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Mike Hampton: an Object Lesson

Word has leaked out today that often-injured lefty Mike Hampton has reached an agreement to rejoin the Astros, for whom he won 22 games in 1999. The Chronicle report calls it “a low-risk, high-reward move for the Astros, who are in need of starting pitching.” True enough.

That’s a far cry, though, from the situation Hampton found himself in back in 2001, when he signed an eight-year, $121 million deal with the Rockies. Since then, he’s pitched more than 190 innings only once (2002), having been hobbled by a series of injuries. He did win 14 games in ’04 and 13 the next year — both for Atlanta — but never lived up to anything close to the promise of his hefty deal. By any measure, the past eight years have been a bust.

Regardless of whether or not Hampton regains his form and stays healthy, his career serves as a lesson for any team considering a long-term deal for a pitcher with injury history. A team like, I don’t know, the Orioles perhaps.

It’s hard not to think of Hampton when the prospect of a four or five-year deal for A.J. Burnett comes up.

Every pitcher is an injury risk. That’s the nature of the position, and also part of the reason that guys who happen to be durable tend to stick around even when their stats fail to impress. The question, then, isn’t one of avoiding risk, it’s one of how much risk to take on.

The more I think about Burnett, the more I think he’s probably not worth it. At least, not at four or five years. If there’s a way to convince him to come here for three years and maybe an option year, fantastic. I’d even overbid on the annual value in that scenario. But for a young, rebuilding team to guarantee four or five years (and, what, $17 mil/per?) to a pitcher strikes me as the kind of unwise allocation of resources that got us into this mess back in ’98-’99.

Then again, the O’s backed off of Aaron Sele because of injury risk, and I seem to recall him having some fine years after that.

In other words, I’m glad it’s not my responsibility.

Update: In news from the “unimportant and not unexpected” department, none of the O’s free agents (Millar, Payton, Cintron, Castro) have been offered arbitration. Odds are that none of them come back, although Millar is a possibility.

Also, Luis Hernandez has signed a minor league contract with the Royals.

33 comments to Mike Hampton: an Object Lesson

  • Joe the Guy

    Interesting analogy…

    I agree. The more I think about AJ the less I think he would help the Orioles.

    Then again – there are virtually FOUR open rotation spots…

    At first glance, he was the “perfect” veteran to step in behind Guts…

    And the hot prospects are still a couple years off…

    But a guarunteed 4/5 yr deal could Very Likely mean that down the line AJ is blocking one of the studs.

    I would also overpay for 3 years and a team option. Good Call.

    This is the awkward time when nothing happens until Winter Meetings (Dec 8-11) and I was quite pleased to see an interesting baseball post this morning. Gracias.

  • dan the man

    I think AJ would agree to an overpaid 3-year deal to play in Baltimore. I guess we’ll wait and see.

    AJ is an injury risk, but no more than anyone else on the FA pitcher market. We gotta get SOMEbody, preferably 2 somebodies to come in here and not get shellacked every time out.

    It’s going to be real, real interesting to see what happens with D-Cab.

    Who are our starter-candidates after Guthrie?


  • neal s

    I think you’d have to put Bergesen, Penn, and Hernandez on the list of guys competing for a spot. Ideally, all three of those guys would spend all of ’09 in Norfolk and really show what they’ve got (or don’t). But, if one of them just lights it up in spring training I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing him land the fifth spot.

    None of which changes my opinion that we have to land at least two veterans. Garland and Byrd still make a lot of sense to me.

  • dan the man

    The number that jumps out from both of those guys is their low walk numbers. Byrd will serve up a lot of home runs (31 last year), but we could do worse.

  • Joe the Guy

    Red Sox offered Byrd arbitration (type B)

    If anyone can offer a succint explanation of the arbitration process or steer me towards an existing one I would certainly appreciate it.

  • neal s

    Basically, if a player accepts an arbitration offer then he is considered signed for the next year, with terms to be determined during the process. If he declines, he’s a free agent.

    The Type A/Type B stuff relates to the compensation a team will receive if the player declines arbitration and signs with another team.

    It can sometimes get more complicated than this, but that’s the meat of it.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    I can do it!

