anyway, which they'll do if he's anywhere near league-average even with a meager 180 innings in 2017.

Posted by Lucas at January 17, 2013 01:44 AM