Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes is reporting that the Phillies are closing in on a 2 year $5M deal with Jose Contreras. While giving a two year deal to a soon to be 39 year old middle reliever is rather curious, the fact that the Phillies threw in a third year option AND performance incentives is even more confusing. Contreras was one of the Phillies most effective relievers last year, putting up 9.56 K/9, 3.56 K/BB, and a 3.27 FIP.
The problem with signing middle relievers to multi-year contracts (let alone one that's 39) is that relief pitcher performance is extremely volatile and very difficult to predict. Due to the small sample sizes, ERA in particular can be greatly affected by defensive factors, poor luck on home runs (i.e. HR/FB rate), and/or a couple of forgettable performances. A relief pitcher can go from being all star quality in one season to one of the worst in baseball while his performance indicators remaining largely the same.
This appears to be another questionable move in a series of questionable moves for Ruben Amaro, Jr. Other questionable moves include:
- Signing then 35 year old Raul Ibanez to a 3 year $31.5M deal.
- Trading Cliff Lee to Seattle after the Phillies had traded for Roy Halladay. They had the money to keep both pitchers in uniform.
- Signing Ryan Howard to a 5 year $125M extension when he still had another 2 years $39M remaining on his current deal. (Howard was only a 2.0 WAR player in 2010.)
- Signing then 45 year old Jamie Moyer to a 2 year deal. Moyer's performance during that time was slightly above replacement level.