    All major league players (free agents and non-free agents) are grouped into various categories based on position: starting pitchers, relievers, first basemen/DHs/outfielders, catchers, and infielders.

    Now, for each of the 5 groups, Elias Sports Bureau calculates – through a secret formula (which was recently cracked, we think) – a score based on stats from the previous 2 seasons(yes, I know, you traditionalists are freaking out). The top 10 and 20 percent (I might have that wrong, but whatever) of players in each group are your type As and Bs, respectively (again, this counts non-free agents, too, but their rankings don’t count really).

    So, now, teams have until midnight on December 1 to decide to offer arbitration. If they do, and another team signs a type B player, they get a sandwich pick in the draft between the first 2 rounds. If another team signs an offered type A player, the original team gets the signing team’s first round pick and a sandwich pick – except if the signing team has a pick from 1-15, then the original team gets that team’s second rounder.

    The catch though is that the player can accept arbitration and then they pretty much automatically get a raise on a one-year deal. I think the Padres got stuck with an expensive and sucky Randy Myers they didn’t want via arbitration years ago. Players have until December 7th (I think) to accept or decline.

    The arbitration process has team and player haggle until a certain date. If they can’t agree, a arbitration board hears each side’s case and then sets the player’s salary. It’s usually not a pleasant time for the player, who gets to sit there and listen to his bosses tell a panel how bad at his job he is, and has been known to foster terrible ill will in younger players who are arbitration eligible but not yet free agents (which are players in their 4th through 6th years of playing depending on playing time in their first couple years).

    Okay? So here’s two examples:

    The Dodgers offered type A ManRam arbitration, and he’ll almost definitely turn it down. Let’s say the Yankees sign him up to play left field. The Dodgers get the Yankees first round pick (which is probably something like #25 or so) and a sandwich pick after the first round is over, giving them for all intents and purposes 3 first round draft picks. However, if the Pirates signed Manny, the Dodgers get the sandwich pick and the Pirates second rounder (which is #4 I believe) because the first 15 first rounders are protected.

    As an aside, the Nats have 2 picks in the top 15 because they are stupid and couldn’t sign Aaron Crow at #10 last year…but I’m pretty sure that pick is labeled as something like 10a, so it doesn’t offset the top 15 picks.

    Example number 2: The Red Sox offered Paul Byrd arbitration. He’s type B, so let’s say the O’s sign him up. The Orioles lose nothing, but the Sox get a free sandwich pick (effectively 2 first rounders). That the Orioles get pick #5 doesn’t mean nothing here.

    As for how stupid the Yankees are, let’s say Mike Mussina decides he’s not finished and comes back to play for the Houston Astros. He was type A, and had no chance of accepting arbitration at all this week, but now the Yankees would get nothing. This happened with Roger Clemens a couple years ago, and it’s still pretty funny to me.

  • neal s

    Right, what Andrew said.

    Good to see you back, by the way.

  • dan the man

    The best part of that epic post was the “As for how stupid the Yankees are” part. I enjoyed that part in particular.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    I’m privy to making fun of the Nats, but that’s just me.

    I had a good, long vacation away from the interweb in general for a couple weeks…it was kinda refreshing, and nice to see nothing really happened while I was gone.

    Good to be back, though.

  • Joe the Guy

    very informative post – many thanks

    the orioles do NOT want Paul Byrd

    not even to throw BP

    which is what he does during games now.

  • CambyRocks!

    What would the O’s want with Paul Byrd?

    Seriously, that’s not a “MacPhail Move”. I can’t believe those rumors.

  • dan the man

    I still think the O’s land Uehara in a nice sleeper move.

  • dan the man

    Let’s grab Adam Dunn if we don’t get Tex. Yeah he strikes out and doesn’t hit for average. But check it:

    2004 – 46 HR, 102 RBI
    2005 – 40 HR, 101 RBI
    2006 – 40 HR, 92 RBI
    2007 – 40 HR, 106 RBI
    2008 – 40 HR, 100 RBI

    Most consistent 40/100 guy in baseball. Let him DH and you’ve got some of the best left-handed pop in the AL with Huff, Dunn, and Scott. Plus all those guys’ last names end with two of the same letter. Salazar and Montanez are righties off the bench.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    Who said anything about Paul Byrd? I was merely using an example to demonstrate the system. I don’t think the Orioles should sign Paul Byrd, nor do I think they will. Older players is not how you rebuild.

