How Much Did Carpenter Leave on the Table?

Chris Carpenter signed a two-year $21-million extension with the Cardinals this week. That sounds better until you realize that the team already had an option on Carpenter worth $15 million. Somehow they managed to finagle an extra cheap year out of their ace for another $6 million. How much might the oft-injured pitcher have made on the open market?

Let’s focus on the last three years. Projection programs like those years, and fate has been good to Carp since 2009. In those three years, he’s averaged over 200 innings and a SIERA right in line with his career number in the category (3.51). Every year, he’s struck out about seven per nine, walked around two per nine, and coaxed about half his contact on the ground. To lend perspective to the matter, two qualified pitchers in baseball will hit those benchmarks this year. If you relax the ground-ball requirement to 45.6% (Carpenter’s current percentage), the number ‘zooms’ to four.

Look past ERA and he’s been steady. Look past the rising BABIP and you see a steady four-win pitcher. Even if you impose the half-win deterioration from there, and give him three and a half wins next year and three the next, that’s six and half wins for the price of four. Back-of-napkin math says he left just short of $15 million on the table.

Of course, it’s not that simple. First there’s the fact that the three-year window is very kind to Carpenter. Look back past that window and you see just over 20 combined innings in two years and a dark period in his life. He’s had three elbow surgeries and a labrum surgery (SLAP). He’s missed over 700 baseball days since his career started in 1997. The last time the veteran managed 600+ IP over three consecutive seasons, he promptly went and missed two full seasons. Once before that he was healthy for three straight and then tore his labrum. Now this isn’t quite fresh fish either: Carp is 36.

How would this play out in the actual market place? That’s the hardest question to answer. Search for active pitchers over 36 that have managed 180+ innings and an ERA+ over 100, and you get Tim Wakefield, Hiroki Kuroda, R.A. Dickey, Miguel Batista and Derek Lowe just misses the cut. There’s not really much to be learned here from a contracts perspective.

It’s too bad that Lowe missed the cut because he might be the best comparison. He was 35 when he signed his deal with Atlanta for four years and $60 million. Sure, their statistical profiles are different, and Lowe’s health probably helped him tack more years on the end. It’s likely that no-one would give Carpenter four years. Or three years.

But two? There are plenty of competitors that would pony up for two years. And you’d have to think it would be close to $30 million if you use Lowe as a guide if not a comp. We can’t get into Carpenter’s head and figure out why he did what he did — perhaps he’s rewarding the team that stuck with him through those two lost years, or providing his providers with a shot at resigning Albert Pujols this offseason — but we can tell that he left around $10 million on the table.

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31 Responses to “How Much Did Carpenter Leave on the Table?”

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  1. CircleChange11 says:

    Wain and Carp for good value deals. Garcia very affordable even with arbitration. This is looking pretty good for StL. Not sure if they want to resign Jackson or explore Buehrle, but they probably could for something in the range of 10-14M/y for ~3 years.

    Wonder if some part of this deal allows room for Albert?

    Certainly if Carp was wanting a max deal, he could have waited and saw what NYY and/or BOS might offer.

    All of that sounds great until you realize this …

    The last time the veteran managed 600+ IP over three consecutive seasons, he promptly went and missed two full seasons.

    That’s the scary part. With Carpenter in 2012+, you feel like he’s pitching on borrowed time.

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  2. Dr. Rockzo says:

    Halladay isn’t going to k more then 7 per 9 walk less than 2 per 9 and have under a 505 GB rate?

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  3. Will says:

    Dark period in his life?


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  4. TheGrandslamwich says:

    Without any inside info, I almost think this deal could be one out of the Cards becoming more insecure about resigning Pujols.

    I fully expected them to let Carp walk in order to free up a bit more cash for Pujols. Now I’m skeptical.

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  5. Stefan says:

    At Fungoes the new contract doesn’t bring much enjoyment.

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  6. BK says:

    IMO, Carp probably cut the Cards a discount. He has told the local media in the past that he truly appreciates the Cardinals giving him another chance and sticking with him after 2007-2008 injury riddled seasons. In fact, this isn’t the first team friendly contract he has agreed to. One could argue he left quite a bit on the table when he agreed to a 5yr/63.5MM contract after the 2006 season. This was after he accumulated WARs of 6.8 and 5.2 in 2005 and 2006. Perhaps this is just his way of thanking the club for sticking with him. Or perhaps he knows the few extra million won’t make a difference in his life and would allow the club to field a better team.

