Robertson extended for 3 years

Nate RobertsonThe Tigers have signed Nate Robertson to a 3 year deal for $21.25 million. The Freep has the break down on the dollars.

Robertson will earn $4.25 million this year, $7 million in 2009 and $10 million in 2010. He would earn $11 million in the third year of the deal if he throws a combined 400 innings in 2008 and 2009 or 200 innings in 2009.

I’ll have more later.

Notes from the call

  • No Dombrowski on the call. He’s on his way to the owners meetings. John Westhoff spoke for the front office
  • Contract negotiations took place over the last 2 to 3 weeks
  • Club is happy that 4 of the 5 pitchers are under contract/control for the next 3 years and think it is important.
  • Nate’s excited to be on the best team he’s ever been part of, especially considering where they came from[2003].
  • Robertson scaled back on his off-season throwing to try and be fresher during the season.
  • It still hasn’t really hit him, a boy from a small town in Kansas, that he’s playing baseball and has a deal like this. He said it’s a humbling experience.
  • Apparently Nate has a reputation of being frugal, and when questioned it brought about much laughter. He retorted that he didn’t need a fancy car to feel good about himself.

It’s later

To me this is yet another deal in which the Tigers agree to a deal that seems to be very fair. Robertson is probably a slightly below average pitcher that accumulates at or around 200 innings per year. Not outstanding to be sure, but those types of guys are far from common as well.

The Tigers are buying out Robertson’s last two years or arbitration eligibility and his first year of free agency. The way the contract shakes out it looks like the Robertson is giving the team a break of about $1 million dollars this year, but it looks like he’ll get it back in the 3rd year of the contract. Inflation will likely make the $10 million look reasonable, but Robertson will be 3 years older at that point and probably won’t be as effective while being more of an injury risk.

Sabernomics (h/t MLBTR) thinks the Tigers didn’t receive enough of a discount to make the 3 year commitment. Normally I’d rebut with cost certainty, but I think that’s less of an issue with Robertson than many players. Nate has been quite consistent season to season with a K/BB ratio of 1.88, 2.04, 1.89 the last 3 years and a similarly consistent home run rate. I don’t see a breakout year happening for Nate in his age 30 season so it’s not like his contract would accelerate if the Tigers waited a year.

Still, there is a case to be made for making this deal. The Tigers aren’t likely to match Robertson’s production at a cheaper rate over at least the next 2 years. There isn’t anything close to a sure thing in the minors with the departures of Andrew Miller and Jair Jurrjens. Yorman Bazardo, Jordan Tata, and Virgil Vasquez could step in, but the Tigers don’t want to be dealing with “coulds” and “replacement levels” given what they’ve invested into this team. With a payroll that is already over $120 million this year which will top $135 before all is said and done, and $95 million already committed in 2009 (assuming Renteria’s option is picked up) a proven free agent pitcher is out of the question. Given the farm system a trade isn’t likely to bring back a better return either.

Then there is the fact that the organization has shown a loyalty to its players and the front office has established a pretty solid reputation. For a team that lost 119 games five years ago, the front office has cultivated a remarkable turn around in player’s perceptions of the team. While loyalty can lead to bad business decisions for the deal at hand, there could be longer term benefits.

More reactions


  1. Dave

    January 16, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    And he’s worth every penny! …ugh.

  2. Kathy

    January 16, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    He’ll be fine.

  3. Jonathon

    January 16, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Good deal for himself and the team. This is a steal now for pitching and especially in a few years with the way the market is rising.

  4. Chris in Nashville

    January 16, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    I still think he’s the weak link in the starting rotation, but this seems like a fair deal for both sides. Hopefully he can become more consistent. Now lets get Miggy and Grandy locked up long term and I’ll be feeling REALLY good about things.

  5. Rings

    January 16, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    Wow. All the activity this off-season is either going to be the envy of baseball over the next half-decade…or be a salary albatross around the neck of the franchise over the next few years (Post ’97 Higgy/JT/Easley/Clark anyone?) if these players don’t stay healthy or perform.
    Let’s hope for the former…only a catcher, Miggy and, ultimately, Verlander to go…

    Go Tigers!!