    I’m sticking with Uehara, Teixeria, somebody at short, Markakis, and Pavano or Looper or someone like that as my dream list of contracts. I’d prefer not to trade Olsen, since we kind of have to be in a spaghetti system of seeing what sticks where, and he hasn’t quite played out of the book just yet. His stock is down but not out…not yet.

    I like Dunn as the Tex backup plan. Only problem is, I’m betting everyone likes him in that capacity. But I tell you what, he would be a monster in Camden Yards. A monster.

  • dan the man

    It was Neal who mentioned Byrd, I believe. Hey – he’d be better than Trachsel was. Probably.

    I’m starting to get excited now. Andy is a Winter Meetings hustler.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    Anybody have any Markakis thoughts (Markakian thoughts?)? I can just hear Drew’s blood bubbling up, I figured we should get in here before his sarcastic/angry comment gets in, and put our cards down early, so to speak.

    Personally, I’m fine. They want to watch the free agent market and see where his value would be if he were a free agent, fine. Andy MacPhail has 2 things going for him in this particular negotiation that will allow me to say “Fine” and still believe it gets done at a fair price for both parties:

    1) They’ve both said they want this. They both want to get this done. I’m sure Nick wants to have a Scrooge McDuck style swimming pool/vault by June, and MacPhail has said, and really there’d be no reason for it not to be so, that he wants this to be a priority this winter (along with Roberts).

    2) Andy’s a guy who takes his time with things, often to his supreme benefit (Bedard deal anybody?). But he has shown us that he doesn’t wait too long after he’s got what he wants (Tejada deal anybody?), so his deliberate pace fits in with what we’re hearing.

    So I’m cool with what I’ve heard so far. But I can understand any hand-wringing out there. This is our star player cornerstone 5 tool guy, after all. And he’s obviously the most popular player at this point (my favorite, for certain). And they need to set a precedent for Wieters, Jones, Guthrie, free agents, etc. And the Orioles need to show that they want to build a serious baseball team, and that means developing talent and then signing that talent longterm.

  • neal s

    It was me who mentioned Byrd, yeah. It’s not that I think he’s some kind of solution, just that he’s a veteran arm who has had some success and who could slot into a #3/4 role for a year or two. Obviously, that would depend on the price being right.

    I’m also pro-Dunn, in the event that Teixeira doesn’t fly in. You can’t argue with the numbers he’s put up over the past 4-5 years, even if it comes at the expense of his average.

    I guess everybody has read the “Markakis talks on hold” story, yes?

    I’ll bet that some folks around town will be screaming bloody murder about this, but to my mind it’s not even worthy of a main page post. They exchanged some figures, the Orioles’ offer is said to be “significant”, and Nick wants to chill out and think. No big deal.

    The big deal would be if they don’t get something done and end up pissing him off. Even if it’s just on a one-year, stopgap deal, they can’t go to arbitration with him. Just can’t.

  • neal s

    Sorry, Andrew — you got caught in the spam filter before my comment went up. I’d actually love to hear what Drew thinks about that, but alas I believe that he might be on hiatus here because of the “some thoughts” nonsense.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    Maybe. If Drew’s gonna take everything personal, he won’t get too far. I’m interested in his opinion, but only so far as I’m interested to see which angle he approaches his standard outrage.

    And really, I just wanted to say Scrooge McDuck swimming pool/vault a couple more times. It’s a fun image.

  • neal s

    Looks like the Braves have picked up Javier Vazquez. Interesting.

    “Scrooge McDuck swimming pool/vault” is amazing, by the way.

  • dan the man

    Markakis and his agent want to make sure he gets the proper buck for his bang, so to speak. And that’s fine. Cakes knows he’s a stud. Top 5 right-fielder in the game. Maybe top 3. Chance to be the best right fielder in the game after a couple more years of 20/100/15-20 outfield assists/15-20 steals.

