Sometimes it takes a really bad contract to put other bad contracts in perspective. Such was the case for me with Jason Marquis and Brad Penny.
During the winter meetings, Brad Penny signed a one year, $7.5 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. Keep in mind, this is the same Brad Penny who signed a one year $5 million deal the year before with the Red Sox, and rewarded them with a 5.61 ERA in 131 innings before be shown the door.
What exactly did Penny do to deserve a $2.5 million raise this year?
Now to be fair, Penny did find yet another team to give him a shot last season, and that team resides in the weak-swinging NL west. He pitched 41 innings of very effective ball for the Giants. Apparently effective enough for the Cardinals to lose sight of his previous ineffectiveness and injury problems.
I've heard the arguments about Penny's contract being a reasonable one.
"He's only 31."
"You see what he did with the Giants?"
"Dave Duncan will make him a star."
"We already have two aces, he's only our third starter."
Dave Duncan or no Dave Duncan, overpaying for a guy who is just an innings-eater even in the best case scenario is still a bad deal.
Now comes Jason Marquis' two-year, $15 million deal with the Nationals. Marquis hasn't had an ERA under four since he was 25 (he's now 31). He also has a career WHIP of 1.40, which is a problem since he only strikes out about 100 batters a year.
A brief examination of his numbers only reveals two things that support him making good money: He's won double digit games each of the past six seasons, and he stays healthy. However, wins for starting pitchers are irrelevant (as proven by his huge ERA), and staying healthy falls behind "effectiveness" when it comes to earning a contract.
So when I saw that Marquis signed for the same amount as Penny did for this season it hit me, maybe starting pitching IS that expensive. Maybe all $7.5 million gets a team now is a guy who will give up four or five runs every five days.
So for the time being I'll take back my judgment on the Penny signing. Now I just need to find a way to rationalize how Pudge Rodriguez got two year/$6 million...