  6. Kevin in Austin

    January 16, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    I really like Nate, who wouldn’t. He’s got that tough guy, skid stopper mentality about him. Problem is that he’s actually a very average pitcher, and I feel that we are overpaying vs. arbitration in years 2 and 3, though I guess Dombro is back-loading it since we’ll have no Kenny then and possibly no Sheffield (amongst others).

    BTW, a quick look at BP focusing on AL pitchers with 150+ IPs (realize that not just anyone pitches 150 IPs, but still) Nate ranked 35th out of 44 last year (with Bondo just behind him at 38). Changing the sort to 100 IPs, Nate is 38th (Bondo drops to 46th).

    That said, $20M could arguably be good insurance against a depleted farm system to ensure that we have a 4/5 for the next 3 years.

  7. Chris in VA (formerly Chris Y.)

    January 16, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Given the value for a guy like Nate will increase dramatically over the three years, I like it.

    Free agents in that price range can’t hold a candle to Nate, especially as an entire package. Good player, fierce competitor, nice guy, good role model.

  8. K-man

    January 16, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Nate’s my kind of guy. He’s a battler. I like the fact that he lives here year round. I especially liked the comment that he didn’t need a fancy car to feel good about himself. We need more people like that. A LOT more.

  9. David

    January 16, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    “For his career, he’s 24-22 with a 3.87 ERA and .722 OPS allowed before the All-Star break, compared to 18-33 with a 5.30 ERA and .826 OPS in the second half. He has traditionally had a rigorous offseason training program, but pitching coach Chuck Hernandez asked him to give himself more rest this winter before starting into his workout routine.”

    I hope he doesn’t start throwing til’ ST

    A good guy you can tell and as I said – the nicest/friendliest guy I met at the Tigerfest.

  10. David

    January 16, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Also who do you think (assuming they get the same RS) will have the better record next year?

    Robertson or Bonderman or Willis?

    And how many QS are we looking at per guy?

    Hard questions to answer

  11. Jim

    January 16, 2008 at 10:19 pm

    Considering Gil Meche’s recent contract I think this looks good.

  12. Dave

    January 16, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    “Considering Gil Meche’s recent contract I think this looks good.” I’m not sure how that provides any perspective. Meche had a far better year last year than Robertson has ever had in his life.

  13. Jim

    January 17, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Apoligies, I meant Meche’s track record before last season when he signed that deal.

  14. The Spot Starters

    January 17, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Seems to me they could have just kept him over the next two years and then worked something out. $10 million three years from now is what really worries me.

  15. Eric Cioe

    January 17, 2008 at 9:53 am

    I bet this starts looking a lot better two years from now, when a lot of the team will probably be gone. At least this provides some solidarity in our rotation. Good signing.

  16. Ryan

    January 17, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Seems like a good deal for both sides. Cheaper than a durable, league-average lefty in free agency; and a guy who wants to be here to boot. And Nate gets the my-kids-never-have-to-work money. Seems like by the end of this contract, $10 will be a bit of a bargain for a quality lefty fifth starter.

  17. Ryan

    January 17, 2008 at 10:49 am

    I mean $10 mill. $10 would definitely be a great deal for the Tigers.

  18. Scott

    January 17, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I, like most of you, really think a lot of Nate. Good guy and a decent pitcher. He does frustrate me, though. I think he has good stuff and should be a bit better than he is … something like 12-15 wins and an ERA around 3.5. Am I overestimating his skills?

  19. BobS.

    January 17, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    It’s alot for a fifth starter,but he’s also a #5 who eats innings,is relatively consistent from start-to-start, and could pitch higher in the rotation for most other teams in baseball.Not to mention the intangibles mentioned above.
    I’m assuming the reason we haven’t heard from don yet is that he’s in a state of catatonic rage over the fact that Robertson won’t have to take a bus to the stadium or plow driveways in the off-season.

