Roger Clemens is expected to earn about $8,900 for each pitch he throws for the New York Yankees this season. Not bad for a 44-year-old man who hasn’t been on a mound in a game since last fall.
—The Yankees have made a habit of dishing out or trading for large contracts of top-notch players, but Clemens’ deal for around $18.5 million for just four months of work prompts a question about the bottom line: Is he worth it?
Clearly, the Yankees ownership and front office think so, or they wouldn’t have signed him. And their goals — to make the playoffs and compete for a World Series title every year e equally clear, even as the team stumbled through one of its worst opening months in history.
“Roger Clemens is a winner and a champion, and he is someone who can be counted on to help make this season one that all Yankees fans can be proud of,” Steinbrenner said in a statement issued by the team. “The sole mission of this organization is to win a world championship.”
In addition to the $18.5 million paid to Clemens, the Yankees are likely to pay an additional $7.5 million in luxury taxes back to the league. The $26 million total is more than the average annual salary of any current player, including Alex Rodriguez, Clemens’ new teammate and the highest-paid player in baseball.
Several analysts who have studied the deal agreed that for the contract to be even close to worth it, Clemens will need to vault the Yankees into the playoffs and win at least one series. That’s a tall order for someone who will appear only once every fifth day.
But it’s not unreasonable to expect Clemens will pull that off, said Vince Gennaro—cq, a consultant for the Cleveland Indians and author of the recent book “Diamond Dollars.”
Gennaro, a former corporate executive, said his statistical models show that Clemens will provide the Yankees with about six additional wins, which could represent the difference between a playoff berth and sitting at home in October. Those playoff games have been shown to result in between $25 million and $30 million in added revenue for a team t what the Yankees are paying to bring Clemens on board.
“If you’re looking at 90 wins without him and 96 wins with him, those are some pretty crucial wins,” Gennaro said.
Clemens’ value to the Yankees is enhanced, he said, when it is taken into consideration that not only were the rival Red Sox also bidding for his services, but the Yankees need to continue winning to maintain ticket demand in anticipation of the team’s new ballpark, set to open in 2009.
Other analysts are less enamored with the deal, in part because the Yankees are unlikely to see much of an increase in attendance because they already sell out most home games.
“To me, it definitely reflects a certain level of panic,” said Nate Silver, executive vice president of Baseball Prospectus, a group that publishes statistical analysis of baseball. “If everything goes perfect, it’s probably an OK deal. But there’s not much chance for surplus there.”
Baseball Prospectus projects Clemens to make about 21 starts with an ERA of about 3.50. The group said that in a typical free agent market, those numbers would command a contract worth about $8.5 million.
“That’s a far cry from what they are actually paying him,” Silver said.
Baseball Prospectus also was less optimistic about Clemens’ impact on the team’s success on the field. The group said that Clemens would add between just one and two wins over Kei Igawa, who he is replacing in the Yankees’ rotation.
Protrade, a company based in San Mateo, Calif., that operates a fictional “sports stock market” for fans, said shares of the Yankees have risen about 7.5 percent after the Clemens signing. That increase suggests that most fans expect a difference of about three or four wins, company vice president Jeff Maname said.
J.C. Bradburyconomist and professor of sport science at Kennesaw State University and author of “The Baseball Economist: The Real Game Exposed,” said four months of Roger Clemens should be worth about $12 million to a team. But he also acknowledged that Clemens may offer the Yankees things that his statistical analysis doesn’t take into account, such as the value of veteran leadership or the unique characteristics of the New York market.
Analysts who have studied the deal also said determining Clemens’ value is tricky because there are so few pitchers to draw comparisons with. Nolan Ryan, a power pitcher like Clemens, went 5-9 with a 3.72 ERA in 27 starts for the Rangers in 1992 at age 45cq-stats. A season later, Ryan went 5-5 in 13 starts with a 4.88 ERA. Phil Niekro and Charlie Hough has success past age 45 but threw the knuckleball.
“On the face of it, this is a lot more than what I’m stating that he should be paid,” Bradbury said. “But there’s probably nobody who has his kind of starpower who is also that good.”