$100 million pitchers in the first year of their contracts

Kevin Brown was the first $100 million pitcher, and seven others have joined him since. - Getty Images Sport

Zack Greinke could become the ninth pitcher to sign for $100 million, a barrier broken by the Dodgers and Kevin Brown 14 years ago.

While waiting in the week between Thanksgiving and baseball's winter meetings, we have reached the calm before the storm in baseball's hot stove season. Zack Greinke is the pitching prize among free agents, and with the Dodgers and their new TV deal likely in play, let's look at the history of big pitcher contracts.

When Cole Hamels signed his six-year, $144 million contract extension with the Phillies in July, he became just the eighth pitcher in MLB history to sign a $100 million deal. Hamels' contract hasn't yet kicked in, so we have no way of measuring his performance, but we can look at the seven others to compare and contrast pre- and post-contract numbers.

The Dodgers cracked the nine-figure barrier when they signed Kevin Brown 14 years ago, and could do so again soon, either with Greinke or an extension for Clayton Kershaw, who won't be a free agent for two years. Here's a look at the $100 million men and their pitching performance in the first year of their contracts.

CC Sabathia

Contract: 7 years, $161 million with Yankees

Average annual value: $23 million ($24.4 million upon subsequent extension)

Age of first year (2009): 29

First year: 19-8, 230 innings, 3.37 ERA, 137 ERA+, 5.9 rWAR, 6.4 fWAR

Previous year (2008): 17-10, 253 innings, 2.70 ERA, 156 ERA+, 6.4 rWAR, 7.6 fWAR

Previous three years (2006-2008) average: 16-9, 229 innings, 3.03 ERA, 145 ERA+, 5.6 rWAR, 6.7 fWAR

Sabathia also opted out of his contract after three years, and signed a new contract last winter worth $122 million over five years, but it was really just an extension with the same final four years of the original contract ($23 million per year from 2012-2015) plus $25 million in 2016 and a $25 million vesting option in 2017, with a $5 million buyout.

Johan Santana

Contract: 6 years, $137.5 million with Mets

AAV: $22.9 million

Age of first year (2008): 29

First year: 16-7, 234⅓ innings, 2.53 ERA, 166 ERA+, 6.9 rWAR, 4.8 fWAR

Previous year (2007): 15-13, 219 innings, 3.33 ERA, 129 ERA+, 4.7 rWAR, 4.6 fWAR

Previous three years (2005-2007) average: 17-9, 228 innings, 2.99 ERA, 148 ERA+, 6.3 rWAR, 6.5 fWAR

Matt Cain

Contract: 6 years, $127.5 million with Giants (really an extension, including his $15 million salary in 2012)

AAV: $21.2 million ($22.5 million for five-year extension)

Age of first year (2012): 27

First year: 16-5, 219⅓ innings, 2.79 ERA, 125 ERA+, 3.5 rWAR, 3.8 fWAR

Previous year (2011): 12-11, 221⅔ innings, 2.88 ERA, 121 ERA+, 3.3 rWAR, 5.0 fWAR

Previous three years (2009-2011) average: 13-10, 221 innings, 2.97 ERA, 130 ERA+, 3.5 rWAR, 4.1 fWAR

Barry Zito

Contract: 7 years, $126 million with Giants

AAV: $18 million

Age of first year (2007): 29

First year: 11-13, 196⅔ innings, 4.53 ERA, 99 ERA+, 1.8 rWAR, 1.7 fWAR

Previous year (2006): 16-10, 221 innings, 3.83 ERA, 116 ERA+, 4.2 rWAR, 2.1 fWAR

Previous three years (2004-2006) average: 14-11, 221 innings, 4.05 ERA, 110 ERA+, 3.3 rWAR, 2.8 fWAR

Mike Hampton

Contract: 8 years, $121 million with Rockies

AAV: $15.1 million

Age of first year (2001): 28

First year: 14-13, 203 innings, 5.41 ERA, 99 ERA+, 0.0 rWAR, 2.9 fWAR

Previous year (2000): 15-10, 217⅔ innings, 3.14 ERA, 142 ERA+, 4.5 rWAR, 4.4 fWAR

Previous three years (1998-2000) average: 16-7, 223 innings, 3.12 ERA, 140 ERA+, 4.7 rWAR, 4.0 fWAR

Cliff Lee

Contract: 5 years, $120 million with Phillies

AAV: $24 million

Age of first year (2011): 32

First year: 17-8, 232⅔ innings, 2.40 ERA, 160 ERA+, 8.3 rWAR, 6.7 fWAR

Previous year (2010): 12-9, 212⅓ innings, 3.18 ERA, 133 ERA+, 4.8 rWAR, 7.2 fWAR

Previous three years (2008-2010) average: 16-8, 222 innings, 2.98 ERA, 142 ERA+, 5.5 rWAR, 7.0 fWAR

Kevin Brown

Contract: 7 years, $105 million with Dodgers

AAV: $15 million

Age of first year (1999): 34

First year: 18-9, 252⅓ innings, 3.00 ERA, 143 ERA+, 5.9 rWAR, 6.8 fWAR

Previous year (1998): 18-7, 257 innings, 2.38 ERA, 164 ERA+, 8.3 rWAR, 9.3 fWAR

Previous three years (1996-1998) average: 17-9, 242 innings, 2.33 ERA, 172 ERA+, 7.6 rWAR, 7.5 fWAR

On average, these seven pitchers were 15-10 in 229 innings with a 137 ERA+, 5.2 rWAR, 5.7 fWAR in the year prior to signing their $100 million contracts, and 16-9 in 227 innings with a 141 ERA+, 5.2 rWAR, and 5.5 fWAR in the previous three years before their new deals.

In the first year of the nine-figure contract, these pitchers averaged 16-9 in 224 innings with a 133 ERA+, 4.6 rWAR, and 4.7fWAR.

Greinke for what it's worth was 15-5 in 212⅓ innings with a 3.48 ERA, 114 ERA+, 3.3 rWAR, 5.1 fWAR in 2012, and averaged 14-8, 201 innings, a 3.83 ERA, 106 ERA+, 2.6 rWAR, 4.7 rWAR over the last three years.

What does this mean? Well for one, it takes a very good pitcher to get a $100 million contract, and a thin pitching market doesn't hurt. Secondly, the group of $100 million pitchers is a small one, though should soon have at least two more members in Greinke and Kershaw.

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