The New York Mets are the latest team to lock up a promising young player with a long term extension, signing left-handed pitcher Jon Niese to a 5 year deal worth $25.5M with a team option for a sixth year at for $10M and a seventh year for $10.5. That brings the possible deal up to seven years and $46M should the Mets decide to hang on to Niese after the initial five year term.
The deal appears to be a steal for the New York Mets, especially when compared to some of the other big money contracts given to pitchers this off-season. Niese is 24 years old and will be entering his third full season in the Mets rotation in 2012. While his 4.39 ERA is 15% worse then league average, Niese has shown peripherals skills that suggest he is a good deal better than average. His strike out is good at 7.65 K/9 and he does hurt himself too much with free passes, limiting his walks to 2.99 BB/9 in his 370.2 career innings pitched. He also keeps the ball earth-bound, with an excellent 49.1% ground ball rate. In 2011, he had a mediocre ERA, but his FIP and xFIP, both of which are better predictors of future success were excellent. His 3.38 FIP was 10% better than average and his xFIP was even better at 3.27. A high batting average on balls in play hurt his ERA as did a higher than expected home run rate.
While Niese’s strike out and walk rates are very comparable to the recently extended Matt Cain, he receives less than a quarter of what the San Francisco Giants pitcher received. Cain signed a 5 year $112.5M extention with the Giants on Monday. Niese has yet to prove himself the way Cain has, but he has shown underlying skills that are equal to the far wealthier righty. Niese’s deal is much closer to the one given to Texas Ranger’s lefty Derek Holland, who signed a five year, $28.5M extension on March 20.Holland’s deal also included two team option years.
The deal makes sense for Niese as well. The lefty was set to enter the first year of arbitration in 2013 and would not have reached free agency until 2016. This deal will dramatically increase his salary this season as he would still be making league minimum for 2012 and guarantees the young pitcher his first multi-million-dollar payday. While this deal will be extremely team-friendly if Niese can remain healthy and produce the way his skills say he can, the pitcher is now secure and well-paid for the near future. It has the potential to be a great value for the Mets, but it hard to say this deal is a mistake for Jon Niese.