Dodgers get great value in Maholm

Rob Carr

The signing of Paul Maholm represents tremendous value for the Dodgers.

Player A: 202 innings, 5.52 K/9, 1.51 BB/9, 1.43 HR/9, 4.49 FIP, 0.8 WAR

Player B: 153 innings, 6.18 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 1.00 HR/9, 4.24 FIP, 0.7 WAR

Player A, of course, is Bronson Arroyo in 2013, who the Diamondbacks gave two years and $23.5 million to on Friday. Player B is Paul Maholm, who received $22 million less than Arroyo from the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday, signing a one-year, $1.5 million deal with $5 million worth of incentives.

From the comparison above, you can see that Maholm pitched 49 fewer innings than Arroyo, but put up roughly the same WAR, and was slightly better in both strikeout and home run rate, with Arroyo getting the edge in walk rate. Also, Arroyo is nearly 37, while Maholm is 31.

So, given the above information, wouldn't you rather have Maholm? Or at least, shouldn't they be close in value? You'd think so. Amazingly, Maholm got the smallest guaranteed deal among any full-time starter this offseason, and it was $2.5 million less than a guy like Gavin Floyd, who pitched just 5 games last year. Even Bruce Chen, who is 36 and a year removed from a 5.07 ERA season, got a one-year, $3 million deal, with a $5.5 million option for 2015.

It's easy to assess that there is some unannounced injury or underlying issue here, but given only what we know, the dollar amount is quite ludicrous.

For example let's look at how Maholm stacks up with Jason Vargas, a fellow 31-year-old left-hander who received a sizable four-year, $32 million deal from the Royals in November. In 2013, Vargas put up a 6.54 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 1.02 HR/9, 4.09 FIP, and 1.5 WAR in 150 innings. That line is essentially identical to Maholm's, and Maholm actually has the longer track record, with 8 consecutive 160+ inning, 1+ WAR seasons before his slightly shortened 2013 campaign. Maanwhile, Vargas has pitched at least 100 innings over the past four years, and hasn't been considerably better WAR-wise in that span (7.2 to 6.1) to make up for the shorter track record.

In fact, here is how their FIP marks stack up over the past nine years:


Source: FanGraphs -- Jason Vargas, Paul Maholm

As you can see, the difference between the two since 2010 is minute. You could very easily make the case that Maholm has been the better pitcher. Now, here's what it looks like when you add in Arroyo:


Source: FanGraphs -- Bronson Arroyo, Jason Vargas, Paul Maholm

Once again, Maholm looks quite favorable to both Vargas and Arroyo. He's the only one who has been essentially around league average FIP-wise every year since 2006, and he's actually led the trio in FIP on four separate occasions, one more than Vargas and twice more than Arroyo.

Now, these three are all very similar pitchers. Each has an average fastball velocity between 87 and 88 MPH, strikes out around 5 or 6 batters per 9, walks between 2 and 3, allows roughly one home run, and posts a FIP in the low 4's. So, it is quite baffling that there is such a wide variety in their earnings.

Arroyo is in his late 30's, so his situation is particularly unique to Vargas and Maholm, as his market was limited to a two-year contract at best (most wanted him on a one-year deal). Still, Maholm probably should've gotten two years, and he is roughly the same pitcher as Arroyo. Vargas getting four years and over $30 million seems crazier by the day as we continue to see short-term, lesser dollar value contracts for pitchers of the same ilk.

Just going over what's available to the public, Maholm's deal is quite perplexing. Until we know anything further, the Dodgers may have gotten one of the best deals of the offseason.

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