Five Years (My Brain Hurts a Lot) 

With the hot stove starting to glow, and all the GMs pushing through the market square, one big question on everyone's mind is "Will A.J. Burnett get a five year contract?"

The last pitcher to get five years was Chan Ho Park, whose $65 million contract from a rich Texan was such a waste you'd think Chan Ho was being paid to build schools in Afghanistan or haul ice to the Gulf Coast.

In the words of another rich Texan, there's been a lot of, heh heh, o-pie-nin' about whether the Giants should go for baroque and jump into the A.J. fray, or if they should more modestly offer someone like Jarrod Washburn, Esteban Loiaza or Matt Morris a two- or three-year contract.

Weighing in on the contract-length debate is Will Carroll, the Baseball Prospectus med-head/injury guru. In his latest chat, Will is asked if the team who signs Burnett to a five-year deal will only know misery:

Will Carroll: You know, I don't think misery is the right word. Sure he could blow out his shoulder as easily as any other pitcher and that bone spur that Jim Andrews left in his elbow worries me, but I haven't seen anyone with better stuff. I would *never* sign a pitcher to a deal over three years. I'll pay more to get less years.

That's an interesting concept. How would that work? Instead of offering Burnett 5 yrs/$50 mil, offer 3 yrs/$39 mil? More likely he means outbidding for someone like Morris or Jarrod Washburn without the enticement of extra years. Contract length is important to ballplayers -- it's what sealed the deal for Omar Vizquel, who reportedly had a two year, $10 M deal from the White Sox on the table when the Giants tacked on a third year and swept him off his feet. The average dollars per year were less, but the security of a fat paycheck at the age of 40 was too tempting.

The rumor mill, fed by the Chronicle and stoked here, is tilting slightly in the direction of Morris. (My two cents: he's been a top-echelon starter in years past but injuries have kept him from an All-Star career. Injuries may have affected him last year, too. Sign him only after a thorough physical exam, and to no more than two years with perhaps a third-year option based on performance. Be jubilant if he returns to '01-'02 form.)

But as we've seen in previous winters, the market for starting pitchers can get surreal fast. In two weeks, the idea of getting anyone not named Pedro Astacio for reasonable dollars could become laughable -- if you're a pitcher or an agent, that is. Since Brian Sabean is on record saying he won't be caught again without canned beans, beef jerky, and extra pitchers in his cupboard when the Big One hits, the Giants may well swallow hard and follow Will Carroll's advice.

As responsible Giant citizens, we can do our part to prepare ourselves for major sticker shock. Best to start now by applying small jolts of electricity to sensitive areas. When this no longer causes blurred vision, try licking the tops of car batteries.

This just in: the Mariners are signing Japanese catcher Kenji Johjima to a three-year deal. Looks like Yorvit isn't in their long-term plans, which makes the Giants' trade for Randy Winn look even better.


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