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Joe Musgrove was the San Diego Padres best starting pitcher last season from start to finish. He was the only one that stayed healthy the whole season, which certainly is part of the reason why he was so valuable to the team in 2021 despite the Friars’ inability to make it to the postseason in back to back seasons.
While most of the conversation after the lockout is going to be about how AJ Preller will try to improve the current club before Opening Day, he could help keep the club’s rotation strong for years to come by locking up Musgrove, who is scheduled to hit free agency at the end of the 2022 season.
While it might be beneficial for the Padres to concentrate on the current roster once the lockout is over considering the likeliness that Spring Training will start within weeks, Musgrove needs to be a Padre for the remainder or at least the majority of the remainder of his career. The guy made history by throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history after sitting in the stands as a kid watching Padres pitchers continuously fail at their quest to throw one.
On top of his historic feat, Musgrove is in the middle of his prime and can help the team win for many more years. It’s not like fans are asking the Padres to keep a 37-year-old on the team who is past his prime. Musgrove is the opposite of that, as he’s entering his age 29 season.
So what would an extension look like?
When trying to create possible extensions for players, it’s smart to look at the framework of recent extensions that similar players received from their respective teams. For Musgrove, his comparisons are Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins and Antonio Senzatela of the Colorado Rockies. Alcantara, 26, signed a five-year, $56 million extension with Miami this past December and Senzatela, 26, also signed a five-year extension but his deal is worth a little less at $50.5 million.
I know that Musgrove is three years older than both of them but if I were Preller I’d make Musgrove’s deal in the similar five or six-year range (so he’d be a Padre through age 34), but give around $70 million to him. I’d be comfortable doing this because there’s no signs of Musgrove slowing down. He’s actually ascending, as his ERA has decreased each of the past three years and he made over 30 starts in 2019 and 2021—the last two full baseball seasons.
This hypothetical extension would be at a $14 million average annual value (AAV), which is close to Musgrove’s career average dollar value. According to FanGraphs, Musgrove’s career dollar value average is $15.2 million—meaning he is worth about $15 million each season based on his career average WAR. The past couple of years, excluding the shortened 2020 season—his WAR has improved to over 3 wins, which has made FanGraphs value him at just over $26 million a year.
However, it isn’t likely the Padres would pay him $26 million a year for four or five seasons, as they can’t realistically expect Musgrove to stay healthy every season and continue to have an ERA under 3.4 for his entire five-year extension like he did last year. Therefore, I would have the average annual value decrease to the point where Musgrove is still getting paid well and Preller should still have some room to add payroll (assuming he has more flexibility with other contracts coming off the books in the future).
With this said, while I realize the Padres front office is smarter than any of us, if I were the owner of the Padres, I’d be willing to overpay for Musgrove to ensure he doesn’t even think about entering the free agent market next winter.
Question for the comments section: How would you structure a possible Musgrove extension?