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    • Jay says:

      Please dude…the Cardinals had him for 2/15 with half of that a team option. Who in their right mind gives 5/63 to a 32 year old pitcher who is legendarily fragile when you have him for 2/15?

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      • Jerry says:

        Well he managed to exceed $63 mil of value over those years despite missing two. When he signed he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. 5/63 is a pretty damn good deal for a pitcher of that caliber. If he’d stayed healthy it would have been a steal. It was absolutely a favorable deal for the Cardinals at the time.

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      • BK says:

        First, I believe he was 31 at the time. Second, he had just completed two healthy seasons. During that stretch he was arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball. He had just amassed a WAR of 12 in those years. 5/63.5 was a bargain for his services.

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  7. Michael says:

    He would have probably received 2 years, 26-30 million. He left 5-9 million on the table. He probably feels he owes the Cardinals since he had some injury plagued seasons during his most recent contract. His career earnings is over $100 million. I don’t think he cares about the extra few million at this point.

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  8. AndyS says:

    Was it a team option? Because if so, there’s no guarantee for Carpenter that they’d have picked up that option.

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    • joe says:

      That’s what I was thinking (it is a team option)… that option probably depended a bit on Pujols (and what they do with Wainwright)

      While 15mil next year might be a short term win for Carpenter, if his #’s declines or he gets injured he might be looking at a 1 year deal/sub 10mil. If he pitches well he obviously gets a 10+/1yr next offseason or maybe a 2yr deal and he ends up leaving money on the table. The other factor is that there are a lot of top pitchers hitting FA next year (though I imagine a bunch will end up being extended prior to then)

      I think this should almost be viewed as buying out an arbitration year and an additional FA year… yeah it’s not quite the same, but the player is taking below free market money for the first year to get that 2nd year.

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  9. gabriel says:

    You get ever so close to the proper analysis at the beginning, acknowledging the $15m option in the first paragraph, but then proceed to analyse the extension as if it were not there. In the absence of the extension, the Cardinals exercise the option- so what Carpenter is giving up is his contract hopes following next year, not what he could garner on the open market this off-season.

    This results in a trickier analysis, since a great deal can happen in a player’s age-37 season, but it reflects Carpenter’s actual options. Carpenter has made a lot of money over the years, and will do so next year, so we can assume that he isn’t in need of financial security. Let’s say that Carp has a 20% chance of effectively ending his career via injury or utter ineffectiveness next year; and an 80% chance of a relatively full season and maintenance of his underlying skills (with normal age-related decline). Another relatively healthy year would likely yield a median contract on the order of 2/24 (obviously there is a large range here – he could have a rejevenating year and sign 3/35 or a poor year and be faced with something like a 1yr/4m contract). 80% of 12 is 9.6m for the last year on his current extension; the extra year would probably be worth something like 6m over what he can expect to earn via free agency after this extension expires.

    So, I’d say he takes an expected loss of about $15m on this extension.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      You make some good points, but you assume that the team would pick up the option for next year. If they truly value him at $21 mill over two seasons, then they wouldn’t have picked up the option, and therefore you have to analyze this as if it were a new deal.

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      • gabriel says:

        Fair enough- If I’m wrong about the option, I’m wrong overall. But I do think that if 2/30 is roughly his market value, and the Cards are willing to do 2/21, that a 1/15 gets picked up. Maybe the Cardinals anticipate being very constrained (via a Pujols extension) next year, and who knows exactly what they’re thinking…

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      • Garrett says:

        Options aren’t picked up based on internal evaluations exclusively. FFS.

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    • DD says:

      “In the absence of the extension, the Cardinals exercise the option- so what Carpenter is giving up is his contract hopes following next year, not what he could garner on the open market this off-season.”

      Not quite – if there is no extension, the Cards decline the option and he is a FA this offseason. They did the extension to save themselves money, they were never going to exercise the option.

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  10. Ryan says:

    Carpenter clearly knew he was leaving money on the table when he signed this contract. With Carpenter signed below market value, both Carpenter and the organization know they have a legitimate shot to resign Pujols (in another hometown discount). By the time this contract is up he will have made over $80 million of salary over the course of his career and the Cardinals will remain competitive the next two years. It was his call.

