Prior Returns Home to San Diego

The Padres have signed right-hander Mark Prior to a 1-year deal worth a guaranteed $1 million plus incentives that vary depending on whom you ask. ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the total package could be worth “over $3 million”, while Dan Hayes at the North County Times places the high end at $5.5 million.

Quoth GM Kevin Towers:

Mark Prior is a competitor and is working hard to regain the form that made him one of the great young pitchers in the game.

The good news is that Prior is 27 years old and has name recognition. The bad news is everything else. He made nine ugly (1-6, 7.21 ERA) big-league starts in 2006 and missed all of 2007 after April shoulder surgery.

You can look at Prior’s 2003 season (18-6, 2.43 ERA) and dream of enjoying a World Series game at Petco Park in October. Heck, you can pin a Farrah Fawcett poster on your wall and pretend it’s 1976. Both are kind of fun in their own way.

I’m putting the over-under at 50 innings and hoping that I’ll be pleasantly surprised. On the bright side, Towers has made me look stupid more times than I can count for questioning his pitching moves over the years; maybe he’ll do it again. If not, hey, at least it didn’t cost much.

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29 Responses »

  1. I really like the Prior signing but I really wish they could have got an option for next year as well (I know Prior did not want one). Maybe make it a mutual option where if he pitches 100+ innings its a player option and if he pitches 100- innings its a team option, but its to late now.

  2. We could put together a 5 man rotation with just our rehab projects: Wolf, Hensley, Rusch, Estes and Prior. The Prior move is like stopping at the roulette table on your way out of the casino and putting 10 bucks on a single number: you’ve already assumed you’re going to lose but if you win you’ll look like a genius. Or just incredibly lucky.

  3. What really makes me hopeful about the Prior signing is that he aknowledged having long-term guaranteed money deals with more value elsewhere. Yet he still refused.

    If he was really hurt and he knew he was done, he probably would take more guaranteed money and get paid now.

    However, Prior’s actions seem to suggest that he believes he’ll be completely capable of bouncing back and being healthy. Prior clearly believes he’ll put up numbers that are good enough to get him paid next off-season.

    Hopefully this guy is really this tuned-in to his body and will be able to throw 100+ innings for us this year. If he does this (and with the training staff and Black as a manager, I think the odds of him feeling better quicker), then this could absolutely be the signing of the off-season.

    Again, our worst pitcher by July could be Greg Maddux. How great of a problem is that?

  4. 2: Wow! That is sort of scary/discouraging, but yet exciting/encouraging. I think it was a Beane quote from Moneyball that goes something like, “Baseball is a war of attrition and what’s being attrited is pitchers’ arms.” Having all of those arms, even if they’re not all healthy right now, is not a bad thing.

  5. 2: Why do I keep expecting Andy Ashby to reappear?

  6. Re: 5 or sterling hitchcock?

  7. #2 – great annalogy….

    Prior signing is irrelevant… does anyone really think he’ll do anything. It’s like signing a paper bag, or a sign post to a contract as they’ll contribute as much as him.

  8. Putting $10 down to win $100 one out of every five times is a smart bet every time even though 80% of the time it doesn’t work out. So while some may criticize KT if Prior doesn’t work out or say he just got lucky if it does, this morning I applaud another smart and calculated decision by the FO.

  9. It’s only $1m for Prior so even if it doesn’t work out it’s not a bad move. By most reports, the earliest he could be ready is mid-May so it’s not like much is expected out of him. Whether or not Prior’s career is finished, he’s still worth taking a gamble on because of his talent — go back and look at his stats from 2003 (when he was only 22!)

  10. I agree with Phantom. The fact that Prior wanted a 1 year deal makes me think he thinks he’s fixed. All you people bashing the signing IMO are out of your minds. What did we risk here if it doesn’t work out? About 1/80th of our projected payroll. Come on! If Prior is half the pitcher he was a couple of years ago he will be a better option than Germa-Stauff-Casse-Dezzma-Ompson was last year. I don’t see how people are finding a way to bitch and moan. You know a lot of blame for Prior’s history of injuries can be blamed on Dusty Baker, Marcus Giles and Brad Hawpe but people act like he was out there hurting himself or not trying and I just don’t get it. He may have not been conditioned properly and that may have had something to do with it but when you have a manager that clearly made a career out of overworking young pitchers, pretty rough collision directly on your throwing shoulder and then take a line drive off a power hitter that breaks your elbow I tend to have some sympathy for the guy.

  11. 10: On the injury front, I was stunned to read about his collision with Giles and the line-drive from Hawpe. You’re completely right that most people just repeat something along the lines of, “Mark Prior is a pathetic bitch” and they leave out some of the more relevant details (his 03 workload, the aforementioned freak incidents).

