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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Padres - Signed Prior

San Diego Padres - Signed P Mark Prior to a 1-year, $1 million contract.

Surprisingly, I think David Pinto really missed the mark in his recent article on Prior, suggesting that it was a bad gamble.

David and other critics of this deal are focusing on the probable outcome.  Yes, the most likely outcome is that Prior’s not terribly healthy or even slightly healthy.  But if Prior was a coin-flip to have a full, healthy season or even a dice roll to have a full, healthy season, he would not be available for this price.  $1 million doesn’t buy you as much as it used to on the free agent market; it’s two and a half league minimum players and Prior isn’t Rodrigo Lopez recovering from an injury but one of the brightest young pitchers in the game.  Even if you assume that the only way Prior can contribute to a team is to have a repeat of 2003 and he only has a 5% chance of doing it, that Prior was a 6-win pitcher.  As valuable as that is, the Padres, like most of the NL is in a situation where a few extra wins brings a very lucrative playoff spot.

The most the Padres can lose on this is $1 million - in their position, they’re unlikely to keep starting Prior if he has an ERA of 6 and if he’s that bad, it probably means he’s not healthy enough to cause much damage anyway.  The upside is huge even if the Friars don’t get to keep it past 2008.

2008 ZiPS Projection - Mark Prior
—————————————————————————————————
        W   L   G GS   IP   H   ER HR BB SO   ERA ERA+ 
—————————————————————————————————
Projection   5   4 12 12   68   59   29   9 25 75 3.84 105
————————————————————————————————-
Opt. (15%)  7   2 13 13   78   59   24   7 24 91 2.77 145
Pes. (15%)  3   4 10 10   56   55   31 10 25 55 4.98   81
—————————————————————————————————
Top Comps: Erik Hanson, Schoolboy Rowe

Dan Szymborski Posted: December 29, 2007 at 04:16 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Der Komminsk-sar Posted: December 29, 2007 at 07:30 PM (#2656353)
I fully agree, Dan.

Incidentally, what are the non-salary costs to this transaction that wouldn't necessarily be borne by another acquisition - by which I mean, how much might the Pads expect to be on the hook for meds/surgeries with Prior?
   2. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: December 29, 2007 at 08:21 PM (#2656381)
Low downside and huge upside in a time where a 1M/yr contract is equivalent of playing blackjack at the $2 table.
   3. J. Michael Neal Posted: December 30, 2007 at 01:51 AM (#2656617)
Erik Hanson sure was damned good for a few years there, wasn't he?
   4. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 30, 2007 at 01:59 AM (#2656625)
The Cubs couldn't spare a few million to see what he could do? I really don't get why they non-tendered him.
   5. Dan The Mediocre Posted: December 30, 2007 at 02:04 AM (#2656627)
The Cubs couldn't spare a few million to see what he could do? I really don't get why they non-tendered him.


They offered an incentive laden one year deal with a team option for a second. Prior either really wanted out of the Cub organization or he thought he'd do well enough that the second year would be below his true value.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 30, 2007 at 02:05 AM (#2656628)
Isn't he still under team control though?
   7. Dan The Mediocre Posted: December 30, 2007 at 02:07 AM (#2656630)
Isn't he still under team control though?


This year would have been his last under the Reserve Clause, so the Cubs wanted to leverage that to see if they could get another season of Prior under control. No one would offer much in a trade, and they didn't want to pay for a half season that may not come, so they cut him loose
   8. Srul Itza Posted: December 30, 2007 at 02:17 AM (#2656640)
Surprisingly, I think David Pinto really missed the mark in his recent article on Prior, suggesting that it was a bad gamble.

Did he really say that in the article? He talked mostly about what they could expect, based on other pitchers who had missed a year, and what any GM might see in 2009. I don't think he ever said it was a bad gamble.

Here is the sum of his conclusion:

Baseball general managers should think about that for the '09 season. The Padres made a $1 million bet that Prior provides them with a decent '08 season. If that happens, however, Prior would make himself available via free agency. The team that signs him must be aware that the probability of Prior lasting many more seasons is low.

* * *

Prior might indeed provide the Padres with inexpensive quality in 2008, but we shouldn't expect too much after that.
   9. greenback calls it soccer Posted: December 30, 2007 at 02:35 AM (#2656644)
Prior isn't Rodrigo Lopez recovering from an injury but one of the brightest young pitchers in the game.


Post-rotator cuff surgery for Prior, there isnt much difference between the two.

I think the key to evaluating deal is how you think the Padres will handle the 90%, or whatever it is, likelihood that Prior will suck. If they feel obliged to stick him on the mound in meaningful games when he isn't ready, then the Padres will lose more than $1 million, and this is a bad deal.
   10. tomdaddydollars Posted: December 31, 2007 at 08:08 AM (#2657197)
Post-rotator cuff surgery for Prior, there isnt much difference between the two.

I think the key to evaluating deal is how you think the Padres will handle the 90%, or whatever it is, likelihood that Prior will suck. If they feel obliged to stick him on the mound in meaningful games when he isn't ready, then the Padres will lose more than $1 million, and this is a bad deal.


Yeah, but the point is that these days, $1 million usually gets you a crappy middle reliever or a utility infielder, not a potential All-Star pitcher. What are the odds of Prior actually being an All-Star pitcher? Not great, but spending $1 million to get that is better than spending $1 million on a guy who you know is going to suck.
   11. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 31, 2007 at 08:11 AM (#2657199)
The Cubs couldn't spare a few million to see what he could do? I really don't get why they non-tendered him.


The Cubs paid him something like $3.8 million last year. Isn't there some limit to how much you can cut a guy's salary if you don't non-tender him?
   12. Kiko Sakata Posted: December 31, 2007 at 08:13 AM (#2657200)
Oh, and I think there's virtually zero chance that he hits that pessimistic forecast. The real pessimistic forecast for him is that he makes 5 starts with an ERA around 7 (see his 2006 season). Even with that as a possibility, though, I think this is a really nice deal for the Padres.
   13. "Andruw for HoF" sure died down Posted: December 31, 2007 at 10:08 AM (#2657215)
No one has any idea what Prior's going to do, but I love the guy and hope he makes it all the way back.
   14. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 02, 2008 at 03:41 PM (#2658210)
"Isn't there some limit to how much you can cut a guy's salary if you don't non-tender him?"

There's a cap on the max arb cut, which is similar but not the same.
   15. Harold can be a fun sponge Posted: January 06, 2008 at 11:28 AM (#2661591)
I think the key to evaluating deal is how you think the Padres will handle the 90%, or whatever it is, likelihood that Prior will suck. If they feel obliged to stick him on the mound in meaningful games when he isn't ready, then the Padres will lose more than $1 million, and this is a bad deal.

Some of the talk in San Diego is that part of the deal is that Prior gets to control his own rehab/recovery schedule. I don't think it's encoded in the deal, but that it was an understanding. Prior's primary goal is rebuilding his value for next winter's FA contract. While the Padres may want to push Prior to pitch before he's ready, Prior (and his agent) certainly won't want to.

The thinking is that Prior will come back on his own schedule, however slow that is. He won't pitch if he's not ready. Prior would rather have 5 decent starts than 12 bad ones. This may serve to limit the downside of the deal.

A big part of the signing from the Padres' perspective is PR. They get the good PR of signing him now, and all season, they get to talk about how he is coming back and will provide reinforcements late in the season.

And of course, if the Padres happen to make the post-season, and Prior is pitching decently then, a rotation of Peavy-Young-Prior-Maddux will look very enticing then. So even if he can't provide much regular season value, he could potentially provide much more in the post-season.

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