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  11. Jay says:

    He might also be rewarding a team that gave him a wildly foolish 5 year/$63 million extension when they had him under contract for 1 year at $7 million PLUS an $8 million option year.

    If the Cardinals hadn’t signed him to that extension, they would have paid him the $7 million in 2007 when he was injured. Then they would’ve been able to dictate terms considering he was slated to also miss 2008. They probably wasted $50 million right there. That was the same offseason the Cardinals gave Mark Mulder a $13 million extension AFTER he blew his rotator cuff.

    Screw you Jocketty!

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  12. Garrett says:

    Do you honestly think the Cards wouldn’t pick up a 1y/15m deal when you claim that “plenty” teams would pony up for 2/30?

    You then make comments like this: “You make some good points, but you assume that the team would pick up the option for next year. If they truly value him at $21 mill over two seasons, then they wouldn’t have picked up the option, and therefore you have to analyze this as if it were a new deal.” Which is laughably stupid.

    Please stop.

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    • Garrett says:

      Oyah, make that a 1y/14m deal. My mistake.

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      • Eno Sarris says:

        Fired up! It’s hard to analyze a deal like this if one of the parties is not acting like they normally would in an open market. Do we assume the Cards only value Carp at two years and 21 mill because that’s how they signed him? Then you get my ‘laughably stupid’ comment. It’s assuming that they signed him where they valued him.

        Or do we assume Carp gave them a hometown discount and signed for an extra year at $6 million? Then you still get money left on the table, just on the second year of the deal instead of the two years.

        Either way, he lost $9 million versus the open market. Call it a one-year $6 million deal when he could have signed for $14-15 that year most likely, or call it a two-year $21 when he could have gotten $30 million.

        Even if some of it is ‘giving back to get the extra year,’ $9 million strikes me as a lot to pay for that extra year of security.

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      • Garrett says:

        Yeah, that assumption is retarded. Signing players at internal valuations without surplus value is idiotic for many teams. Signing players with surplus value may or may not be a good idea, since it depends on the circumstances on how that “value” can be realized. Metrics like WAR suck for this sort of analysis since they fail to understand the unique circumstances (current talent/future talent/payroll/trade ops) that each signing comprises.

        I’m still unsure why you think they wouldn’t pick up the 1y option. You present no case and irrationally simplify the discussion (perhaps so you can participate?) down to this inane article. What is the translation from a 2y deal to a 1y deal for a pitcher with a high risk of injury? You consider it absurd that a 3y deal would be offered, but a 1y option wouldn’t be picked up?

        Does any of this have an impact on the possibility to sign Pujols? Considering he is the key piece of whether they’re a contender next season or not.

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    • Jay says:

      The Cardinals might have payroll issues that simply prevent them from picking up that option. They’re already in uncharted payroll territory and they need a shortstop, a second baseman and two MVP-caliber sluggers.

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  13. joel p says:

    ok well im from st louis and follow the cards very closely. i can tell u there was about a 0% chance that we were exercising the option. sure he might b worth that much to a money rich pitching thin team like the yankees or red sox but not to us. i have also seen carp at a couple blues games. he likes the community and so does his family. carp didnt want to leave so he took a reasonable offer. sure he could have gotten more but happiness also has a price.

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  14. Kyle says:

    Depending on how much the Yankees, Red Sox, Tigers and Rangers would have thrown at him depending on whether or not the Phillies picked up his 15 million option… I’d guess at least four million over the two year contract. He’s not the Cy Young contender he was from 04-06 and after arm problems in 2009 through last season and turned 36 around 5 months ago.

    Maybe the Yankees offer him 3 years at 36 million but I doubt it. The Rangers would be crazy enough to throw him a deal like that which may have paid off, and the Sox know he’s better than Lackey. So his salary would be a bargain… though it’s likely he gave them a second cheap year due to the fact he basically missed two full seasons and hasn’t had the best year. Plus if he is overpaid, that just makes Pujols signing long-term and the Cards also re-signing Berkman far more difficult. Now they just have to hope Wainwright comes back with no glitches since he was one of the 5 best pitchers in baseball when he got hurt. Carp’s fastball is still sharp, and he was a real ace in his prime and it’s too bad he lost a few seasons in his prime.

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  15. WY says:

    “We can’t get into Carpenter’s head and figure out why he did what he did.”

    He wanted to keep playing for the Cardinals, pretty much. No need to make things more complicated than they are.

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