First, it was catcher Nick Hundley. Then, it was center fielder Cameron Maybin. Now, it’s starting pitcher Cory Luebke. The Padres continued their wise trend of locking up young talent by giving the hurler a four year contract extension, going through the 2015 season. The deal also has club option years for 2016 and 2017, which can push this to a six year signing. Curiously, the extension will only buy out Luebke’s first year of free agency assuming that both options are exercised. The reported value is $12 million, though it’s unclear whether that includes the option years (but I’d assume it doesn’t).
Luebke started off as a reliever for the Padres last season, but by midseason, had moved into the rotation. Over 46 games (17 starts) and 139 2/3 innings, he struck out 154, walked 44, and had a 3.29 ERA. Those numbers aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, and 2.4 fWAR for a guy who started off as a reliever in the majors isn’t a bad deal at all. Furthermore, because of the low cost of the deal, Luebke only needs to pile up three wins over the course of the four year contract to make it worth the Padres while. This seems like a lock, given his rookie season.
At 27 years old, Luebke is an older guy. But at the same token, the Padres are only guaranteeing him money until his age 30 season. If he becomes less effective as he reaches the end of his prime, San Diego can just walk away and decline the two option years, and that would be that. Considering the low value of the deal, they don’t need Luebke to be a superstar for him to earn his money. Hell, if they even threw him back in the bullpen, he could probably be worth a win and a half as a closer. Based on the going rate for closers, this would even look like a steal then.
Another great job by Josh Byrnes and company in San Diego. I’d expect Yonder Alonso to be next in line for an extension if he mashes in his first season in SoCal.