Last year, I looked at the case for extending Zach Davies just after his first “full” season in the majors (which the exception of a few weeks to start the year and a week and a half in July). An extension didn’t happen then, and Davies played out the season on a rookie-level contract. Now, Davies has another year of service under his belt and more results to look at, how has the case for him changed?
One of the biggest changes in the case for Davies involves his teammate. Chase Anderson just signed a two-year contract with $11.75 million guaranteed, and then a maximum amount of $31.35 million possible. That’s where the discussion for Davies will start now. It’s arguable that Davies has more of a track record at this point than Anderson does. With the Boras effect still in play, you know that he will make sure Davies gets as much as Anderson, if not more.
Of course, the Boras effect also means that a deal with Davies will be difficult to do. Boras clients are known for not giving up free agency years, so he will do what he can to protect Davies interests. In addition, there may still be some bad feelings there after Davies was demoted at the All-Star Break last year. That could make it more difficult for a deal to get done.
Meanwhile, how have the comparisons changed for Davies in that time? Comparing him to other pitchers with 2+ years of service, what could a Davies deal look like right now? When looking at this group, a former Brewer comes into play: Yovani Gallardo. After his 2009 season, he signed a 5-year, $30.1 million extension that covered his last four years of team control and a free agency year (which was covered in a $14 million option). Gallardo’s stats in his early years were slightly better than Davies. Gallardo had a 3.57 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 119 ERA+, 9.1 K/9, and 3.9 BB/9 in his first three season. Davies, meanwhile, is at a 3.91 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 110 ERA+, 6.6 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9. Of course, Gallardo’s extension was signed eight years ago now. Inflation will also factor in there.
Meanwhile, what have other pitchers received that had the same service time as Davies? Here are some of those deals (dollar amount is guaranteed money):
- Corey Kluber (2015, 2.074): 5 years, $38.5 million + 2 options
- Chris Sale (2013, 2.061): 5 years, $32.5 million + 2 options
- Jonathon Niese (2012, 2.107): 5 years, $25.5 million + 2 options
- Derek Holland (2012, 2.120): 5 years, $28.5 million + 2 options
- Gio Gonzalez (2012, 2.162): 5 years, $42 million + 2 options
- Jaime Garcia (2011, 2.151): 4 years, $27.5 million + 2 options
- Trevor Cahill (2011, 2.069): 5 years, $30.5 million + 2 options
- Clay Buchholz (2011, 2.069): 4 years, $29.945 million + 2 options
It’s a pretty consistent pattern there. All of these pitchers got at least 4 years and $27.5 million guaranteed. All of them also had two options available. Many of them had a better track record than Davies does at this point. As a result, pushing for a better deal than that would be a tough sell.
How does all of that change a potential extension for Davies right now? Over the course of the last year, Davies didn’t really improve his stock much, but he didn’t hurt it either. It’s right about where it was last year. As a result, an extension would likely remain in the same range that it was before. Here is an updated structure:
- 2018 (Pre-Arb 3): $1.25 million (approx. $750k as signing bonus)
- 2019 (Arb 1): $4.25 million
- 2020 (Arb 2): $7.5 million
- 2021 (Arb 3): $10 million
- 2022 (FA 1): $12.5 million with $1.25 million buyout
- 2023 (FA 2): $14 million with $1.25 million buyout
Looking through the deals with comparable players, the deal needs to at least go above Niese and Holland at this point, and at least match what Gallardo got. Of course, their deals also bought out a free agency year, but that’s likely something that Boras will not want to do. The guaranteed money remains very similar to last year, and if one of those options is picked up, the money would exceed all of them except for Corey Kluber. It would be a competitive deal to keep him in line with other pitchers.
Of course, more complicating factors are now in play. With Anderson guaranteed for the next two years, and potentially up to four, that takes away a chunk of the Brewers payroll. Also, if the Brewers make a big move in free agency, that’s another chunk out of the payroll. Could the Brewers put together a payroll with three starting pitchers each over $8 million? That would be a possibility if all of that came together.
Zach Davies is still a good candidate for an extension, but over the last year, things have remained steady for him. He hasn’t hurt his case, but at the same time, he hasn’t helped it much either. He could still be a good player to extend should both sides come to a deal. The question that remains is if both sides would consider an extension in their best interests.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference. Contract details from MLB Trade Rumors.