I have been wondering where Mark Prior was going to land and for how much. Last week, during a radio interview, I was asked what I thought Prior would be worth. His story is intriguing. Unfortunately, I don’t have my numbers in front of me, so this is all from memory. In 2002 and 2004-2006, Prior was a $5-6 million pitcher—good, but nothing to get excited about. It’s 2003, when he was an $18 million pitcher, that has us drooling. In 2007, he didn’t pitch at all. This is quite a range in performance.
The San Diego Padres are the big winners. They are paying $1 million guaranteed, with the possibly of over $2 million in incentives, to gamble on Prior. As long is he is somewhat healthy, this is a good deal for the Padres. However, that this is the best deal he could get and that the Cubs were not willing to risk paying him $3.5 million in arbitration tells me that MLB teams are skeptical that Prior will be healthy in 2008. That zero in 2007 is weighing heavily in GM’s minds.
Also interesting is that Prior did not agree to a team option, which probably would have netted him some more guaranteed money. I think this indicates personal confidence in his health, and therefore Prior didn’t want to give up any of his future earnings. It looks like 2008 will be an audition. If he shows signs of being healthy early on, I look for the Padres to go after an extention, and I think Prior will be eager to listen. $1 million is far less than he thought he would be making at this stage in his career.