Dustin McGowan, the oft injured starting pitcher who recently received a curious contract extension from the Toronto Blue Jays, despite making only five Major League appearances in the past three seasons, will not be breaking camp with the team. Even as his two year deal that guarantees him $3.5 million with a $4 million club option for 2015, was being announced, McGowan was listed as day-to-day with plantar fasciitis after having been carted off the field in his last Spring Training appearance.

After a throwing session was cut short yesterday due to pain, manager John Farrell danced around the term “shut down” while describing the situation:

We’ve backed him away from any additional throwing until that discomfort subsides or any symptoms that he does feel are completely out of there before we begin to put a ball back in his hand. At this point it’s probably unlikely he’ll be ready to go.

Our fond friend Andrew Stoeten over at DJF sees the bad news as a blessing in disguise. Another trip to the Disabled List means that McGowan’s guaranteed spot in the club’s rotation opens up, giving the Blue Jays the opportunity to take a better look at both Brett Cecil and Kyle Drabek, as they decide which of the two will round out the rotation for the majority of the year.

Personally, I see this latest step backwards as further evidence of the contract extension being a bad idea, or at the very least being unnecessary. I understand that’s not a particularly popular opinion among Blue Jays fans whose defence of Dusty Lambchops is admirable, but ultimately misplaced. The team, who has paid for and stood by McGowan through so much rehabilitation that the pitcher has actually spent more of his MLB service time on the Disabled List than dressed in uniform.

So, while McGowan’s will power to fight through his myriad of physical limitations without giving in to discouragement should be celebrated, it shouldn’t earn him more guaranteed money from the baseball club that could have cut bait a long time ago.

No one’s suggesting that the contract is crippling, or that it spells the doom of the franchise. It’s merely something that makes little sense based on the information we have and the evidence we’ve seen.

To those who disagree, I would ask why no one, not even the most homeristic of the team’s fan base, was suggesting that the Blue Jays should lock McGowan up to a multiple year deal. Of all the quality team blogs that follow the Blue Jays, of all the disgruntled (and gruntled) columnists who use the team as fodder, of all the fans drinking beer and talking about the team’s chances this off season, did anyone mention the need to keep Dustin McGowan in Toronto beyond this coming season, let alone for two more before 2012 had even started?

I simply can’t wrap my head around this deal, at least not in the fashion that the majority of the fan base seems to have.

Comments (42)

  1. Young. Controllable. Assets.

  2. Not saying the signing is right or wrong, but at a time when drafting players may become more about selling them on your team and programme than just backing up a truck loaded with money, perhaps the way the Jays are standing by a former top prospect will be duly noted by agents advising the next crop of high school/college kids? We’ve heard before about how the Jays want to be a good organisation to be in – maybe there’s something to it?

    • yeah, I think you’re onto something I think this is about the club showing loyalty to their guy, Parkes is right but this might be a bit of an explainaiton

  3. Has it been confirmed if this will actually make a difference with regards to the actual makeup of the rotation to start the season? They were planning on skipping the 5th starter the first time through the rotation anyways, so if McGowan’s DL stint is retroactive, it’s conceivable that he could still make that 2nd scheduled start of the season… I think. Of course that depends on how quickly he’s ready/stretched out/not injured anymore.

    Obviously it makes most sense to assume that they’ll bring up another pitcher to start the season, but I’m just curious if they’ve actually said as much, or if that’s just (reasonable) speculation from fans and media at this point.

  4. Yeah, I didn’t quite understand the 3 year contract with McGowan either.

    I’m pulling for him but wouldn’t a 1 year deal have made more sense?

    • It’s not a three year deal, it’s two plus an option.

      If he merits the option being picked up at all, the first two years are likely to be sufficiently valuable that it won’t really matter what happens in the third.

      I still think a 1+1 would’ve made sense, especially if this was as much about loyalty and sending a message as anything else.

  5. I think the reason no one else is raising issues with the McGowan deal is because there’s really no reason to. Its a. Relatively trivial amount of money on a guy that people lik, regardless of health. I feel like the outrage (for lack of a better term) amongst those whwrite about the team is outrage for the sake of outrage, and nothing more.

