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Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Is Rick Porcello worth $20 million per season?

By Alex Novick, ESPN Stats & Information

With the Boston Red Sox signing Rick Porcello to a four-year, $82.5 million extension, he joins an esteemed list of starting pitchers to be paid more than $20 million for next season. A comparative look at this contract suggests that Boston is banking on the 26-year-old to improve significantly if they want his performance to match the market value.

In 2016, 13 pitchers besides Porcello are scheduled to eclipse the $20 million mark. During the span of Porcello's career (2009-2015), those pitchers have been far more productive, averaging 14.4 wins per season compared to Porcello’s 12.7 with an average WAR per season more than twice Porcello’s.

Porcello’s career ERA of 4.30 ranks 33rd out of the 39 pitchers who have thrown 1,000 innings since 2009. The other nine pitchers on Major League rosters with an ERA over 4.00 during that span will make an average salary of $10.6 million this season. None will make more than $13.5 million.

Of those 39 pitchers, Porcello’s cumulative WAR of 10.6 ranks 28th. The four other pitchers with a cumulative WAR between 10 and 11 during that span (Trevor Cahill, Bronson Arroyo, Ian Kennedy and Jason Vargas) will make an average salary of $10 million this season.

To Boston’s credit, Porcello might have more upside than other players who have received such massive paydays, as it’s rare for a 26-year-old pitcher to have accumulated this much big league service time. He started early, as the last four pitchers to go 20-plus starts in their age-20 season as Porcello did were Jose Fernandez, Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke.

$20 million pitchers in 2016*
Kershaw: $34.6 million
Justin Verlander: $28 million
Greinke: $26 million
Hernandez: $25.9 million
CC Sabathia: $25 million
Jon Lester: $25 million
Cole Hamels: $23.5 million
Max Scherzer: $22.1 million
Masahiro Tanaka: $22 million
James Shields: $21 million
Matt Cain: $20.8 million
Porcello: $20.6 million
C.J. Wilson: $20.5 million
Jered Weaver: $20.2 million

* David Price will be a free agent and likely will command a deal worth $20 million per season.