In the 7 plus years that Rick Hahn has been the White Sox general manager he has really only garnered accolades for a few aspects of his General Managing…..one is his precision in seeking top value when trading away the remnants of the last good White Sox, the other is his ability to sign the teams young talent to below market extensions that blend the risk / reward profile appropriately enough to give the team a deal, while also satisfying the player (please suspend your disbelief about how little real leverage any player under team control has). Here go another one…..
Aaron Bummer was heading into his final year before arbitration in 2020, in which he’d make some amount slightly higher than the league minimum of $563,500 and then in 2021-2024 he’d be eligible for arbitration. DATS RIGHT!! According to Cot’s Contracts (see below) he’s eligible for 4 years of arbitration giving him Super 2 status. Hahn and Co decided to replace that with the aforementioned deal above, which sketches out to $16M over 5 years (including a $1.25M buyout after 2024 if his option for 2025 isn’t picked up).
Upon first blush, this deal felt kinda meh to me. Unless Aaron Bummer is a superstar non-closer reliever (he was VERY GOOD in 2019) OR he becomes the closer in short enough order to really start jacking up arb raises, the deal seems okay to me. Not really a big value to the team, and a moderate, but not great haul to Bummer. From a risk mitigation standpoint, I love Bummer’s side. Why not, pitchers get hurt all the time, lock down $16 Mill-Dough and move it along.
Okay, let’s take a look at some examples…
The first name that came to mind for me was Dellin Betances….
He actually made more money than Bummer will in the first 5 years of his deal, however, Betances is a 40% K rate unicorn, while Bummer’s K rate was 23% last year. Also Betances only had 3 arb years while Bummer has 4.
Alright, after looking at Betances, I dug into some relievers that over the last 5 years were tops in MLB by Fangraphs WAR (fWAR), but had less than 50 total saves, so basically non-closers or only part-time closers. How’s about we look at the Will’s?
Both very effective relievers, both mostly non-closers…..and both made a good amount less than Bummer will in the next 5 years of his deal. Two more similar examples imo, are Brad Brach and Liam Hendriks……
2nd verse….same as the first. Once again, Bummer will out earn these guys.
Upon review of some comparable deals of relievers that fit the bill of what Bummer is RIGHT NOW, albeit with longer track records than Bummer AND without concern for inflation over time (which should be minimal given the size of the deals from a strict inflation standpoint), I have come to three possible conclusions as to the thesis behind this deal.
The Closer is the Closer because he’s the Closer
Closer risk mitigation. If Bummer becomes the Closer at any point between now and let’s say the end of the 2022 season and he’s worth half a damn at it, this extension will be very valuable. Closers by way of accruing saves get larger arbitration raises (for now), than very effective non-closer relievers, so if Hahn looks out into the future, where 2021 no longer has an Alex Colome under contract you can see how he might want to start planning.
Ricky Renteria is free of financial concern when making on-field bullpen decisions
To me, the most exciting part of this deal was that Hahn basically locked in Aaron Bummer’s salary for the next 5 years, making his arbitration raises moot (more mute, lol), giving Ricky Renteria the freedom to let the kid close down a half dozen games without having to give the order from up top to strictly use him in a set up role to save a couple tree million. That’s right, as mentioned in point ONE, closers get bigger arbitration raises and an Aaron Bummer with 14 saves going into 2021 is going to get more money than an Aaron Bummer with 0 saves, even with an identical additional resume. This is a WIN NOW move. Ricky Rents is free to deploy his best relievers as he sees fit each evening (or afternoon).
Predicting the future??? (BEEFLOAF TIN FOIL HAT THEORY)
It’s no big secret that the players and owners are coming towards a new CBA at the end of the 2021 season. It is also no big secret that revenues have been rising at a much faster rate than player pay. Most people that you encounter on the great app http://www.twitter.com would have you believe that we are headed for a long strike. I do not. I think the owners realize there is going to be a reconciliation of these finances and that the distribution of revenues to the players will change. If anything, the last two extensions that Rick Hahn has signed with Luis Robert (yea, I wrote about that one too, RIGHT HERE) and Aaron Bummer don’t look like substantial discounts, RIGHT NOW…but it would be foolish to think teams aren’t forecasting into these discussions information that they may have about what they think the bargaining table will look like after 2021. My guess is that the last two years of Rick Hahn extensions are going to look A LOT MORE team friendly on a warm summer day in the year of 2022 with the benefit of some hindsight, then they do now.