The San Francisco Giants and Tim Hudson have reportedly agreed to terms on a two-year, $23 million deal.
The signing is relevant to the Chicago Cubs’ offseason plans in a number of respects. First, and most plainly, it takes Hudson off of the market, though the Cubs hadn’t been connected to him, and, given his age (38), he wasn’t likely to be interested in signing with the Cubs anyway. Second, the deal probably takes the Giants out of the market for another starting pitcher. They’d been connected to Bronson Arroyo, among others, and seemed like a natural fit for Phil Hughes. The Cubs have been connected to Arroyo and Hughes, the latter of which has always intrigued me (at 27 and coming off a down year with interesting peripherals, shouldn’t his agent be steering him to a one-year deal with a team like the Cubs? He could see his value rebound, and get traded midseason, thus eliminating the possibility that he could be dragged down by draft pick compensation after 2014.).
Third, and most broadly, the Hudson deal is the first indicator – other than the Tim Lincecum deal, which was bizarre for many reasons (wow, both early deals are for pitchers named Tim by the Giants!) – we have on the second tier starting pitching market. The top tier arms – Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and to a lesser extent Ricky Nolasco and Hiroki Kuroda – won’t really have their value set by external forces like a Tim Hudson signing.
The next tier, however – the Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Feldman, Bartolo Colon, Bronson Arroyo, Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, Phil Hughes, etc. types – could be impacted, at least in part, by the price the Giants just set on Hudson. None are direct correlatives, but you can use the Hudson deal is a starting point for conversations about value. “If Hudson, at his age and with his injury – but with his performance and consistency – is worth $23 million over two years, Player X has gotta be worth at least $Y million over Z years.” The Cubs have been connected, at least by the thinnest of threads, to Jimenez, Arroyo, Johnson and Hughes. Jimenez will almost certainly get another year or two on his deal, while Arroyo will probably be in the same ballpark (pass). Johnson and Hughes are odd birds, thanks to Johnson’s arm troubles (but super high upside) and Hughes’ potentially unique contract situation (as discussed above). If Hughes would take a two or three-year deal guided by Hudson’s signing, however, I’d hope the Cubs would be interested. If Hudson is at two years and $23 million, perhaps Hughes’ value is somewhere around two years and $15 million? Or three years and $21 million? (Once again, though, if I’m Hughes, I’m looking for the best-paying one-year deal I can find in a spacious ballpark (or with a pitching coach like Chris Bosio) on a team that is likely to trade me. How about the Cubs offer him one year and $7 to $9 million?)
I tend to think the Hudson deal is solid for both sides, by the way. Hudson gets two more guaranteed years before he’s 40, and another big-ish score despite that gruesome ankle injury. The Giants, who presumably will thoroughly check that ankle, get a guy who is consistently above average without relying on velocity, and they get it for a short-term, low-risk (relatively speaking) deal.