Santiago Casilla signed a three-year, $15 million deal with the Giants on Monday, with a team option for a fourth year. You'll always remember where you were when you said "huh" about this, just like you're doing now. Huh.
It's not a wild overpayment. Heck, it's not an overpayment at all. Casilla was going to make that much in his last year of arbitration according to Matt Swartz, and this buys out two years of free agency. Consider that Jonathan Broxton got $21 million over three years, or that Brandon League got four years and $27.5 million. Casilla's deal is almost exactly what Brandon Lyon signed for three years ago, and Casilla is much better than Lyon was. This is just what relievers are signing for. Rafael Soriano made $11 million just last year.
Both in 2010 and 2011, Casilla was worth about a win-and-a-half, and he was worth just a little under a win last year. According to numbers that I don't pretend to understand or endorse (but will happily link), the value of a win last offseason was about $5 million, and it's certainly a little more now. So here you go. Market value.
The problem that I have is the cumulative effect of an expensive bullpen. Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, and Casilla will make about $15 million this year. On a team that's maxed out on payroll, it might have been a better gamble to use Jose Mijares as the primary lefty and find another three pitchers the same place they found Casilla: the recycling plant. The savings could have gone to the outfield.
But it's a small problem, and it's brought up without any of the risks that can go into building a bullpen. It sounds so danged easy from here in December, but suddenly in June you're watching a bullpen with Jim Poole, Brandon Medders, and Randy Messenger tinkling kerosene on the late innings, and you'll wish the Giants were paying $10 million to Casilla.
I mean, that exact scenario is unlikely. But it's possible. There's something to be said for cost certainty, and if you use ERA+, Casilla is one of the very best in baseball over the last three years. Of course, you probably shouldn't use ERA+. If you use Casilla's advanced stats like WPA or shutdowns/meltdowns, he's a lot less exciting. But still quite okay.
And the chances of the Giants finding the next Santiago Casilla at the recycling plant were slim. They were going to pay someone the market rate. That is, probably a little more than what they just signed Casilla for. So if the organizational philosophy is for cost certainty with late-inning relievers, better the devil you know instead of the devil you don't.
Plus, never forget, he has other talents. That's worth an extra million per season, at least.