Today the Twins signed their guy to a long-term extension. There were rumors Mauer was going to sign a deal today, but it turns out that Nick Blackburn got the deal instead. He signed a 4 year/$14 million dollar extension with an option for $8 million.
This deal has been largely panned as unnecessary or a disappointment. Fans are upset that Mauer hasn't been signed and/or they just don't feel that Blackburn warrants the contract. There are a few posts on the left side of my blog that will detail this.
His big league numbers:
In 2008, He was 11-11 with a 4.05 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP, 4.5 K/9 and a 2.46 K/BB rate.
In 2009, He was 11-11 with a 4.03 ERA, a 1.366 WHIP, 4.3 K/9 and a 2.39 K/BB rate.
He enters the prime of his career as a consistent pitcher that has done well in big games. He also has a low strikeout rate. His strikeout rate screams to many that he won't be able to sustain the success he has had.
Blackburn was not eligible for free agency for 4 years, so the contract does not buy out any extra years. The contract does give the team salary certainty for the next 4 years. If Blackburn were to keep up his numbers, he'd earn more through arbitration than $14 million. There is a chance his low strikeout rate will end his modest success. There is also a chance he will be able to use his 95 mph top end fastball to coax a few more strikeouts or that his ground-ball rate will improve and he is able to take advantage of a good defensive infield.
I think the signing has more to do with the Twins big picture than just rewarding Blackburn. I think this contract has more to do with Mauer. The team can continue to show him that they are committed to keeping the team together. this might show Mauer that the team is committed to winning. The team also knows it has contract certainty through 2013 for Blackburn. When trying to meet Mauer's demands and work within the team's budget, the team is in a better position to map out its funds. I'm guessing the team has been working on the extension for awhile and having it done will clear up more time to focus on Mauer.
Today, the Twins guaranteed $14 million to a number 4 starter that didn't need a guarantee. If he performs as well or better than he has, the contract will be a steal, if he performs worse, it is still only $14 million. A former 29th round pick and a presumed good guy got paid today....
As Monty Burns said when Marge painted this portrait of him...."I don't hate this"....
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