We knew the Chicago Cubs were set to sign lefty starter Paul Maholm last night when the pitcher, himself, tweeted the news. But no one would be so indelicate as to tweet the details of their own contract, so we had to wait a bit.

Bruce Levine this morning reports that Maholm’s deal is for one year at $4.25 million, with a club option for 2013 at $6.5 million. There is a $500k buyout on the option, so the total commitment to Maholm if the option isn’t picked up is just $4.75 million.

I must say, I’m pretty taken aback by this deal. Either there are a number of easily-achievable¬†incentives, or there are serious lingering concerns about the health of Maholm’s shoulder (which ended his 2011 season in August). Otherwise, the Cubs just stole a league-average starter with upside for far less than I expected. I don’t want to paint Maholm as more than he is. Maholm, 29, is a guy with a career 96 ERA+, and just one season over 100 in the last three. His FIP and xFIP hover around 4.00, and his ERA is usually in the same area. But that’s still worth a couple WAR each year, which would suggest Maholm is worth more like $7 or $8 million per year, not $4.75 million. Combine that with the escalating salaries for middling starters we’ve seen this year (due, in large part, to the weak free agent starting market), and this looks like an excellent deal.

Again, let me reiterate the dual caveats: if there are a bunch of easily-achievable¬†incentives that bring the 2012 salary up closer to $7 or $8 million, the deal is more “fair” than a “steal;” and if Maholm’s velocity or movement have taken a serious hit from his shoulder strain, the contract is more of a “risk” than a “steal.”

A reminder, if Maholm’s deal is to be finalized today (or, well, whenever it’s finalized), the Cubs will have to open up a spot on the 40-man roster, so you can expect another move in short order. Or, the deal simply won’t be announced as official for a long time.



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