Dodgers sign Paul Maholm to strangely cheap deal

Jared Wickerham

The Dodgers appear likely to sign Paul Maholm  -- he was in their clubhouse to take a physical today, and the Dodgers even gave him a locker. We don't yet know the terms, but it's apparently a minor-league deal. And if that's all Maholm ends up with, I'm mystified. (UPDATE: Actually, it's a $1.5 million big-league deal with some incentives, which is better, but not by a lot.)

On Twitter earlier today, David Cameron noted how strange it is that Bronson Arroyo got two years and $23.5 million while it looks like Maholm won't even get a guaranteed contract. At the end of the season, some of the MLBTR writers were talking about how much Arroyo would make this offseason. Tim Dierkes predicted that Arroyo would get two years and $24 million, which of course is almost exactly what he got. I was arguing that he should go lower, since Arroyo is a righty soft-tosser who's old and doesn't get ground balls, and I pointed out that Maholm only got $4.75 million guaranteed two offseasons ago.

Arroyo and Maholm are pretty different types of pitchers, of course -- Maholm's a left-handed ground-ball pitcher, and he's much younger. But all those things should arguably make him more valuable relative to Arroyo, not less. And while the two pitchers aren't similar in type, their contributions are pretty similar.

Arroyo
2011: 4.54 xFIP, -1.5 WAR
2012: 4.19 xFIP, 2.4 WAR
2013: 3.97 xFIP, 0.8 WAR

Maholm:
2011: 4.03 xFIP, 1.7 WAR
2012: 3.84 xFIP, 2.2 WAR
2013: 3.89 xFIP, 0.7 WAR

One of these guys is worth $23.5 million. One of them isn't even worth a guaranteed deal. I don't get it. Part of the appeal with Arroyo, of course, is his track record of durability. But it's not at all clear that Arroyo will continue to be able to throw 200 or more innings each season as he heads further into his late 30s.

Two years ago, we had a number of pretty heated debates about whether the Pirates should pay $9 million for Maholm in 2012. The Pirates replaced Maholm with Erik Bedard (bad) and A.J. Burnett (great), and he signed with the Cubs for just over half the price of the Pirates' option. I don't think anyone regrets the Pirates' decision now, clearly, and if signing Maholm would have prevented them from acquiring Burnett, then I guess they dodged a bullet (although that's a ridiculously results-oriented way of looking at it). But $9 million in 2012 would not have been a bad deal. Fangraphs suggests Maholm was worth $9.9 million that year. Clearly, Maholm isn't an ace, and you shouldn't count on him to be more than a mid-rotation type, if that. But I still don't understand the way teams value him, and the enormous gap in reputation and market value between him and Arroyo is just bizarre.

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