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  21. T Smith

    January 17, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    I’m curious to see how Nate will stack up given a less vigorous throwing regiment during the off-season. Frankly, he looked extremely medicore to sub-par last year. But I also reserve a modicum of confidence in him after watching his 2006 campaign, during which he received absolutely no run suppport.

    This contract has the potential to make Dombrowski look both like a genius or a dolt. I’m on the fence, but leaning toward approving of the deal. I think Robertson will pleasantly surprise in 2008 and will figure out how to optimize his ability in the latter-half of his carreer.

  22. Dave

    January 17, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Jim, you’re right. Predicting Meche’s ’07 success based on his track record would have been roughly equivalent to predicting success for Robertson now. He did show traces of brilliances in ’06, after all.

  23. Dave

    January 17, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    in terms of next year, I think the order of success will go Bonderman, Willis, and then Robertson. But then, I predict a breakout for Bonderman every damn year.

  24. Jim

    January 18, 2008 at 12:30 am

    lol everyone predicts a breakout year for bonderman every year

  25. Mark L

    January 18, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Of course we all hope for a great year from all our guys. That’s what it takes to win it all in such a competitive league. I do seem to remember in 2006 Robertson pitching well in some difficult situations. He seemed to rise to the occasion when necessary. Let’s hope he can string together a great year. Contract seems like a good deal. He will probably be number 5 this year, number 4 next year, so we will need him even more.

  26. Dan

    January 18, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Nate is a great guy who gets some of the lowest run support of pitchers in the AL. In 2006, he was in the bottom five for starters. I think he has developed an attitude of I need to be very good to get a win because I can only count on 2-3 runs from my teammates.

    That is no way to pitch as you tend to nibble and then walk people. Then you HAVE to come in with a strike and virtually ANY Major League can hit a ball if they know it is going to be a strike.

    I hope this allows Nate to relax a little, and with the lineup behind him this year, even with 5 guys having an “off” night, they’ll be good for 5-6 runs for him.

    Of Dontrelle, Bondo, Kenny, and Nate—Nate is the one Pitcher this year that will surprise people and win 16-17 games….

    He’s also the kind of person that will work harder now that he has the “big contract”….stay within yourself, Nate, and “go get’em Tiger!”….

  27. Mike R

    January 19, 2008 at 4:09 am

    lol everyone predicts a breakout year for bonderman every year

    And everyone is rightful to. The breakout year was happening last year.

    His first 18 starts last year through July 19th: 10-1, 3.53 ERA, 119.2 IP, 117 H, 25 BB, 109 K, 1.19 WHIP, .681 OPS against.

    From July 24th through Sept. 9th, he only made 10 starts: 1-8, 8.23 ERA, 54.2 IP, 76 H, 23 BB, 36 K, 1.81 WHIP, .977 OPS against.

    July 29th, he had the big meltdown on Sunday night baseball on ESPN in Anaheim where he went 2.1 IP and gave up 9 hits and 11 runs. That is when I (and Billfer has said) think his elbow inflammation started. That would explain the fact that his first 18 starts yielded a 4.36 K/BB ratio and a 1.57 ratio in his final 10 starts. His control was effected, but his velocity wasn’t. I think he was over throwing to keep his velocity which caused him to be wild.

    Conversely, someone like Nate who had a bum shoulder and saw his velocity dropping but his control wasn’t slipping beyond his norms because he wasn’t over throwing. His shoulder simply wouldn’t allow him to throw his normal low 90’s velocity and that is when he got burned because he can’t live on 86-88 with his fastball since his slider and change aren’t overly dynamic.

    Bonderman will blow any doubters away, provided he stays healthy, which is a mild concern.

  28. David

    January 19, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    If any of our players stay healthy it would have been a plus

    Ie last year


    to name a few

    If someone gets hurt in ST or during the season next year you can all but expect their stats to take a dive and/or go in the craper if they continue to play through them

    I think if Nate can even get league average run support and stay healthy he could win 17ish games out of 32 starts

    As far as Bonderman goes right now I’d love to trade him for Kazmir straight up. I hope I am not saying that a year from now.

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