Deal, Or No Deal?

Wednesday, November 22 2006 @ 09:00 AM EST

Contributed by: Pistol

A notable signing yesterday, but not of a free agent - the Rockies signed Jeff Francis to a four year deal for $13.25 million.  

The contract takes Francis through his arbitration years and gives the Rockies an option for a 5th year which would be Francis' first free agent year.

Signing bonus: $500,000
2007: $500,000
2008: $2.75 million
2009: $3.75 million
2010: $5.75 million
2011: option, $7 million-$8 million

Francis has pitched 383 innings over the past two seasons.  That's a nice amount for a young pitcher - not too much and not too little.  The contract seems quite reasonable for an innings eater.  If Francis is better than that - and he certainly could be (or possibly already is) - the contract will be a great move for the Rockies.  If Francis was a free agent today he'd probably be looking at something in the Lilly/Meche/Padilla line of contracts. 

As recently as this past year JP Ricciardi indicated that he wasn't looking to buy out the arbitration years of his players like he did with Hinske and Wells.  At the time it seemed like a wash - Hinske looked overpaid by a few million and Wells looked underpaid by a few million.  However, Hinske doesn't look so bad now, but Wells is certainly a major bargain for the Jays.  I think it's obvious that the Jays came out ahead.

Signing young, established players to long term deals is generally a good move.  It's especially true in an environment where salaries are rising.  I think we'll see a lot more of this off season than we have in the past.

In my mind the Jays have two candidates to lock up - Aaron Hill and Alex Rios.  Hill isn't a player that will break the bank - he doesn't have a lot of power, doesn't steal many bases, & probably isn't going to hit better than .300.  He hits near the bottom of the lineup so his runs and RBIs won't be too high.  If the Jays went year to year with Hill they would probably pay more than if they signed him to a long term deal now, but not by a whole lot.

On the other hand, if the Jays locked up Alex Rios now they could be saving themselves a lot of money.  Rios' power increased significantly last season - his slugging went from .397 to .516 and his HRs from 10 to 17.  He also missed about 30 games with his leg injury (and also struggling when he came back).  Rios will be 26 this season and it's possible that progressing normally from last season and avoiding injuries that he'll turn into a 30 HR player with speed, average and with well above average defense.  I could see him becoming a Jermaine Dye type player.  Consider the comparison:
Dye, age 25 - .294/.354/.526   --- OPS+ 120
Rios, age 25 - .302/.349/.516 --- OPS+ 118
If the Jays sign Rios to a long term deal this off season I think they'll save millions.  If they go year to year they'll only save money if Rios falls apart.  There's always risk signing players to long term contracts, but this seems like one of the safer moves the Jays could make.

So deal, or no deal?  (Do you have Deal or No Deal in Canada?  It's a dumb, but highly addicting game show).


It sounds like Gary Matthews is close to signing with the Angels.  This would presumably take them out of a Wells trade if the Jays decide that's the route they want to go.  I'm glad the Angels are doing this if only so I don't ever have read Santana, Aybar and Wells in the same sentence again.