A great, big tip of the cap to Zachary Levine for breaking this story about the Astros talking with Wandy Rodriguez's agents about a long-term extension. No figures or years were discussed here, but Wade does confirm what we've suspected for a while, that Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence will not be signed long-term yet.
As for Wandy, the left-hander will be 32 in early January and is entering his last arbitration year, which means he'll be a free agent at Age 33 after next season. How much should the Astros pay him? Well, that all depends on two key factors.
First, how do you value his performance? Wandy is unique in that he's had two breakout seasons after he turned 30, posting WARs of 4.0 and 3.6 according to FanGraphs. That's in stark contrast to his WAR totals the previous two seasons, which hovered right around 2.6. Either way, that WAR total would be pretty expensive on the open market. FanGraphs has his value at 14.6 million for 2010 and 17.9 million for 2009. Since he earned 2.6 million in 2009 and 5 million in 2010, it's safe to say he's a bargain. But, how much of a bargain will he be going forward?
That depends on how you think he will decline. Wandy gets a good chunk of his value from his amazing curveball. His fastball hovers right around 90 MPH and is not really his main pitch. It's that hammer curve that makes him so unhittable when it's on. Soft-tossing lefties tend to age well, and this piece by Dave Cameron at FanGraphs earlier today brings another piece to the discussion. If a pitcher loses velocity and relies mainly on the fastball, can we expect him to remain successful? Probably not. But, if a pitcher doesn't rely on said fastball? Well, Cameron doesn't go into that, but it's safe to say Wandy will age well because of his pitch selection as much as anything.
So, assuming he can post another 3.5 WAR season in 2011, what should we expect going forward? Two more seasons of a baseline of 3.0 WAR? Three more seasons of 2.5 or better? What's that worth? According to FanGraphs, those 2.6 WAR seasons were worth about 11 million per. Is it worth it to lock Wandy up with a three-year, 33 million dollar deal? That seems like a safe figure to pay him what he'll be worth over that time, without spreading the contract past the point he might start to decline. Would you offer him that? If you were Wandy and his agents, would you accept such an offer?