    • Agreed. I’ve heard it said before, but this is like the Johnny Mac deal: Weird, but mostly inconsequential.

  6. Well, I don’t particularly care either way, but I can present a case for the people who are happy about the contract.
    It’s like a tsunami-warning system. Apparently the chances of a tsunami are very very small (let’s ignore whether this is really true or not, that’s not the point), but the cost of the tsunami warning system is also very small. There are many arguments to be made that meh, you’ll never get a tsunami anyway, so why bother? Actually (potential cost of damages) * (probability of occurring) < (cost of tsunami warning system), but since the cost of the system is so small, and the extremely unlikely event is potentially so devastating, you might as well lay out the small cost anyway.
    So, it's like that. Only the exact opposite.
    I cannot claim to be an expert, but it seems there is a line of thought that the above "logic" is the way to go (even among risk experts?).

  7. When the contract was announced, I just assumed the Jays must have really liked what they saw from McGowan this spring, otherwise, why would they make this deal.

    Also, one radio report mentioned that McGowan was eligible for Free Agency after this season, would that have been true?

  8. 3.5 million dollars guaranteed does not ascend to the level of “bat-shit crazy” for anyone who can throw a baseball over 90 mph.

    Odd, possibly or probably the wrong decision, sure, but not “bat-shit crazy”

  9. Reed Johnson, Sal Fasano, Dusty Lambchops. It’s all about the facial hair intangibles. That’s where Thames promise lies.

  10. How are we still on this topic?

  11. Does this contract make it easier for Mcgowan to clear waivers? That way if he needs more time in the minors they can send him down?

    • If a team likes him enough to claim him off waivers, they probably look at two years of control at an insignificant figure as an asset, not a problem.

  12. What’s the o/u on more rants from Parkes and Stoeten on one of the most insignificant contracts in the Jays’ roster?

  13. This isn’t much of a step back. Nor does it impact the logic of the deal in any way. It has nothing to do with his arm/shoulder, and will be a non-issue in 2-4 weeks time.

    This deal still makes perfect sense to me in all honesty. They spend 1.5/year for 2 years, and over that time I think it is very likely they’ll recoup their investment. If not in the rotation, then in the bullpen. Worst case, you’re out 3 million. Best case, you have a 2-3 WAR pitcher on your hands at a bargain basement price. Most likely case, you have a 0.5-1 WAR pitcher in the bullpen, and he is worth every penny.

    The fact that no blogs or writers were calling for this to happen is beside the point. Were any blogs calling for Omar Vizquel to be signed? Come on…

    Bedard signed with Pittsburgh this offseason for 4.5 million and I thought that was a good gamble on their part. I feel the same way with McGowan, and the number of years is getting knocked here, but I guarantee the years were asked for by the team. You want control. Simple as that.

    The only question mark in this deal was the timing. Stoeten has been on point with this (you’ve been knocking the deal in all aspects) and I do think it is a legitimate question. Why not wait 5-10 starts into the season and then do it. It depends how much leverage you think McGowan would have. If he comes out flying in 5-10 starts, I doubt you get him on the contract he signed up for. So again, it’s just a calculated gamble. I’d probably have waited a few starts all the same, but I don’t see the difference between making the deal now vs waiting 5 starts as an indictment of the deal in entirety. There may also be some truth in AA’s experience to the effect that getting deals done midseason are more time consuming (though I don’t see the logic there as an outsider to the business).

    In short, there is logic to it. The money is small, and the potential pay off is quite large. It makes sense.

    • Right. Bedard, who has proven far more than McGowan got a one year deal.

      If McGowan pitches as well as Bedard did last year, I will shit my pants on purpose in public, but let’s just pretend he does. At worst, you’re looking at a deal for less than $5 million. Why bother guaranteeing $3.5 million? It’s like buying a ten dollar lottery ticket for a $50 prize.

      • Because that 3.5m is spread over 3 years, and the “worst” isn’t a deal less than 5m. It’s having to bid on a FA who is 2 years younger than Bedard currently is. That’s an important factor, one which could easily lead a team to offer McGowan multiple years. For all we know Bedard turned down a 2 year, 6 million offer this winter to take the higher per annum salary.

