Jose Fernandez will not be signing a long-term deal with the Miami Marlins.
That seems to be the gist of weeks of rumblings and grumblings, not to mention the slew of rumors that preceded the Winter Meetings earlier this offseason. The uber-talented pitcher, while a bargain for 2016, eventually expects to be one of the highest paid players in the game. That at least is the word from agent Scott Boras, seen below making his point to the Marlins about his client’s future earnings potential.
Ok, it’s a little about the money. But the discussion of late has centered around Jose being unhappy with some of the personnel moves the club has made going back to last season. He apparently objected to the ousting of his pitching coach, the shipping away of players like Steve Cishek and Mat Latos, and found himself being swayed by teammate Jeff Baker‘s negative views of the organization. Though to be fair, the Marlins front office probably objected to Cishek not being able to close a door, much less a game, last season, as well as Baker’s inability to bat higher than .208. There has even been some buzz that associates of his weren’t happy about his workload pre-injury.
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Bottom-line, Jose is not a happy camper. And it is that unrest that is likely the primary reason Boras is rumored to be seeking $30 million a year for the right-hander.
Because he knows Miami won’t pay it. And if they won’t pay it, why not send him away sooner than later to a club that could afford to fatten Jose’s bank account a little sooner? It did seem the Marlins were at least considering the option back in November. Force the issue, Jose is happy to be on his way, and Scott gets his cut.
Why won’t Miami pay it? Well, they’re the Marlins, that’s why- at least that’s the knee-jerk reaction. But not only is that a bit mean spirited for the hopeful atmosphere of Spring Training, it’s also pretty shoddy analysis considering the Marlins did dole out the richest contract in North American sports history to Giancarlo Stanton last season. But there are two very sound reasons for not doing so. One is that Forever Deal issued to Stanton. Wanting Jeffrey Loria to spend more on payroll is one thing; expecting him to spend as much as the Tigers, Yankees, or Dodgers is quite another. Those are your clubs with two or more players earning $20 million or more, and all of them still had at least fifty percent of their payroll left to spend on the rest of the roster. That’s just not a reality in Miami. But even that pales in comparison to the second reason:
Right now, Jose Fernandez is not worth $30 million a year.
And not just to the Marlins, whom one could easily argue he has the most value to. As of this writing, he shouldn’t be valued that highly by any organization in baseball.
Before you unfollow us forever for promoting this blasphemy, let’s take a look at baseball’s current big money arms. Last season, the three highest paid pitchers in the game were Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, and Justin Verlander; David Price takes Lester’s place in the trio for 2016. As Kershaw is arguably the only pitcher recognized to be better than Miami’s talented righty, push his $32 million to the side, and deal solely with the $30 million Lester and $28 million Verlander. Going into 2016….Jose Fernandez is more talented than Jon Lester and Justin Verlander.
And going into 2016, Jose Fernandez will be earning about $1 million less than….Tom Koehler.
And he should be.
Koehler has put up 180+ IP in consecutive seasons, and the only reason it isn’t three is that he had eight fewer starts to work with in 2013. Jon Lester has tallied 190+ IP in eight consecutive seasons; in fact, there was only one year he didn’t pitch over 200 innings, and it was one of his three All-Star seasons. Justin Verlander? Last year’s injury marred, 133 IP campaign was the first time he failed to pitch in 200 innings or more since 2006; that year he only managed to pitch 186 innings, win the Rookie of the Year award, and win the AL Pennant. Price’s most-recent low? The same 186 IP over a six-year stretch that saw him pull down five All-Star nods, as well as a Cy Young. Verlander won one of those too of course, along with an MVP award. Which seems like a good time to loop fellow MVP as a pitcher, not to mention three-time Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw back in to round things out.
Jose Fernandez has had one season that hasn’t seen him miss significant time in three tries, and enters his fourth with talks of an innings cap. Yes, it was a great, Rookie of the Year caliber season. But even that year only saw him toss 172 IP, and the strain of that was apparently considerable given everything that’s followed since.
Max Scherzer? Zack Greinke? Jordan Zimmerman? We can keep playing this game. Fernandez might very well be better than all of them. But in the Tommy John Apocalypse Era, health looms just as large as talent and production. The Marlins just gave Wei-Yin Chen $80 million dollars for being consistently good and healthy, not even great. And no one would argue that Jose Fernandez is less talented than Chen. But until Jose posts a couple full seasons of his own, no one will give serious thought to paying him even that much.
If he does it, then sure, he’ll break the bank and internet alike with the contract he signs in 2019. But until he puts up the proof, Boras is just fishing for the fastest ticket out of town.