According to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com, the Toronto Blue Jays have signed pitcher Dustin McGowan to a two year contract with a club option for a third year. Earlier this winter, McGowan and the Blue Jays agreed to $600,000 contract that avoided his final year of arbitration.
The new deal adds two years onto his current contract, paying him $1.5 million in 2013 and 2014, plus gives the club a $4 million option for 2015.
Toronto Blue Jays and Dustin McGowan have agreed to terms on a two-year contract with an option.
— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) March 26, 2012
Just confirmed that McGowan contract report is correct: two years plus an option. No wonder he was in such a good mood today.
— John Lott (@LottOnBaseball) March 26, 2012
Over the last three years, McGowan has faced 142 batters. Not 142 Major League batters. 142 total batters in professional baseball games. He’s faced only 96 batters in the Majors over that time, all coming last season.
On the scale of completely inexplicable to obviously reasonable, the signing is bat shit crazy. McGowan has had a worse time with his health than the most delusional of hypochondriacs could imagine. And even after a return from several injuries over the last several years, he’s since been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
It all started in 2004, when the top prospect in the Jays organization suffered his first serious injury. Pitching for Double A New Hampshire at the time, McGowan blew out his elbow, requiring Tommy John to replace his UCL after only his sixth start of the season. Then, while rehabbing, the right hander was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
Undeterred, he pushed on with his recovery and then spent parts of 2005 and 2006 in Toronto where he ultimately failed to impress. He started 2007 at Triple A Syracuse, but was called up in early May when members of the Blue Jays rotation began suffering from arm shittiness. We remember you, Tomo Ohka.
He grabbed hold of the opportunity and won a regular place in the rotation. However, McGowan suffered from shoulder pain throughout the next season and spent some time on the Disabled List until it was decided in July that he would undergo season-ending surgery to repair a frayed labrum in his shoulder.
Unfortunately, his recovery from the surgery was slower than expected and McGowan didn’t begin throwing a baseball again until May of 2009. Then, in early July, it was discovered that McGowan would require knee surgery to repair articular cartilage damage. A month and a half later, McGowan resumed his rehab in hopes of being available for 2010.
After making an appearance in a Minor League Spring Training game in which he was a shell of his former self, McGowan gave up on trying to make the Opening Day roster. Instead, he continued his rehab in Florida while the rest of the team headed North. Then, in June, he once again experienced pain in his shoulder. It was later discovered that he had torn his rotator cuff and would once again require season-ending surgery.
With the nerve of Sisyphus, McGowan again endured rehab, this time successfully returning in 2011, and pitching in Major League games to close out the year. He entered Spring Training with a real chance of keeping his place in the starting rotation, but once again suffered the aforementioned injury, surprising absolutely no one.
His performances last year and over the Spring have run the gauntlet of ugly to encouraging. While his velocity has been back up to the numbers that first impressed talent scouts, other aspects of his game have prompted observers like Keith Law to call him “a shadow of what he used to be.”
While no one would call McGowan’s refusal to give up anything less than admirable, perhaps he would have found better luck with his recovery if he didn’t spend so much time with his comic book collection and obsessing over Bruce Willis.
No matter the terms, signing a player with McGowan’s injury history to a multiple year contract makes little sense. If this is a tactic by the Blue Jays management to avoid another team picking McGowan up on waivers, generally, signing a player to a contract that’s so bad that no one else wants to take it is on is not a good strategy.
In a best case scenario, McGowan pitches as well as Ryan Vogelsong, who after considerable time away from the game, came back to pitch very well last season with the San Francisco Giants. Vogelsong, then signed a two year contract this winter that guarantees him $8.3 million. And while, unlike McGowan, that did cover a year of arbitration eligibility, it came AFTER he had a full successful season at the Major League level. If we compare these two deals and their timing, the Blue Jays are essentially risking $3 million to potentially save $5 million.
In terms of risk versus reward, that doesn’t cut it.
Photos from McGowan’s most recent weight training are already discouraging: