Why yes, I am playing the Clash as I start to write this.
Here's the deal.
As things stand now, Justin Duchscherer is a year and a half from becoming a free agent for the first time in his pro career. He will be 31 when that happens, his 32nd birthday will be right around the corner. And as much love as Duke may have towards the Oakland organization he will know that he has one shot at landing a big payday before his career is over. Chances are he'll get more money to play somewhere other then Oakland and he will leave the A's.
The A's rarely keep their free agents once they taste the free market.
There are those on AN who are fine with that outcome. They would say that we should enjoy Duke for one more full season and then bid him farewell and take the draft picks as compensation. I assure you, in conversation they will say the A's will get 2 1st round picks in return for letting Duke go. Now I'm certain that Duke will put up numbers that will earn him Type A free agent status, so that's not the issue. No, the issue is Barry Zito. See, I spent a year listening to people say again and again that the A's should keep Zito till his 6 years were up and then let him walk as a free agent. For a year people were telling me that getting 1 more year of performance out of Zito, plus two 1st round draft picks, was a better deal then trading Barry. Maybe they were right.
Not that we'd know because Zito signed with Giants, a team so bad they weren't forced into surrendering their 1st round pick to sign a marquee FA like Barry Zito so instead of enjoying 2 1st round picks the A's got a Sup 1 plus a 2nd round pick for their troubles. That bit.
I have no desire to experience the same damn thing with Duke.
So I say trade Duke or sign him to an extension and you do it before July 31st rolls around.
First the arguement for trading Duke.
If it was ever Beane's intention to trade Duke, now is the time. He will never have more trade value then he has now. Two time All-Star, leading all SP in ERA and playing for a team in contention. Even better for a buyer, Duke will be under their control through 2009. There is a limited supply of reliable SP available on the trade market and the two most desired arms have already been moved to contenders. I repeat, Justin Duchscherer will never have more trade value then he has right now! He might just be the best arm available.
Now the arguement for signing Duke to an extension.
I propose a 3 year/$30 million guaranteed deal with a team controlled 4th year option at $10 million. Let me break down how the money would be distrubuted, 'cause this is a key point in what makes the deal so attractive for the A's. My plan includes a $6 million signing bonus paid in full THIS season. Total 2008 salary expenditure for Duke: $7.2 million.
2009-2011: $7 million annual salary.
2012: Team controlled $10 million option with a $3 million buy-out. I look at this as saying the A's are willing to pay Duke another $7 million to pitch 1 more season for them.
Total payout (assuming option is activated): 4 years/$37 million.
A year and a half from now, Duke shouldn't have any problem landing a $9 million annual deal on the free agent market. My plan pays Duke the same figure, only he gets more cash earlier and the A's get to spread the payment of a 3 year guaranteed deal out over 5 seasons at roughly $7 million annual.
So the deal sounds fine fiscally, how about in terms of performance? Well, PECOTA is going to have to re-do their projections since Duke is now a SP but cominh into this season they weren't projecting any drop-off in performance through 2009 and only a slight dip in 2010. 2011 could see a decline but that's also the last guaranteed year on the proposed deal. Duke will be 33 in 2011, not so old that we need to worry about a dramatic drop-off in his stuff. Assuming Duke doesn't lose his command and control (which seems unlikely) his performance shouldn't be a negative. And in case there is a drop-off you can let him walk after the season.
As I see it, both options have their merits. The only plan that is truly open to suckitude is the one that stays the course and lets him walk as a FA after the 2009 season.