Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nate McLouth Signed to Extension

In a move that came out of left field (yes that would be a pun; deal with it) the Buccos signed All-Star and Gold Glove winning Center Fielder Nate McLouth to a 3 year contract extension earlier today. The full details of this extension are on the PBC Blog on the Post-Gazette website. (Quick Sidebar: Nothing, and I mean nothing can apparently stop DK from doing his job. Apparently he has a back issue that means he can't sit at all, yet he is reporting and blogging away on the PBC. The guy is good.)

Anyway this seems like a pretty low-risk deal for the Pirates. Personally, I think McLouth is headed for a bit of a regression season. That's not to say he's going to stink or anything like that or be the next Chris Duffy/Adrian Brown one-season-wonder in Center. I just don't think there is anyway he goes .276/.356/.497 again. That last number (slugging for those unaware) especially figures to come down. I just don't see him being a 26 HR guy. I think the 40+ doubles he had are a definite possibility again, but I'd expect 15-18 home runs, at an absolute ceiling for him. And if his minor league stats are any indiciation I wouldn't be surprised to see that batting average end up a bit lower and that OBP to come down, too. Still, there's nothing wrong with a .265/.340/.460 hitter so long as he isn't your top threat. (Which he is right now, by the way)

But the contract pays him a total of 3.5 million dollar total this year (thanks to a 1.5 million dollar signing bonus), 4.5 million next season, and 6.5 million and 2011. Those years are set in stone. The Bucs also have a club option for 2012 for 10.65 million dollars or they can buy him out for 1.25 million. There are also some escalator clauses in there, check the above link if you want the gritty details.

To me, this seems like a pretty solid deal for the Buccos. 3.5 mil this year and 4.5 mil next is a very good deal for a young player with upside like the 27 year old McLouth. Even if he regresses a bit these contract details are favorable even in the rough economic times right now. The 6.5 million in 2011 starts to get a bit pricey, especially if the Pirates are still struggling to get above .500. However, the way the Pirates are structuring their contracts these days, it seems pretty clear to me that they are planning on investing heavily in a contending him starting in 2011. Whether that is smart or not won't be determined for 2 more years, but its at least encouraging to see.

So all in all, this deal seems solid to me, as despite the fact that I think McLouth goes backward a bit, he's still an abover average major league outfielder, and there is always the very, very strong chance that I could be wrong about him. At 27 years old, he certainly wouldn't be the first outfielder to make another leap forward and maybe even improve upon last year's excellent numbers.

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