Judging by FanGraphs’ contract crowdsourcing efforts, not only will starting pitchers be paid handsomely for their services, they will blow past what teams paid for starting pitching last offseason.
In its annual attempt to guesstimate which players will get what this offseason, FanGraphs turned to its readers to get a pulse on what the average cost and median would be for their top 82 free agents. It should come to no surprise that the pitching-rich market is expected to take home a hefty sum of money.
The estimated average total from participating parties for Fangraphs’ top-10 pitchers adds up to $905.6 million — or approximately $200 million more than what teams spent on starting pitchers as a whole last offseason.
This top-heavy group includes four pitchers projected to net at least $100 million (David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann), four pitchers possibly receiving upward of $50 million (Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake, Yovani Gallardo, Wei-Yin Chen) and a pair of pitchers who could command more than $40 million (Scott Kazmir, Hisashi Iwakuma).
However, this does not include the likes of Marco Estrada, Ian Kennedy, Ian Happ, Brett Anderson or John Lackey, each of whom projected to receive at least $30 million over the course of their respective next contracts.
With the way many teams have aggressively pursued team-friendly, pre-arb extensions with young, dynamic pitchers such as Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, we might not see this kind of spending on this kind of talent for a while.
The cost of starting pitching has increased in the last five years, naturally in part due to inflation, huge new TV contracts, the scarcity of quality starting pitching, and a variety of other economic reasons. However, the amount teams have spent on pitching has seen a dramatic increase in each of the last four years.
Last offseason, teams shelled out a grand total of $698,675,000 on starting pitchers, according to ESPN.com’s free agent tracker. A bulk of that was spent by the Nationals, who netted Max Scherzer for $200 million and Jon Lester, who was handed $155 million by the Cubs. Still, eight other starting pitchers received at least $10 million in guaranteed money last offseason.
It’s the latest highlight in a noticeable trend that doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
Teams spent $50.268 million more on pitching in 2011 than they did in 2010. But since 2011, team spending on starting pitching has increased by at least $100 million each year. The biggest increase came in 2012, when teams spent $430.25 million on starting pitchers — or more than $159 million more than they did the previous year. In 2013, that number increased by more than $140 million.
It will be interesting to see if (and/or how) that number grows in 2015.