The Los Angeles Dodgers signed 34-year-old starting pitcher Ted Lilly to a three-year, $33 million contract yesterday. As the first free agent to sign a deal, Lilly sets the baseline standard for other free agents this offseason.The deal seems fair. The left-hander posted a 10-12 record with a 3.62 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 193+ innings with the Cubs and Dodgers last year. His career ERA is 4.18.
What can we glean from a market that paid a solid, soon-to-be-35-year-old lefty $11 million annually?
The closest comparison from last year’s free agent market is Randy Wolf, a lefty who was a year younger at the time and boasted a career ERA of 4.13. Wolf was coming off an 11-7, 3.23 ERA season with the Dodgers. We’ll call the pitchers’ value equal since, even though Lilly is believed to be superior hurler, Wolf was a year younger and had a better contract season. He was rewarded with a three-year, $29.75 million contract by the Brewers.
Over the course of a season the value of nearly identical pitchers jumped 11 per cent. That is a significant indication that despite another year of economic difficulty, player salaries are continuing their gradual ascent.
The increase would be roughly in line with the $26 million-per year estimate for Cliff Lee’s upcoming contract, based on the seven-year, $161 million deal that C.C. Sabathia scored from the Yankees (the team most likely to sign Lee) two years ago.
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