Pettitte’s back and an incentive-laden deal

A mid-Saturday Joba roundup
2009 Draft: KLaw's latest top 10 rumblings

When I heard that Andy Pettitte had to be taken out of the game last night due to a balk back, my thoughts first turned to Chien-Ming Wang. After burning through millions of pixels discussing the Yanks’ treatment of the erstwhile ace, it seemed all for naught. With one bad back, Wang would find himself back in the rotation by Wednesday.

Not according to Andy Pettitte. The Yanks’ veteran lefty maintains that he will make his next start. It’s just old age, he says about the back he aggravated in Texas. When asked by the beat writers if he would take a time out in five days, he replied, “No, no, no. I’ll be there.”

Now, Pettitte is not one to take himself out of the lineup when he’s injured. Last season, he pitched nearly two months with a sore shoulder, and his performance suffered because of it. This year, the Yankees are seemingly paying more attention to Pettitte’s aging body. Still, he will lobby hard to make his next start.

While Pettitte has long been a competitor, a note on Twitter from RAB reader dispatcher307 got me thinking. He wrote: “Andy will pitch his next start even if he shouldn’t. The downside to incentive-based contracts.”

That’s an astute observation about Andy Pettitte’s situation. Last season, Pettitte had the backing of a $16 million deal. This year, he signed for a $5.5 million base salary with numerous performance-based incentives. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Pettitte can earn up to $4.5 million in bonuses based on the number of innings he pitches and $2 million in roster bonuses based on time spent off the disabled list.

So far, Pettitte is on pace to throw around 205 innings this season. If he makes it to 210, he earns an additional $750,000. If he misses a start and doesn’t even reach the 200-inning mark, he’ll lose out on the 210 IP bonus as well as another $750,000 he earns at 200 innings pitched. So missing his next turn through the rotation on Wednesday could cost Pettitte up to $1.5 million. Of course he wants to make his next start.

In the end, the ultimate decision with rest with the Yankee coaches and medical staff. The team is concerned that Pettitte’s back is preventing him from finishing his pitches, something very evident in the sixth last night, and if the team feels that Pettitte puts himself at risk by pitching on Wednesday, he just won’t do it. “It’s something that we’ll have to watch over the next four days,” Girardi said. The money though watches over all.

email
A mid-Saturday Joba roundup
2009 Draft: KLaw's latest top 10 rumblings
  • Drew

    It may seem ignorant, but I highly doubt Pettitte’s reason for wanting the ball in 4 days is his incentives. He’s a pitcher, he’ll do what he does.

    • UWS

      Ignorant? Not at all.

      Naive? Quite possibly :)

      • whozat

        Maybe. But it’d be in line with the way he’s behaved over his entire career, when he had guaranteed money, so I’m not sure how much I’d buy the money angle.

      • Drew

        Yeah I shoulda used naive.

        • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

          Naive would be watching baseball for the last 20 years and thinking that money doesn’t play a role in players’ decisions. In the end, I think Andy wants to pitch because he has a sense of duty and is a competitor who wants to be out there. But the money always looms.

          • Drew

            Thats exactly what I said but I used ignorant instead.
            “It may seem ignorant, but I highly doubt Pettitte’s reason for wanting the ball in 4 days is his incentives. He’s a pitcher, he’ll do what he does.”
            I understand that these guys are out to make a buck, in this case, it is my opinion that the money had a 0 effect on him saying right after the game “I’ll make my next start.”

  • whozat

    I agree that the money adds another dimension to it, but Pettitte (and Jeter, incidentally) have always struck me as the kind of guys who need to be TOLD when they’re not healthy enough to play. I think Andy would try just as hard to be out there Wednesday even if he had last year’s contract.

    • Accent Shallow

      Completely agreed. While the money definitely gives it another angle, I am not sure Andy needs that extra motivation.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    I don’t know about the money argument. He pitches hurt with no incentives. We all know he’s a gamer.

  • Manimal

    I don’t think 4.5 million would make a difference to Andy pettitte’s life. Maybe his great grand kids.

  • http://thebaseballdiarist.wordpress.com Kaitlin B.

