Here’s something weird:
Toronto Blue Jays and Dustin McGowan have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with an option.
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) March 26, 2012
Seeing as the last bit of game action Dustin McGowan saw involved his being carted off with plantar fasciitis in his right foot– and seeing as, back in December, Bowden tweeted that the Jays had won the Yu Darvish bidding (he subsequently deleted the tweet)– it’s kind of a weird one.
After news over the weekend of McGowan’s latest injury setback, fans– who were probably expecting too much to begin with– couldn’t have been faulted for readying themselves for life without the engineer of a miraculous nearly-four-year comeback.
Now… he’s extended?
Yes, tweets John Lott of the National Post.
And Shi Davidi confirms the terms.
Blue Jays confirm McGowan contract. $1.5m in 2013 and 2014, option for $4m in 2015
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) March 26, 2012
What the fuck?
Parkes tries to make sense of it at Getting Blanked.
As for me, I understand that the Jays gambled on Jose Bautista’s ability to repeat and it paid off massively. I get that there could be value to taking care of their own and showing their belief in what could be a key piece for them– and perhaps even more value in preventing an Al Leiter situation, where McGowan has a decent season and then bolts as a free agent at the end of 2012.
For that to occur, however, McGowan needs to stay healthy, to pitch extremely well, and to be unwilling to accept anything the Jays might offer him over the course of the next seven months.
Yes, in that scenario the Jays might have ended up paying him more, if they were even able to convince him to stay, but… I’m just not sure a lot of fans are able to see reality past how much they want McGowan’s story to have a happy ending.
How likely is it that McGowan actually stays healthy? He’s already been carted off the field this spring, and he’s only thrown 91.2 innings at any level since 2008.
And how likely is it that he can pitch effectively? He walked far too many hitters in his 21 innings of MLB work last year, and has had similar ratios of balls and strikes in at least two starts this spring that I can recall– though he’s also been more efficient in another. Keith Law was rather down in him– in a very small one-start sample– but others, especially the club, have had far more positive things to say.
Certainly we hope he can stay healthy, and that all is well and that he pitches effectively. And I have no doubt that the Jays and their medical staff feel comfortable at signing him for the dollars and the term that they’ve gone to for him. Maybe they believe more than I want to believe they do in things like instilling confidence in the club and making good with the fan base by signing a guy they like.
At the very least, clearly they think that his arm is going to be OK and that he’s going to regain a better feel for his command the more he pitches.
It’s not impossible, it’s just… they had this exact same lottery ticket yesterday at $600K for 2012. Now they’ve gone and committed a spot in the rotation or the bullpen on him for three full years– unless at some point they eat the money, either by paying him a Major League salary to pitch in the minors or cutting him outright.
Regarding that point, some fans have pointed out that the contract is a deterrent to anyone who might want to grab McGowan if the Jays attempted to send him down, which would require his passing through waivers first, but to me it’s an absolutely ludicrous notion that the club would intentionally sign a player to a contract that they know nobody else would take if offered for free. Clearly the intent is to capitalize on what they believe is going to be a strong 2012 from McGowan.
I can’t say it’s not rather odd to me that they felt the need to bother, but there is at least one rather interesting way that I can allow myself to look at it and not dislike it quite so much (in, y’know, relative terms, seeing is it is only $3-million, so I don’t exactly hate it)…
Perhaps the move is indicative of a new MLB paradigm, where clubs may begin viewing the spending limits on the draft and on international players implemented under the new CBA as creating a pool of house money, which the Jays have used to buy themselves a lottery ticket– much like they would have had by going over-slot in the later rounds of the draft, hoping to one day get a nugget from out of the high-attrition murk. And maybe this phenomenon would create a more competitive market for a guy like McGowan than we think.
Yes, McGowan is older and comes with far less team control than a just-drafted prospect, but he’s also already in the Majors, and the Jays seen enough of him up close to feel that the potential reward mitigates the risk. We wouldn’t bemoan the club for investing this kind of money on potential flame outs in the Rule 4 draft, so maybe this isn’t so crazy.
The only difference is, of course, the Jays already have McGowan under contract, and could have gathered a lot more data before deciding what to do with him. No, $3-million isn’t a lot of money for an MLB club to have to eat, and the deal almost certainly doesn’t warrant the number of words I’ve spilled over it, but does anybody believe McGowan’s camp wouldn’t have jumped at this exact same deal if the Jays had waited to offer it until he’d made five healthy starts? Ten???
Do we really think his agent would have walked away if the Jays had offered fewer guaranteed years? Like… I’m not saying it was necessary to put the screws to him, but exactly what the hell kind of negotiating leverage does a guy in McGowan’s situation have?
I know, I know. It’s minor. But even AA’s minor gambles are worth examining, because they give insight into his process– which is hardly infallible, despite how tremendous Bautista’s deal looks in retrospect. And frankly, I don’t particularly agree with appears to have been the process here, ultimately, I guess, because I have a hard time believing that, at 30, after about three years off, McGowan is going to come back, stay healthy and be anything like the guy we remember. There’s a chance I’m wrong on that, of course, and it would be fantastic if I was, but the timing and the term of this deal are nothing if not confusing to me.