Oh, Colorado Rockies, what are we going to do with you? Your already befuddling offseason just got a whole lot more befuddling.
boone logan gets $16.5M fr 3 yrs. #rockies
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) December 13, 2013
Yes, somehow the Rockies decided it was a good idea to give left-hand specialist Boone Logan the second-most expensive expensive contract to a reliever on this year's free agent market, surpassed only by Joe Nathan's $20 million deal. Keep in mind that the Rockies are a team that came into the offseason with only about $9 million payroll space for 2014 and has carried Opening Day payrolls between $74 and $84 million the last five years.
This is not to denigrate Boone Logan, mind you. He is a good reliever. His ERA last season was 3.23 and he has fanned 11+ batters per nine innings each of the last two seasons and limited opposing left-handed batters to a .215/.277/.377 slash line last year. As LOOGYs go, he is one of the better ones. Part of what limits him is that he has trouble with the longball, having surrendered 13 homers over the last two seasons. That seems like the kind of thing that could be a real issue in Denver.
But that is the problem with this deal. Not only is he a LOOGY, but he isn't even the best one, yet he is being paid that way. This very same offseason, the Giants gave a three-year deal to Javier Lopez, who has been significantly better than Logan, posting an ERA of 2.72 or better four years running. He only got $13 million. That Lopez contract seemed like an overpay at the time, but this Logan deal blows it out of the water.
Compared to other free agent relievers, not just lefties, Logan received the third-highest average annual value. Only Nathan and Brian Wilson beat him out. Joe Smith, a high quality setup man who can get both lefties and righties out, came in at $250,000 less than Logan. Edward Mujica was a highly effective closer last season and will earn $750,000 less per year. Oh, and LaTroy Hawkins, who these same Rockies signed to serve as their closer this season, will earn a full $3 million less per season. All of those relievers will earn less, but provide much more utility than Logan on sheer innings pitched alone. Being a left-hand specialist who gets hit hard by righties (.239/.319/.460 against RH in 2013), Logan will turn in limited innings. In Logan's eight MLB seasons, he has only twice logged more than 50 innings pitched and his career-high is 55.1. By comparison, Joe Smith has thrown 63 or more innings each of the last three years.
The value just isn't there for the Rockies, but what is even crazier is that Logan won't even be the best left-handed middle reliever on the staff. Colorado already has Rex Brothers who had a 1.73 ERA last season and is capable of holding his own versus right-handed batters. The also have Josh Outman, who held lefties to a .195/.278/.261 line in 2013. For those of you scoring at home, that is a good bit better than what Logan did last year only with the added degree of difficulty that comes with pitching at Coors Field. The Rockies do use their relievers more than almost every other team due to the draining effects of pitching at altitude, but spending such a big chunk of change on a third lefty for the bullpen just seems insane.
The larger issue here is that the Rockies are behaving as if they are making the final tweaks to a World Series caliber roster. Spending this kind of money on a third lefty is a luxury even rich championship contenders are reluctant to make. Yet Colorado is coming off a 74-win season has holes in the outfield and second base. But that is the same distorted line of thinking that led to the Rockies spending $10 million on Justin Morneau earlier this month and trading the very good and young Dexter Fowler days before that, seemingly so that they could create the budget space to make the Morneau and Logan signings.
This is a team that is either wildly delusional about how close they are to being a contender or just feels strangely compelled to work really hard to make sure that they use up their limited resources so that they can be a .500 team for the next three years.