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December 9, 2011

Transaction Analysis

More Moore in St. Pete

by R.J. Anderson

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TAMPA BAY RAYS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed P-L Matt Moore to a five-year extension worth $14 million with three club options that could raise value to nearly $40 million. [12/9]

Moore has all of two major league starts under his belt, but the Rays decided they’d seen enough to gamble on the young man and his golden left arm. This is, of course, an oversimplification. Four and a half years have passed since the Rays drafted Moore in the eighth-round at the urging of their area scouts. By now, the organization should have a good feel for Moore and his personality. Implicitly, they seem to think highly of him.

Identifying young players worthy of an extension and then extending those players has become a patented Rays’ stratagem, most notably aggressively extending Evan Longoria after he played in six major league games. Andrew Friedman agreed to terms with James Shields and Wade Davis after the players made 52 and 35 starts for the Rays respectively. Even Ben Zobrist, fresh off a career season where he hit .297/.405/.543 (after previously hitting .222/.279/.370 in similar playing time), received a lengthy deal from the Rays. (It should surprise no one if the Rays also extend Matt Joyce before Opening Day to a deal similar to Zobrist’s.)

Any of those extensions could have—and still could, in some cases—falter. There is an inherent risk in locking up a pitcher given the attrition rates. The Rays themselves are no strangers to dealing with a lefty whose sweet-looking contract turned sour. However, given the Rays’ budget and reliance on making smart trades, the contract extensions serve three purposes: 1) buying out otherwise unaffordable free agent years; 2) assisting with cost certainty; and 3) boosting potential trade value.

The last point could have proven critical in Moore’s pursuit of an Opening Day rotation spot. In addition to Moore, Tampa Bay has David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann, and Alex Cobb on the depth chart, each with claims to a rotation spot. The Rays also have Chris Archer and Alex Torres waiting a level away for their own cracks at becoming the next young sensation in the club’s rotation. The expectation is that Davis, Niemann, and/or Cobb will be dealt to upgrade the lineup before spring, thus opening a spot for Moore in the process.

But Moore may have broken camp with the big league squad anyways. The Rays are notoriously meticulous in counting days to prevent their position players from reaching Super Two status. In comparison, the Rays seem almost apathetic towards pitcher service time. And so, many will wonder why Moore’s agent, Matt Sosnick, would let him sign this contract—particularly in knowing that four years of arbitration could be realistic? The most obvious answer is that turning down a guaranteed $14 million is tough for any 22-year-old, even those in baseball.  Moore was not a big bonus baby, either, meaning this is his first opportunity to set his family up for life. 

The value of security is subjective. Moore may value it higher than you or your neighbor would. Likewise for the Rays, who could be stuck with $14 million in sunk costs should Moore fail to develop into a worthwhile major league pitcher. That seems unlikely—this is the guy who dazzled in the playoffs and struck out 210 batters in 155 innings across Double- and Triple-A, after all—but stranger things have happened. At the very least, Moore now has a major league quality wallet to go with his arm.

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

10 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

SaberTJ

What material is a major league quality wallet made out of? Gold? Silk?

Dec 09, 2011 09:43 AM
rating: 1
 
Dave Holgado

I don't know, but it's the one that says "Bad Mother F***er" on it.

Dec 09, 2011 09:54 AM
rating: 16
 
Llarry

This also keeps the Dolphins from claiming that they have the unquestionable best Matt Moore in Florida...

Dec 09, 2011 15:14 PM
rating: 2
 
surfdent48

EXTREMELY risky and ridiculous

Dec 09, 2011 19:25 PM
rating: -2
 
jrfukudome

14/5? Please explain.

Dec 09, 2011 19:41 PM
rating: 1
 
mrdannyg

I can only assume he means for Moore, since he had the potential to earn many times that amount, should he pitch even close to according to projections.

For the Rays, the potential loss on this is almost non-existent. Even if Moore falters hugely and goes to the bullpen, $3M/year isn't a crazy amount to pay an average reliever. Even if something very unlikely or catastrophic happens, eating less than $3M/year is not a big hit, even to the Rays.

Moore should fire his agent.

Dec 10, 2011 05:57 AM
rating: 2
 
Behemoth

Moore presumably decided to accept this deal, so I doubt he's that keen on firing his agent. Especially as he now, if he's sensible, will never have to worry about money again, even if he blows out his elbow or shoulder in the first week of next season. I think what people forget with deals like this is that the first however many millions are insanely more useful to a player than anything he will earn later, especially for a player like Moore, who wasn't a high draft pick. If he wanted to gamble, he would have told the Rays to come back in a year or two, but he's now pretty much set up for life, which he wasn't last week. Hard to criticise him for that, and sensible for the Rays to take advantage.

Dec 12, 2011 02:55 AM
rating: 1
 
Dodger300

Of course, The biggest risk with any pitcher is injury.

Dec 10, 2011 07:29 AM
rating: 0
 
Lespaul1

It's the 3 (!) club options that could seemingly lock him up for EIGHT years at $40M total that blows my mind. If he's even a decent starter that's incredible value. (Or am I misunderstanding this R.J.?)

Dec 10, 2011 14:59 PM
rating: 0
 
cdmyers

The thing to keep in mind is that the Rays could have him basically for free for the next three year. They aren't paying $14 million for five years. They're paying $12.5 million for the last two of those five years. And without this contract he'd be in arbitration anyway. $6 million a year for the first two arb-eligible years isn't too crazy for either side. A lot can happen to a pitcher in 5 years, and unless he's a super-star he wouldn't make much more than that in arbitration.

However, the three club option years at $8 and change a piece are surprising for someone with his talent. There's no downside for the club in those, only the player. If he turns out to be a good number 2 that could be leaving 20 million on the table. More if he turns out to be more. If he bombs or gets injured then the Rays just drop him.

Dec 10, 2011 21:52 PM
rating: 1
 
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