The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

March 17, 2014

Thoma column: Perkins extension may not be such a relief over time

In the abstract, long-term contracts for relief pitchers are bad bets for teams.

Nobody seems to be too concerned about that rule of thumb when it comes to Glen Perkins’ new deal with the Twins.

The contract, worth more than $21 million in guaranteed money, binds the closer to his hometown team through 2017 and includes a team option for 2018.

It replaces the two years he had left on his contract and represents some $14 million in new money for the 31-year-old.

This, I suspect, will prove to be a better wager for Perkins than for the Twins.

The theoretical risk for Perkins is that he won’t get to test the free agent market in two years. It’s only a theoretical risk because there’s no guarantee that he’ll remain healthy and effective over those two years — and because there may not be a hot market for relief pitchers when the time comes.

The risk for the Twins? They’ve just invested in the proposition that Perkins will be their relief ace for the next four to five years.

Know how many current closers have held the gig for the same team more than two years? One, Craig Kimbrel of Atlanta. Know how many current AL closers are signed beyond 2014? Four, counting Perkins, and the other three (Joe Nathan of Detroit, Fernando Rodney of Seattle and Grant Balfour of Tampa Bay) just signed two-year deals as free agents.

The last time the Twins signed a closer to a four-year deal, it was Nathan, whose injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery erased one of those seasons and badly marred another.

True, Nathan’s deal was more than twice as hefty as Perkins’ — $47 million for Nathan, $21 million for Perkins. The “average annual value” of Perkins’ contract is just under $5.6 million. The Twins won’t be eager to eat that sum, but it wouldn’t cripple their budget if it comes to that.

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