How Chris Davis, Max Scherzer Have Impacted Contract Values with 2013 Breakouts
Nothing captivates the baseball world like a breakout superstar, and there have been a handful of guys who fit the bill this season.
Players like Miguel Cabrera, Clayton Kershaw and a myriad of other established stars were expected to have big years in 2013, but for Chris Davis and Max Scherzer, their big numbers have been a bit more surprising.
The question now is what impact their performance this season will have on their contract values moving forward. Both players are represented by none other than Scott Boras, so they'll no doubt be looking for top dollar next time they sign their name on the dotted line. Just how much will that be, though?
Each of them enjoyed solid seasons in 2012, so they were by no means unknowns entering the year, but they have taken their game to another level in the first half this year.
Here is a quick profile of each player and a look at some previous deals that could be pointed to when negotiations do finally begin.
Davis, 27, was once a can't-miss top prospect in the Rangers organization, but things never quite clicked for him in Texas, and he was shipped to the Orioles along with Tommy Hunter for reliever Koji Uehara and cash at the deadline in 2011.
Handed a fresh start and an everyday job last year, Davis posted an .827 OPS with 33 home runs and 85 RBI, leading the Orioles in both categories.
He was then arbitration eligible for the first time this past offseason, with the two sides avoiding arbitration when they agreed on a $3.3 million deal.
The slugger entered the All-Star break with a .315/.392/.717 line that included 37 home runs and 93 RBI over 343 at-bats. Granted he has struck out a whopping 110 times, but even if he suffers some second-half regression, he should be able to make a serious run at 50 home runs and 130-plus RBI.
Those numbers would likely push his salary over the $10 million mark in arbitration, and a decent comparison could be Miguel Cabrera. He made $7.4 million in his first year of arbitration eligibility and, after hitting .320 BA, 34 HR, 119 RBI in 2007, earned a raise to $11.3 million in his second go-around.
Granted, Davis would be looking for a raise over double what Cabrera received, but that $11.3 million mark could be where the negotiations start from the Boras-Davis end. From there, the Orioles may be able to talk them down a bit, but something north of $10 million still seems likely.
The other option would be to buy out his remaining arbitration years with a two-year extension, something that has become common practice across MLB of late. A very good comparison there would be Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton earned $3.25 million in his first year of arbitration with the Rangers, then went out and hit .359 BA, 32 HR, 100 RBI and won AL MVP. The Rangers opted to buy out his remaining two years of arbitration with a two-year, $24 million deal, and that seems like a reasonable comparison to make given the season Davis is having.
Either way, Davis is likely headed for an eight-figure salary next season, and it will be interesting to see what route the Orioles opt to go.
The potential has always been there for Scherzer, who was taken by the Diamondbacks with the No. 11 overall pick back in 2006, but things have only recently come together for the 28-year-old right-hander.
Talented but wildly inconsistent in the early part of his career, Scherzer entered the All-Star break last season with an 8-5 record, but had a 4.72 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.
He was a different pitcher after the break, though, going 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. And over his final 10 starts, he gave the team a second ace alongside Justin Verlander, as he was 6-1 with a 1.65 ERA and 10.7 K/9.
That second-half success has carried over to the 2013 season, as he entered the break 13-1 with a 3.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 152 strikeouts in 129.2 innings of work.
Scherzer will be arbitration eligible for the final time this upcoming winter, after earning a raise from $3.75 million to $6.725 million this past offseason.
Carlos Zambrano has the record for third-year-arbitration salary among starting pitchers, as the Cubs gave him a raise from $6.5 million to $12.4 million prior to the 2007 season.
Zambrano was 16-7 with a 3.41 ERA (136 ERA+) and finished fifth in the Cy Young voting in 2006, as he led the NL in wins and was named to his second All-Star team. Given the similar starting salary and equally impressive performance, that could be a point of reference in Scherzer negotiations this winter.
The more likely scenario, however, is that the team will look to extend its emerging ace before he hits the free-agent market at the end of next season. A recent example of a pitcher who made it through two years of arbitration before being extended is Jered Weaver of the Angels.
Weaver made $7.365 million in his second year of arbitration and went 18-8 with a 2.41 ERA to finish second in the AL Cy Young voting heading into his final year of eligibility.
The Angels bought out his final year and extended him with a five-year, $85 million deal, and seeing as how Weaver is also a Boras client, that extension will no doubt be brought up in any long-term negotiations. Like Scherzer, Weaver was also 28 at the time of the extension and had also strung together a pair of solid seasons after an up-and-down start to his career.
Given the ever-growing market rate for pitcher, it's conceivable that Scherzer could end up signing a nine-figure extension, though the five-year, $97.5 million deal that Adam Wainwright got prior to this season seems like a reasonable assumption as well.
*Note: All contract information courtesy of Baseball Prospectus.
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