Dodgers sign Brandon League to a 3-year, $22.5 million deal + Analysis

Brandon League has signed a three-year, $22.5 million deal with the Dodgers, according to MLB.com and … everybody.

The Dodgers re-signed reliever Brandon League to a three-year contract for $22.5 million Tuesday, and general manager Ned Colletti said the right-hander will be the closer.

MLB Trade Rumors provides further information on the option.

10:24pm: The 2016 vesting option can escalate from $7.5MM to $9MM based on games finished, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (via Twitter). League can also earn an additional $500K per year based on games finished.

8:27pm: League’s option for 2016 is worth $7.5MM and will vest if he finishes 55 games in 2015, tweets Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.

Not that worried about the option because I doubt it’s going to be a factor given the volatility of the position. Even if it does come into play, that means his contract to that point has been a rousing success, so I don’t see it as an issue.

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As some of you know, I wrote about this potential deal the other day, and I still don’t feel much different.

League is a career 3.60 ERA and 3.81 FIP reliever, while the average reliever put up a 3.67 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 2012. Both his career strikeout and walk rates aren’t anything to write home about, clocking in a 6.71 K/9 and 3.10 BB/9. So there’s immediate concern there that he’s basically a solid, average reliever.

The upside is that he’s posted a 2.78 FIP in 2011 and a 3.19 FIP in 2012, but he has proven to be anything but consistent over his career, and his mechanics fade in and out seemingly at random, so choosing him as the guy to invest multiple years in seems like an iffy plan at best.

Factor in the recent history regarding relievers on multi-year deals, and it looks downright frightening.

Since 2009, when he became a full-time reliever, he has posted WAR totals of 0.7, 0.3, 1.1, and 1.0. So value-wise, the team is basically paying him like he’s about to have career years in all of 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Additionally, he struggles against lefties (.765 OPS LHB/.590 OPS RHB), which Jose Valverde showed could be a disaster in the making. It’s problematic if League is deployed as the closer, which Ned Colletti apparently plans to do, and Don Mattingly probably won’t be able to work around the platoon split because he isn’t exactly known as a keen bullpen strategist.

Hell, throw the statistics out of the window if you want. This is a guy who lost his job as a closer with the Mariners LAST YEAR, and now he’s being signed to hold onto the job for three years in the face of multiple pitchers who are already better than him.

And yeah, I’ve heard about the gigantic payroll and how overpaying him doesn’t matter and yadda yadda yadda. I’ll address those notions in a separate post, but for now I’ll just say that it’s hard for me to simply wish away the specifics of this contract in a bout of cognitive dissonance because I want to believe in the fairy tale that payroll efficiency doesn’t matter.

Look, he’ll probably be a fine reliever, just like Jamey Wright was in 2012 (seriously, I was wrong about him, compare the two in 2012), but unless something drastic changes in 2013, he’s not worth the money he’ll be getting, and I just continue to wonder when that trend catches up with the team.

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