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Padres Show Some Faith In Luebke

One year after having to trade away impending free agent Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres have started to sign their top young players long-term. Cameron Maybin got a five-year contract earlier this month, and Cory Luebke landed a big payday of his own over the weekend. The left-hander agreed to a four-year deal worth at least $12 million on Friday, and two club options could put another $15.75 million in his pocket down the road. Tom Krasovic and Corey Brock both deserve credit for breaking the news.

Luebke, 27, enjoyed tremendous success in 2011, his first full season as a big leaguer. He opened the year with 29 excellent relief appearances before shifting to the rotation in late-June and finishing the season with 17 equally excellent starts…

IP K% BB% HR% GB% ERA FIP
Reliever 39.0 29.1% 10.1% 0.7% 45.6% 3.23 2.31
Starter 100.2 27.3% 7.1% 2.7% 36.0% 3.31 3.11

Primarily a low-90s fastball/low-80s slider guy, Luebke unsurprisingly featured more changeups once he moved into the rotation. The pitch sits in the mid-80s however, which isn’t the kind of separation from the fastball you like to see. Right-handed batters did give him a harder time than lefties as you’d expect, both in terms of simple OPS-against (.680 vs .422) and FIP (3.46 vs. 1.71). Improving that changeup will be important for his development going forward, but playing half his games in Petco will afford Luebke some more wiggle room than the average hurler.

With one year and one month of service time, Luebke’s contract falls right in line with those given to pitchers like Brett Anderson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Wade Davis, and James Shields in recent years. All four signed four-year deals worth $10-12.6 million with at least two club options after just one full season in the show. Ubaldo (4.3 WAR) and Shields (4.5 WAR) had the best platform years of the group but ended up with least amount of guaranteed money. Anderson (3.6 WAR), Luebke (2.4 WAR), and especially Davis (0.6 WAR) should thank them for paving the way.

The contract buys out Luebke’s final two seasons as a pre-arbitration-eligible player and his first two arbitration years. The options potentially cover his final arbitration year plus one free agent year. The Padres aren’t assuming a ton of risk considering the relatively low guarantee, and I like that they retained the flexibility to non-tender the southpaw down the road if warranted. Luebke only signed for $515,000 as the 63th overall pick in the 2007 draft, so he gets peace of mind and some serious financial security. Like most deals of this nature, it’s tough to consider it anything but a win-win.