Is there a bigger gamble in sports than signing a pitcher to a big money contract? Arm injuries, back problems or inexplicable brain issues can derail even the most talented pitcher in the blink of an eye.
But what are teams going to do? Everyone needs pitching, and quality pitchers are not easy to come by. So, in terms of free agency, owners have to open up their pocketbooks and make their organization the most attractive (i.e. give them the most money) to land the intended target.
Here are three pitchers who will command nice contracts, but not end up earning them.
Zack Greinke, RHP
Zack Greinke is the best pitcher in a less than inspiring free agent class. This is great news for Greinke. The 29-year-old is not going to hurt for suitors. If Greinke signs for less than $100 million, I'd be surprised.
Greinke is a good pitcher, he just isn't that good. He is better served as a No. 2 starter in a quality rotation, than a No. 1 starter, which his contract will suggest he is.
Spending time with the Brewers and Angels last season, Greinke went 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He did this while throwing over 200 innings and going for 200 strikeouts against just 54 walks.
In terms of WAR, that is actually his best season since his 2009 season that earned him the Cy Young.
There is not a lot to suggest that Greinke will be noticeably better than he was last season, and chances are, he will be slightly worse, and that slide will only continue as he hits his 30s.
Jose Valverde, RHP
Valverde's late-season collapse cost the 34-year-old millions of dollars. While he endured some ups and downs during the season, he still finished with 35 saves in 40 chances, an ERA of 3.78 and a WHIP of 1.25. Pair that with his spectacular 2011, where he converted 49 of 49 saves, and the closer was in line for a nice contract.
Then the playoffs hit and he fell apart for the whole world to see. This drastically limited his earning power, but he will still be overpaid. With agent Scott Boras, Valverde will manage to pull of a decent contract, it will likely just be a short one, and Valverde is not going to earn that contract.
This is a case of pitcher who has lost his mojo, and this is just the way things go for closers. Outside of a brilliant and select few, closers fly like shining stars across the MLB sky and once they start falling, they very rarely stop.
Valverde is definitely falling.
Kyle Lohse, RHP
It is hard to know what to make of Lohse. The 34-year old is coming off what was easily the best season of his his career as he went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. He also went over 200 innings for just the second time in his career.
This was the second-straight strong season for Lohse, after looking like he was headed towards retirement.
Given his spotty history and age, Lohse isn't in the year's top-tier of free agents, but he will be one of the more sought after starting pitchers.
This will lead to Lohse getting more years on a contract than his body is ready to handle.