Gallardo Extension a Risky Move

MLB: Phillies vs Brewers OCT 5

And here I thought I’d be struggling to find something to write about on the Brewers’ first off day of the season.

If you haven’t heard by now — and chances are you have — the Brewers are announcing that they’re giving Yovani Gallardo a long-term extension that will not only give Yo a pay bump this season and lock in his salary throughout his arby years, but will also buy out at least one year of free agency (possibly two, if an option is exercised).  He’ll be guaranteed at least $30.1 million over 5 years, according to reports, and could be worth as much as $42.5 million over 6 years if the option is picked up.

A lot of people are ecstatic about this.  I’m actually having mixed feelings.

Is it good news that the Brewers will be keeping their budding ace in town long-term?  Absolutely.  Brewer fans can rest easy knowing that in a couple years, we won’t have to worry about reliving what we’re currently going through with Prince Fielder.  It’s also conveniently timed after Yankees president Randy Levine whined about small-market teams not using revenue sharing money to keep their own players.  It’s good for fan and player morale.

But it’s also an incredibly risky investment that could easily backfire.  Doug Melvin has a spotty history with being pre-emptive and signing players to extensions — I give you the contracts of Brady Clark, Derrick Turnbow, and Bill Hall, for example.  It’s not just Melvin’s spotty decision making, though, because it’s pretty obvious that Gallardo has done more to earn the money that will be coming his way (David posted the details earlier today).

My concern is rooted in the fact that pitchers get hurt.  Frequently.  A lot more frequently than position players, which is why I don’t think you can compare this extension to signing Ryan Braun long-term.  The extension given to Ben Sheets years ago sure seemed like a great idea at the time, but we saw what could happen.

I touched on this awhile back when rumors of a Gallardo extension first started to come up.  I still have the worries I had a month ago: the benefits just don’t outweigh the risks enough to justify giving big money to him right now, especially since he’s under team control through 2013, anyway.  At the time I said I could live with a short extension — two, maybe three years that buy out his arbitration years at a rate that would give the Brewers a small discount.

Granted, the terms that were announced could have been worse (it seems like the team may have gotten a discount due to Gallardo missing so much time in 2008).  But there’s enough money backloaded — $19 million combined in the last two guaranteed years — to make me nervous.  Who knows…maybe I’m just a Debbie Downer that’s grown to expect the worst when it comes to the health of our young pitchers.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the deal in the comments, or talk to us on Twitter @BrewersBar.

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