Isringhausen would receive $7 million in 2005, $8.75 million in 2006 and $8.75 million in 2007, with a 2008 option valued at $8 million and a buyout for $1.25 million. The total guaranteed amount would be $25.75 million.
Izzy's current contract was to run through 2005, with a 2006 option and buyout similar to the one in the new deal. That will be superseded by this new contract.
Under that current deal, Izzy was due $9.25 million this season, with an additional $3 million that was deferred and booked last year. As a result, the Cards will save at least $2.25 million this season, or as much as $5.25 million if the deferral is included in the new deal (that is unknown at this time).
In return, Izzy gets basically two more years at a price that is commensurate with his spot as a closer just below the top tier. For example, Eric Gagne and Mariano Rivera each signed new deals since Izzy inked his initial Cardinals contract. Gagne will make $10 million with the Dodgers in 2006 and the Yankees' Rivera will bring home $10.5 million next year. In that context, $8.75 million for Izzy each of the next two years seems about par.
For the Cardinals to make this deal, it sends a strong signal that they believe Izzy's health problems are behind him. For that, most can be thankful, yet some will be apprehensive.
Still, when this new deal is done, the team will be counting on having a reliable closer through 2007 and likely 2008 in Jason Isringhausen.
Yes, it is a risk to sign Izzy to another long-term deal, given his history. I am checking with the team to understand what methods they employ for financial injury mitigation. However, all things considered, this is not a bad decision at all.
Here are ten reasons why I believe this deal is good for the Cardinals:
1) Fair market value. The above comparison of Izzy's deal to Rivera's and Gagne's makes this point.
2) Budget flexibility. Frees up money this season to potentially deploy elsewhere.
3) Lock him up. Izzy is still not over the hill at 32, and two more years is not excessive.
4) Still effective. Even with a bad hip, Izzy still was among the league leaders in saves last season with 47.
5) Effective closer needed. We've seen what happened in the past when the Cardinals tried to go without an established closer.
6) No one else readily available. What reliever is better in next year's free-agent market? The only other equivalent free agent closer coming available next off-season is Billy Wagner, who has his own injury history and makes more money than Izzy.
7) No obvious candidates from within. What reliever is better in the farm system? Sure, there are some young guns on the way, but none of them have specialized in closing and so, are unproven in the role.
8) Save the young guns for starting duties. Why convert a starter to relief when the future of the starting rotation is under question? In two years, Morris, Carpenter, Mulder, Suppan and Marquis could all be gone via free agency. The few in the pipeline who may make it (Ankiel, Wainwright, Reyes?) may be needed in the rotation, even if they could have made an effective transition to relief.
9) Increased payroll available. The team is starting to prepare for the increase in budget in conjunction with the new stadium and can afford to take some more prudent risk.
10) Protect and expand the team's core. The pitching staff had no long, multi-year deals like Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen do on the offensive side. I remain a believer that the Cardinals should start to lock up more of the team's leaders farther into the future.
There is risk, but there is also significant potential reward.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org