    The incongruity in this post is discussing that last season, with guaranteed money, he pitched hurt, so this season, without guaranteed money, he’s pitching hurt. Seems to me that Andy is consistent in his behavior and not all that worried about the money.

    • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Well, to be totally accurate, last year he had guaranteed money for 2008 but not for 2009. He was pitching for his next contract. So it’s really not all that different.

  • toad

    Missing one start isn’t going to cost him $1.5 million unless you think he would pitch eleven innnings. Not likely.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      Sorry. I wasn’t clear. He’s already due to fall short of the 210/$750,000 mark. If he misses this start, he’s pretty much guaranteed to miss 210 and will probably miss 200 as well. So $1.5 million off the books for him.

  • Anonymous

    Andy will pitch his next start even if he shouldn’t. The downside to incentive-based contracts.

    Sounds paradoxical and foolish above all else.

    Andy would be risking serious injury for incentive money, and risking even more incentive money by risking serious injury. To risk serious injury this early in the season far outweighs the reward. Either way, a serious injury now or later would cause him to lose money. Play it safe, pelican!

  • steve (different one)

    Pettitte took what, $8M less than the Yankee offer to sign in Houston?

    he honored a handshake agreement last offseason to come back on a 1 year deal when he could easily gone to the market for 2-3 years.

    i don’t know, this is a good piece about the downside risk of incentives in general, but specifically as it relates to Pettitte, i am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as to his motives.

  • http://www.theyankeeuniverse.com/ The Artist

    Ben, I think you contradicted yourself here.

    “That’s an astute observation about Andy Pettitte’s situation. Last season, Pettitte had the backing of a $16 million deal. This year, he signed for a $5.5 million base salary with numerous performance-based incentives. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Pettitte can earn up to $4.5 million in bonuses based on the number of innings he pitches and $2 million in roster bonuses based on time spent off the disabled list.”

    Wait a minute, he pitched hurt when he was guaranteed the 16 mil, and now he’s pitching hurt again, but this time because of the incentives in his deal? Isn’t it more plausible to assume that Andy is what everyone around the team says he is, a gamer who cares deeply about being there for his teammates and the organization?

    Futher, when he signed with Houston, the Yanks reported that they offered him 45 mil for 3 years, and he accepted 30 to play for Houston. The reason he cited at the press conference was “I gave my word to Mr McLayne” Doesn’t sound to me like a guy that’s motivated by money.

    • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      I don’t disagree with you overall, but I think my comment above applies to your first point: http://riveraveblues.com/2009/.....ent-405924

      • steve (different one)

        i agree with your point, BUT…there is also an argument that by not shutting it down last year, Pettitte was risking the entire rest of his career, however long that may be.

        so, while he was “pitching for a contract”, he was also risking the prospect of never seeing another dime.

  • UWS

    We like to think that baseball players do what they do for the love of the game, respect for the fans, commitment to the team, etc etc. But it is naive to think that money plays zero role in it. As much as we like to put our heroes on a pedestal, money ALWAYS figures into it.

    Last year, Andy pitched hurt because he didn’t want to let the team down. But it would be incredibly naive to think that he wasn’t also pitching for his next contract. Sure, that wasn’t the ONLY motivation, but make no mistake – it was *a* motivation. Just like it will be this year. Does it reflect poorly on Pettitte? Not at all, it just makes him human.

    • http://mantisfists.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/julius-carry-aka-shonuff.jpg The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Totally agree. Pettitte seems like a decent guy who truly cares about the team, but it would be a bit naive to think he doesn’t care about money, too. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • LateInningRelief

    What I don’t get is why, on the subject of Wang’s desire to start, Cash says, “His contract says baseball player, not pitcher,” yet on the subject of Andy’s starting despite a balky back, the organization is going to let a player call the shots.

    Pettitte has a history of playing hurt, to the detriment of his performance. We have a logjam in the rotation. Skipping Pettitte and giving him an extra 5 days to recuperate kicks the 6-man issue downstream a bit, by which point, a whole lot can change. Somebody else gets injured, Hughes gets shelled, Wang gets shelled. Who knows?