        • Exactly. Bedard has to provide 4.5 million in value over 1 year, McGowan has to provide 3.6 million in value over 3 years.

          In terms of the risk/reward, you suggest there’s very little reward here. The question is effectively what you think McGowan would earn on the open market after a solid year. That really depends I think. If he succeeds as a starter, then he’s worth 6-8 million, if as a reliever, then he’s worth 3-4 million.

          If the Jays think there is a good chance of success in a relief role, and a realistic (but not as likely) chance at success in a starting role, then I think the gamble makes sense. It really isn’t much money, and there is more potential payoff than you are letting on. And best of all, the money is so small that even if much doesn’t turn out, he is still probably going to earn every penny.

          As some people here have said, you guys should have reserved more questioning for the Mathis move. The McGowan move isn’t a bad one.

          The only question mark here is the timing, not the deal itself. But that just hasn’t been the focus of discussion here.

  14. “I simply can’t wrap my head around this deal, at least not in the fashion that the majority of the fan base seems to have.”

    That’s fine. But why do you have to be a dick about it?

  15. The sense of vindication in your post is palpable.

  16. Who here has seen him pitch? That might be useful information to have before forming an opinion.

  17. I can’t believe you guys (Parkes and Stoeten) won’t let this go…was it a necessary deal? No. Was it “bat shit crazy”? Absolutely not, and everyone called you on it. Now it’s a deluge of “see, I told you it was a stupid deal” posts from the both of you, as if the sheer volume of your argument will win everyone over…

    you had an opinion, and virtually no one who visits the site agrees with you – the end. You should save the “I told you so’s” for something more meaningful than a foot injury unrelated to any other injury he’s had, that MIGHT keep him out a couple of weeks…maybe you’ll get lucky and his arm will fly off in his next rehab start (fingers crossed!)

  18. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but in order to be worth the $1.5M, McGowan only needs to be worth around 0.3 WAR, right?

    For the record, Zach Stewart threw 16 2/3 IP with a 4.47 FIP for the Jays last season in 3 starts and was worth 0.2 WAR.

    Basically if McGowan had a 10% HR:FB instead of a 19% HR:FB last year he would have been worth 0.2-0.3 WAR.

    That’s all he needs to do for the Jays to break even. Anything else is just a bonus.

    I’m not expecting a sub 4 FIP, I’m not even expecting 125-150 innings over two seasons. I don’t even like the contract. But for the Jays to just break even, they just need 20ish innings with a 4.50 FIP. If you think McGowan can do that in each year, then the Jays have at worst broken even.

    Like I said somewhere else, I get more worked up over the fact the Jays traded a warm body for Mathis and guaranteed >$1M to him then I would over the McGowan extension.

    • It’s bit more I think – some 65 innings of 4.50 FIP. Still not that much, plus its over 2 years.

      Intangibles may not be detectable in primitive rate metrics, but the humans who do the work are in no doubt as to their reality. Of course, baseball folks have all kinds of superstitions, so we ought to be wary of that stuff. But when the GM gets the intangibles and the “feel-good” and the goodwill for little or no premium over market rates AND we’re talking about low rates (<4X league minumum) then it's all good.

  19. No need to humiliate yourself by conducting a public defecation in your pants. You are full of shit already Parkes.

    McGowan needs to be worth something like 0.8 WAR for this deal to be valuable. If he can contribute somewhere around 300 quality innings over the next two seasons, its a net gain for the Blue Jays.

    • That’s 0.8 WAR over 2 years. He doesn’t need to pitch anything like 300 quality innings to be worth that. In last year’s run environment, he needs only 120 innings of 5.00 FIP baseball to be worth that. If he could be just below league average, say 4.50 FIP, he would only need to pitch 65 innings or so…

      • Good catch. I miscounted innings. It’s not like I am paid to write a baseball blog.

        I just can’t get over the fucking fuss over this contract. If McGowan was John MacDonald and the Jays were going to pay him 3.5 million dollars to warm the bench, Parkes would probably love that idea, extolling his invaluable leadership and other intangibles.

  20. I can’t believe Parkes is so worked up over such a minor move. It must be spring training. By-the-way Gose stole three bases in one inning. Now thats spring training news.

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