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Healthy Hudson shouldn't come cheap

Oct 1, 2009, 4:01 PM EDT

I couldn’t help but have a different take on Dave O’Brien’s Tim Hudson piece than Craig did this morning.
My take being that O’Brien should stick to writing about the Braves and give up trying to predict the free agent market.
From O’Brien:

There’s no doubt in my mind (Hudson would) take quite a bit less than $12 mill per season to stay here in a multi-year extension, probably less than $10 mill per. And I don’t think any other team would offer him even that much right now, not until he’s back for a full, healthy and strong season.

I’m not going to argue against the idea that Hudson would take less to stay in Atlanta. But the idea that Hudson will need to settle for less than $10 million or even $12 million per year is bizarre.
Let’s just look back at last year’s contracts for free agent starting pitchers:
CC Sabathia – seven years, $23 million per year
A.J. Burnett – five years, $16.5 million per year
Derek Lowe – four years, $15 million per year
Ryan Dempster – four years, $13 million per year
Oliver Perez – three years, $12 million per year
Kyle Lohse – four years, $10.25 million per year
Not one of those pitchers can match Hudson’s career 126 ERA+ (ERA adjusted for league and ballpark). Sabathia entered free agency at 121 and is at 123 now. Lowe was also at 121. Burnett, who has never had a season ERA+ as high as 126, came in at 111.
And this year’s class isn’t nearly as strong overall. Other than perhaps wild card Aroldis Chapman, who probably isn’t ready to be an asset now, I see only one starter as a better bet than Hudson on a long-term deal, that being John Lackey.
Even that’s iffy. So what if Hudson underwent Tommy John surgery. He made it back in excellent time, and he’s throwing just as hard now as he was before the procedure. His groundball rate is actually better than ever, though it’s a very small sample size. That he’ll end this year having only thrown 65 innings or so, in my opinion, only makes him a better bet for 2010.
Hudson has been a workhorse throughout his career, and there’s no reason to think he won’t recapture that form now that he has a new elbow ligament. I’d take my chances with him at $50 million-$56 million for four years over Lackey at $75 million-$80 million for five.

  1. Joey B - Oct 2, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    You can’t count the first two contracts, since they are Yankee contracts and the Yanks pay 20-30% over market. While Dempster is about market value, the other three contracts were bad signings. The clubs would be eating $5M+ pa on each contract if they traded the players. Lohse is actually pretty funny. He averaged 8-12 with an ERA in the high 4′s in the 4 years before his walk year. He had a good walk year, but he is now back to 6-9 with an ERA in the high 4′s. You’d have thought that the ‘good walk year for a pitcher’ would’ve sunk in after 30 years of doing this, but apparently not.
    Not to mention that Hudson is 34. Anything beyond about $30M/3 is too much.

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