    Where was I? I’m lost in Markakis man-love. Oh yeah – I’m not worried. This kid is going to get his money, and he’s going to be the best long-term Oriole player we’ve seen in over a decade. He’s certainly worth more than Rios’ 7-year/$70 (or whatever it was). Rios sucks. He’s easily worth $15 mil/year, and it’ll be interesting to see what he gets.

  • dan the man

    Also, I forgot Liz in my list of potential starters for next year. And I agree that Bergensen, Penn, and Hernandez could make it out of spring training, but they’d have to really dominate. And other options would have to falter, which is certainly a likely scenario.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    Penn’s out of minor league options, isn’t he? He has to make the team. I could actually envision him in Albers role last year, but who knows how effective he’s going to be?

  • Andrew in Rochester

    Pedroia got a 6 year 40.5 million dollar extension today. I wonder if that sets any more of a market for Nick the Stick (who I assumed we were offering more than that for)? I guess it goes to show you that the Red Sox have some sort of unfair advantage with players wanting to be there for less (Tawaza, Pedroia) and that every team starts out at relatively low rates and works into agreement. The Orioles, in my mind, certainly haven’t acted poorly to Nick this winter yet. Just sayin’.

  • dan the man

    I agree. And for all we know the O’s could have offered him the Rios deal (7 for $70), which would have been a fine place to start, and he could have turned it down. They’ll get it done.

  • Amen! Burnett isn’t a risk worth taking if this team is sincere about its plan to field a competitive A.L. East squad by 2011. Long-term deals for injury-prone pitchers are the the stuff of the Angelos-led O’s of the late-’90s, early-’00s.

  • Joe the Guy

    I agree that you should let Atlanta offer him 5 years…silly atlanta

    but then what?

    DtM’s pitching list from above, updated with the “missing guys” named in other posts:


    Scary right?

    Let us not be conquered by Fear. Let us meditate on the following Nuggets of Positivity:

    I trust Andy to grab us a decent free-agent veteran pitcher on a decent contract.

    I trust Andy to sign The Stick to the “McDuck’s Pool” contract that he deserves.

    I realize that EVERYTHING is on hold from now until the winter meetings and that a headline is just a headline.

    I trust Andy. I trust Andy. I trust Andy.

  • dan the man

    Trust in Him.

    And I knew he wasn’t going to settle on Pie for Olson. I was thinking Pie and Greene, but MLBTR is saying the O’s are looking for Pie and Cedeno. Cedeno isn’t a world-beater or anything, but he fills a hole and he’d play every day. And Pie would be a nice bonus. But then MLBTR also says the O’s are showing interest in Jack Wilson. Andy’s going to find us not one, but 2 or 3 shortstops this winter, I think.

  • Greg

    Everything that criticizes the Orioles for not locking up Markakis yet this winter should look at how the Pedroia contract will affect negotiations, especially from Markakis’ side of it. When Mussina took less to go back to the Orioles, Glavine was pissed because he got less as a result. The contracts of a 2B and an OF may not be comparable, but as ROY and MVP in his first two years and only getting $40.5M over 6 six years, you’d have to think that Markakis will have trouble getting 7/$70M from any team now, let alone the Orioles. That’s double what Pedroia is getting.

    I know nothing about about contracts, I’d just assume that Nick would not be able to land quite as huge a contract now that the market is beginning to set itself.

  • dan the man

    Well the Braves are offering AJ 5 years and the O’s don’t seem to be interested in Lowe. Tex is a real long shot.

    Would we be satisfied with an offseason of:

    Markakis long term contract.
    Roberts extension.
    Pie & Cedeno for Olson.
    Looper/Garland/FA SP

  • Joe the Guy


    but not if Garland isn’t on that list

  • Greg

    Markakis long term contract. – Yes, yes, yes
    Roberts extension. – I’m okay with this
    Izturis. – Sure. Don’t care. He’s a stopgap.
    Pie & Cedeno for Olson. – Yes. I would do this immediately.
    Uehara. – If only to get the foot in the Japanese door, so to speak. Uehara isn’t the great player he once was.
    Looper/Garland/FA SP – We aren’t winning any championships with these guys in our rotation, but I’m okay with them for the time being.