If he makes the big league roster out of Spring Training, Gagne will earn a base salary of $1.5 mil. Up to $2 mil in incentives can be earned by pitching anywhere from 25-60 games. Lastly, another $1 mil could be had by finishing 50-65 games, which simply isn’t going to happen. Assuming he pitches in 45 games with the major league team, Gagne looks poised to make around $3 mil next season...Chris often gravitates toward the "money=appearances" when talking about pro athletes, and I do think that is true to a point. Jeff Suppan is going to really test that this year and you could make the case Gagne did last year, although the pen was thin at the start of the year so attrition played a role. This time around, money won't be a factor. Macha isn't going to be pressured into using Gagne in high leverage situation in order to "recoup" the sunk cost.
GM Doug Melvin stated that Gagne pitched much better in the second half of the season. In his first 25 games, Gagne produced a 7.03 ERA with 16 BB and 23 K in 24.1 innings. He could still strike hitters out but his control vanished and too many baserunners came around to score. In his next 25 games, the numbers vastly improved to the tune of a 3.68 ERA, 6 BB and 15 K, and a lower home run rate.
Under the lenses of this microscope, the deal looks great for the Brewers. Gagne isn’t guaranteed any money, and if he pitches like he did down the stretch in 2008, his production would likely command the $3-$3.5 mil anyways. If his second half numbers turned out to be flukey and the result of much-needed regression, no harm, no foul, and the Brewers can cut him before the regular season gets underway.
Bringing in formerly great pitchers and giving them a chance to revert to their former selves is a fine tactic utilized by many GMs. Doing so at a $10 mil salary isn’t as sound. A $1.5 mil base salary with potential for incentives, or a deal with similar terms, is the way to go, making this a win for the Brewers.
I honestly liked the risk last year. The Brewers had $10 million laying around and they didn't really fore go someone else in order to sign Gagne, but once they kept throwing him to the dogs it looked terrible. This time around I don't see how you could argue against the deal really, as long as Macha has a very short leash with the tubby frog.