Is Now the Time to Extend Garrett Richards?


Garrett Richards broke out in a big way last season, and then he simply broke. Thankfully the terrible injury he suffered didn’t occur to his pitching arm. No Tommy John surgery, no shoulder injury, nothing that by all reason should affect his long term promise as an ace starting pitcher. But, it’s also an injury for which there is very little history to reference with how other pitchers have returned to form.

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Richards is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason as a super two player. So, the Angels will have to pay him for an extra year of arbitration. A very costly year should he produce as he did in 2014. In his first go around this year he is projected to earn around $4 million. That number would grow exponentially the next three years and if he struggles would become worth more than he produces. But, if he stays of at an elite level he would be a bargain throughout.

At 26-years-old he is just entering his prime, likely to improve if he follows the trajectory of most good pitchers at that age. His best weapon is his fastball which ranked seventh best, in terms of effectiveness, in all of baseball last season. Not far behind is a nasty slider which he controlled very well and put him on another best of list. The command of those pitches is what really separated the Richards of 2014 and the incomplete Richards of 2013.

Apr 15, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starter Garrett Richards delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no question he broke out in 2014 with a season very few expected, but ended in a way which must have him  wondering what his future holds. If the Angels strike now with an offer, Garrett may be especially tempted now that he has seen just how quickly ones career can end. The Angels currently have him locked up through his age 30 season. Ideally they would want him through his age 32 year. An age few up and coming player are willing to sign on for because teams are much more reluctant to give a huge contract at that age as opposed to say, 31. But, uncertainty must certainly be in his mind because of the scare he received when his patellar tendon ruptured on the mound. Right now he may sign away those years. If he goes out and pitches 200 inning this season he may very well choose to hold out, a move which could cost the Angels tens of millions of dollars.

The Halo’s front office has reasons to be cautious however. Garrett never has reached the 200 inning mark, not even close in fact. He also has only had one good season, even if it was a great one. Everything came together for most of a season this year but will it repeat for young Garrett? How will he come back from an injury that few pitchers have ever had? Is it necessary to extend him past age thirty when we have a number of even younger and highly touted pitchers? These questions are significant and don’t have to be answered now.

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Unlike small market teams which must tie up there players before they become expensive the Angels have the luxury of being able to wait until more of those questions are answered. Signing Richards now could save the Angels about $10 million versus waiting a year. It would also put them at risk of perhaps $60 – 80 Million if he doesn’t recover or can’t repeat his success. I don’t expect them to risk that amount when they can afford to wait.

A lot of money is coming off the teams payroll in two years and that’s when it makes the most sense for the Angels to try and lock Richards up long term.

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