    I suspect this will work itself out without needing another debate about Joba going to the pen. If, in 4 weeks, all 6 of these guys are healthy and performing well, then deal with that then. I don’t think that will happen.

    • steve (different one)

      What I don’t get is why, on the subject of Wang’s desire to start, Cash says, “His contract says baseball player, not pitcher,” yet on the subject of Andy’s starting despite a balky back, the organization is going to let a player call the shots.

      don’t really see what one has to do with the other.

      the only way there would be an anology here would be if the yankees took Pettitte and stuck him in the bullpen b/c of his back.

      the Yankees ALREADY let Wang “call the shots” when he wasn’t totally up front with the yankees in spring training and kept telling the team he was physically 100%.

      but again, this isn’t about starter vs. reliever, which is what Cashman’s comments were about.

      • LateInningRelief

        It’s not an analogy, but an interesting parallel. And it has nothing to do with starter v reliever, but rather the way two different pitchers are being treated by the organization. On the one hand, Cashman took a needlessly harsh tone with Wang on a matter where there was no reason for him to do so. On the other hand, the team appears to be letting Pettitte decide whether he’ll make his next start, which it probably shouldn’t, for the reasons I outlined above.

  • GG

    750k? Please. Hank spends that on a ham sandwich, I don’t think it will factor in all that much.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      Hank has absolutely nothing to do with this. Or really anything concerning the Yankees anymore.

  • Edwardian

    Another aspect of this discussion is that the team has the same amount of money on the line as Pettitte does. Teams have been known to limit playing time for a player to prevent them from earning bonuses or from having option years on a contract kick in to effect. I don’t think that the Yankees will do that here. The biggest difference between last year and now is that last year the rotation was anorexically thin due to injuries and this year the Yanks have six other viable starters (CC, AJ, Hughes, Joba, Wang and Aceves) healthy, on the roster and ready to go.

  • chriso

    I wouldn’t get too worked about this “injury,” just yet.
    Pettitte’s back tightened up on him. He had a spasm. That’s usually not a very serious thing at all.
    It doesn’t mean he’s got a disc problem, or that he’s going to need time on the DL. If he had a significant injury, he certainly wouldn’t have been riding a bicycle today, because he’d have been too uncomfortable.
    So let’s chill.
    And the talk about the money seems kind of silly to me. Sure, a million bucks is a ton of dough to most people. But Pettitte already has many millions. I really don’t think he’d risk throwing it all away for another million. After all, if he winds up pitching for the rest of the season like he has, thus far, he’s going to throw 185-200 innings, win 14-16 games with an ERA at better than league average, have an opportunity to win another World Series, and get rewarded with another $10mil in 2010.

  • Some call me…tim

    I would love to see the roster in flux for a week…push andy back two starts instead of skipping his next. Throw Wang in against the weakest pitcher of the next three or four, then we get to see Wang rock or get rocked, give Andy a couple days, and finish up a 37 game win streak.

    Anybody know of any blogs or sites that talk more about MLB or NYY sportsmedicine? I’d love to learn more about their treatment.

  • Andrew

    Here’s the problem, even if Pettitte is not thinking about the money, he might be concerned about ulterior motives from the yankees management to limit his innings. Say the doctors truly think there is a problem but Pettitte might suspect that they just want him to miss his incentives. This could cause unnecessary tension in the organization.

  • fred

    I only agree that “Cashman took a needlessly harsh tone with Wang on a matter where there was no reason for him to do so.”. Baseball origrins for fun, now a big business. Cashman’s words made it too much politics as well as lost Wang’s loyalty to Yankees.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

      Organized baseball’s origins are in business, plan and simple. To think otherwise is to glorify nostalgia. I doubt Wang’s loyalty to the Yanks was lost because of one throwaway sentence from Cashman.

      • LateInningRelief

        You’re right. Wang’s a big boy. This will blow over & be long forgotten when Wang rebounds. But why kicck a guy when he’s down? That’s the question.

  • Jaysun

    Looks like the Case Tonight against the Rangers, asshole allowed 4 runs and 6 walks

  • Pingback: Yanks homer their way to series victory | River Avenue Blues