Thursday morning C.J. Wilson, the consensus top free agent starting pitcher, signed a five-year, $77.5 million contract with the Angels. His new contract has an average annual value of $15.5 million, which is only $1 million more than Mark Buehrle’s four-year, $58 million deal signed less than 24 hours earlier.
Wilson is younger — 31 to 32 — and better — career FIP- 83 to 92 — than Buehrle, so why did he sign such a similar deal?
In this year’s FanGraphs contract crowdsourcing, the readers predicted Wilson’s final contract to the penny — 5 years, $15.5 AAV. Looking at this, one could conclude that Wilson got market value. However, the crowdsourcing results have been fairly conservative thus far, with Albert Pujols, Jonathan Papelbon, CC Sabathia, Jose Reyes, and Buehrle getting more years and/or AAV than the crowd predicted. Seemingly, the market has been set higher this offseason, and thus Wilson could have gotten more.
In interviews this morning, Wilson confirmed two facts that gives more insight to how the market valued him. Reportedly, Wilson had a six-year offer for over $100 from Miami. He also revealed that the Rangers’ offer was about half in total value of the Marlins’ offer. It is unclear, but likely that the Marlins offered a higher AAV than the deal he eventually signed with the Angels.
Wilson will become teammates with Pujols, who signed a massive 10-year, $250 deal earlier this morning. If you assume that Pujols will be an six WAR player over the next ten years, which is admittedly a rough estimate, then the Angels essentially paid him about $4.1 million per win. Wilson tallied 5.9 WAR last season, so an estimate of his average WAR would be about five per season. At that level, he would earn about $3.1 million per win, a full million dollars less than Pujols.
To recap, Wilson’s contract is favorable in comparison to the next-best pitcher, which was signed a day ago, and favorable in terms of $/WAR to a contract that his own team signed earlier this morning. Either the market did not value Wilson as highly as expected, or Wilson took less to play for the Angles. Let’s quickly run through some factors that could have contributed to those two scenarios.
– Wilson’s playoff struggles. It is unlikely that this changed Wilson’s contract by more than a few million, but it is impossible to know if more teams may have been involved if he had a dominant postseason.
– Wilson’s unconventional career path. Wilson was only made into a starter in 2010, so there may have been some concern about his workload as his career progresses.
– Playing in Los Angeles. Wilson, who was born in Newport Beach, has made it clear that he highly valued the opportunity to return to his hometown. In fact, Wilson said that he would love to play for the Dodgers in the National League, but that their current situation did not allow them to be serious contenders.
– Weaver and Dan Haren. Wilson also expressed that he was excited to join a rotation which already featured two ace-caliber starters.
– The Pujols factor. Wilson expressed that he considered the Cardinals as a possible destination, if only because he wanted to play with Pujols. When Pujols signed with the Angels this morning, that certainly helped attract Wilson as well.
It is likely that all of these factors played some role in Wilson’s contract offers as well as his choice of a destination. Also, if Wilson was desperate for more money, he could have held out longer — there was no deadline to sign today. Whatever the reasons, the Angels have a potential third ace to anchor their pitching staff, and they signed him at a very team-friendly rate.