  12. Re: 10 who is basing the signing? Every thing I have heard has been very positive.

  13. Re 12: Same here man. I’ve heard nothing but positives on this and I’ll continue it that way. This signing is awesome because we aren’t relying on him to be our staff ace. Peavy, CY and Maddux are the ones we are relying on. Prior won’t have as much pressure here as if he would on other team (like Astros, Mets or Texas) cause they don’t have premiere pitching, we have. For us, its a win-win situation really. If Prior blows up then fine, nothing happens, but if he comes back we will really have the best rotation in the NL.

  14. I’ve seen some really negative remarks from (presumably) Cubs fans about how Prior is a wuss and this is a waste of money, etc. Typical Chicago/Philly/Boston/New York type stuff.

  15. Random article from Stark about random events from the year:

    I’m kind of bummed that mention of our 1-hit and 2-hit victories didn’t make the list, or our major league leading shutouts.

  16. 14: Lots of people like to criticize players for effort because those people think that they would be busting their tails if only they had the physical ability to play pro sports. It’s one of the only areas where Joe Schmo can see himself as having the same potential as a pro. So if Joe S can convince himself that a player isn’t trying hard, it must mean that Joe S is actually superior to that player, thus lending a sense of well-being to the ignorant.

  17. 12.

    I wasn’t really talking about ducksnorts. I suppose comment 7 falls in there though. Visiting some of the message boards at espn or mlbtrade rumors and even the UT have been totally maddening.

  18. I’d still like to get another completely healthy pitcher whose last good season happened in this millennium. Livan Hernandez, Matt Morris, Kei Igawa….

  19. Kei Igawa had a good MLB season?

  20. RE #7: See #8. :-)

    18: I’m with you. I’d love to see Hernandez here as a 4th or 5th starter. No, he’s not going to be a front line guy, but at #4 or #5 he’s almost certain to give you 200+ IP at about league average ERA, which for a 4 or 5 starter is great.

  21. 19: There was no MLB requirement in my wish list. I’d take a youngster who had a really good season in AAA, which none of our projected 5th starters have managed. But teams hold onto those guys.

    Kei Igawa had several very good seasons in Japan. He had a really strong year in AAA. He seems to be an extreme K / flyball pitcher. Most important, the words “coming off surgery” are not attached to him.

  22. Another great thing about this signing is that, if Prior has a decent season, there’s a chance that the Padres could retain him for a few years at a relatively low salary. If he performs extremely well, he might be worth a draft pick if he leaves (unlike most starters who are available for 1 year contracts). If he performs poorly, he costs nearly nothing.

    And if he likes the ballpark, the coaching staff, and the team (all probable!), he might be willing to re-sign for cheap even if he performs well.

    And of course, the Padres already have Hensley, Rusch, Estes, and Germano to provide replacement-level production, and not very many teams can say they have that many options for the 5th starter spot.

  23. Also, has anyone mentioned that the Padres pitching staff has seven former all stars? That’s pretty amazing. I know that past success doesn’t equal present success, but have the Padres ever had that many all stars on their roster?

  24. 22: Not sure how low that salary would be. Prior reportedly had some offers for a modest salary and multiple years. Most of the other bidders were offering at least an option. He left some guaranteed money on the table for the ability to be a free agent after 2008. We may have a leg up on signing him, but if he’s healthy it’s not going to be all that cheap.

    “And of course, the Padres already have Hensley, Rusch, Estes, and Germano to provide replacement-level production, and not very many teams can say they have that many options for the 5th starter spot.”

    Did a lot of other teams disband their AAA squads and I missed it?

  25. 22: I don’t see him resigning if he has a big year and we won’t get a draft pick from him unless he pitches 100+ innings without giving up a run.

    Draft picks depend on two-year rankings that are produced by Elias. Prior would have to have an absolutely MONSTER year to account for the fact that he basically played for only 25% of the eligible time.

    As for money, he’d have to really like the ballpark and the team to stay here. His actions are indicative of someone who is trying to rebuild value and then rake in the cash at a later date. We’ll see what happens.

  26. 25: That being said, as a Padres fan I’m certainly willing to help him rebuild his value here on a one-year basis. If he has the kind of season that is going to entice teams into a bidding war next year, it’ll mean that the Padres have gotten more than their moneys worth from him.

  27. I have a reprint of that Farrah poster.

  28. This is a much better gamble than the $8 million given to Boomer last off season.
    Of course, no one is expecting Prior to pitch nearly as many innings as Boomer did last season…not that he was any good for most of them.

    I’m guessing that Mark Prior will be starting from the bullpen and then into the rotation. I’ll be happier if the Padres would actually skip the 5th starter when the scheduled #1, #2, and #3 pitchers are up after their fourth day.

    Still, I’d like to see a true inning eaters for the fifth spot. Counting on Prior at this point is like counting on either Carillo or Hensley to pitch in the season.

  29. What does anyone think about possibly acquiring Livan Hernandez as another starter? I know this means we have a complete log jam with our pitching staff, but is there a possibility we could flip a healthy Rusch or Estes for some OF help in May?