Brandon Webb has stated that he is unwilling to renegotiate his contract to stay with the Diamondbacks, and why should he. He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the past four years he’s pitched, and since 2003 the Diamondbacks have leaned on him for his consistent performance and his ability to give the team the chance to win. He has a career era of 3.27, and a pitcher who doesn’t give up a lot of runs is crucial for a team that doesn’t score a lot of runs or scores them inconsistently. For the past several years Brandon Webb has watched as pitchers who have not equaled him on the mound soar past him in terms of salary.
For the Diamondbacks it will be a tough decision on whether or not to risk essentially six million dollars to keep Webb. For other teams it is not. Webb knows that there are many teams out there that can afford him and would be more than happy to take a chance on a one year contract for a pitcher of his caliber. He’s had the surgery, he’s healthy (according to him), and he will be ready to go come spring training.
The difficulty of the decision for the Diamondbacks is that they have to make the decision sight unseen, as Webb cannot pitch off a mound until December, about a month after the Diamondbacks are required to declare whether or not they will pick up his option. The team has erred on contracts in the past with Chris Young, Eric Byrnes, and Chris Snyder, and will be hesitant to take any chances now.
But is Brandon Webb really that big of a risk? If they keep him it will cost the team $8.5 million dollars, if they cut him it will be about $2, a $6 million dollar swing. There are no pitchers on the free agent market that can equal a healthy Brandon Webb, or even a 75% Webb, for that amount of money. In that context the decision to sign him should be automatic. In addition to the lack of quality free agents that could be had for $6 million the Diamondbacks really only have to gamble on one year. Even if Webb is not able to return to the form that he once had the worst that the team has lost is $6 million, not $30 million like they did with Byrnes. The only two starters that will be in the rotation next year that are certain are Dan Haren and Max Scherzer. Doug Davis will most likely be gone, and if the team elects not to pick up Webb’s option they will need to acquire three starters in the off season.
I’m not sure if the Diamondbacks front office has noticed, but the team didn’t play very well this year. Starters often did their part only to either not get any run support or to have the bullpen give up the lead and undo the six or seven previous innings. Those are two things that don’t really appeal to pitchers who rely on their team to give them a statistic critical in their free market value, a win. This means that a free agent pitcher will likely have to have exhausted all other options before signing with the Diamondbacks, as was the case with Jon Garland this past off season.
Teams will low salaries need to take a few chances on players to win. Even when you take all the emotion and history out of the decision the best way for the Diamondbacks to proceed is to pick up the Webb option just because there isn’t anything out there that is better. It is, maybe, their only option.
Below is a short list of free agent pitchers with a salary close to Webb’s 2010 option of $8.5 million.
Eric Bedard 09 Salary $7.7m, 2.82 ERA, out half the season
Kevim Escobar 09 Salary $10m out all season
Rich Harden 09 Salary $7m, 4.09 ERA
John Lackey 09 Salary $10m, 3.56 ERA
Carl Pavano 09 Salary $1.5m, 4.82 ERA
Todd Wellemeyer 09 Salary $4m, 5.81 ERA
Jarrod Washburn 09 Salary $9.8m, ERA 3.78