Though it’ll still have to be a while before the baseball fan community at large apologizes to the Los Angeles Dodgers for giving them so much grief after signing Andrew Heaney, perhaps that day will eventually come.
Heaney, who had a career-worst 2021 season, is apparently viewed as untapped potential in some capacity, despite the fact he’s heading into his age-31 campaign. We’ll believe it when we see it.
However, the Dodgers paid a small price (though some thought it was much more than he deserved) of one year and $8.5 million for the left-hander. It did seem like LA jumped the gun, especially because Heaney was quite literally the first free agent signed when the season ended.
It appears as if it was just president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman getting ahead of the market. Heaney didn’t exactly have much of a leg to stand on, but you never know how much the cost could’ve increased had the Dodgers waited.
Dodgers Free Agency: Comparing Andrew Heaney and James Paxton contracts
On the surface, that sounds like a speculative statement. And you’d probably be right. But we have a situation we can directly reference.
Later on in November, the Boston Red Sox signed fellow lefty starter James Paxton to a one-year, $10 million contract, which also includes a team option for two years and $26 million for 2023 and 2024, bringing the totality of the deal to a potential three years and $36 million.
An important note here: Paxton underwent Tommy John surgery in late April. His best-case scenario might be pitching for half of the 2022 season. On the other hand, Heaney is completely healthy and will be an experiment of sorts in the back of the rotation as the Dodgers try to get more arms to eat innings.
But even more concerning with Paxton, notwithstanding his ceiling being exponentially higher than Heaney’s, is that he has further durability concerns. He’s never pitched in 30 games or more than 160.1 innings in a single season since debuting in 2013. He’s suffered hip, back and arm injuries since the 2019 season, limiting him to 35 total games (172.1 innings).
So, in summation, the Red Sox are paying $10 million for (likely) a half-season of Paxton and then will be faced with a two-year, $26 million decision based off of a limited sample size. To each his own, but who would you rather have?
Heaney, who has pitched 90 games since the start of 2018 and possesses upside with his fastball spin rate, for $1.5 million cheaper, or a complete wild card in Paxton based on his lengthy injury history and reconstructive elbow surgery?
We’re not exactly saying either one was a “good” decision, but it’s clear the Dodgers inherited much less risk and more reliability at a better price.