The San Francisco Giants have come to terms with Ryan Vogelsong on a two year contract, with a club option for 2014 that gurantees the 34 year old pitcher $8.3 million. It was a year ago today that the Giants signed Vogelsong to a Minor League contract after a four year absence from the big leagues.
The deal covers the last year of Vogelsong’s arbitration eligibility and his first of free agency. If we look at MLBTR’s arbitration projections we see that the Giants’ starter was expected to earn $2.5 million in 2012. This means that the Giants believed that Vogelsong’s 2012 season was going to be good enough to earn him at least $6 million on the free agent market ahead of the 2013 season.
That’s not an impossible scenario, but it’s far from a no doubter.
Last year, Vogelsong was remarkable. He had the eighth lowest ERA in all of baseball. And while it’s become standard practice to assign credit for the Giants’ pitching success to their stadium, which has a way of keeping balls in the yard, it should be noted that a good measure of Vogelsong’s success came by way of keeping the ball on the ground as evidenced by his 45.4% ground ball rate in 2011. This is the result of a very effective two seam fastball that comes down and in on right handers and down and away to lefties, inducing horrible contact for both.
However, that was last year, and after four years away, it’s very possible that the advanced scouts for opposing teams didn’t have the most complete of reports on him. A year later, the book on Vogelsong is out. A quick peak at his monthly splits from last year, show that he gave up more and more runs as the season progressed. This, combined with a high strand rate and low BABIP, suggests that last season won’t be easy to repeat for Vogelsong.
Looking at the free agent contract that Bruce Chen signed with the Kansas City Royals this off season (two years for $9 million), we see that $6 million in 2013 for a more realistic Vogelsong is something of an overpay by the Giants. It’s hardly a franchise crippling sum that they’re committing to paying, but a smarter move from the front office’s perspective would’ve been to use his arbitration eligibility to come up with a one year deal for the coming season. Then, if Vogelsong’s 2012 is at all similar to Chen’s 2011, which would still be a win for the Giants, it would only cost an additional $3 million from what they’ve already committed to paying him in 2013, to retain his services and land him for an additional year.
The contract figures that the two sides agreed to would be good on the free agent market, but with one year of arbitration eligibility remaining, it becomes an overpay. Overall, I think it’s another example of the Giants’ unintelligent willingness to pay for past performance rather than future. Aubrey Huff, anyone?