Extensions and Injuries: Colby Lewis Gets a One-Year Extension From Rangers

Offering a contract extension to an injured player is a risky proposition.  It gets more risky when we're talking about baseball contracts.  In football, a team can essentially tear up a contract, void it, and start over if they don't like what they see from someone or if that player can't perform.  However, contracts in baseball are guaranteed.  Aside from incentive clauses, the dollar total of the contract will be paid regardless of whether the player getting the contract actually plays.  Yet, the Texas Rangers took that risk and extended Colby Lewis one year.

There are two major operations a pitcher can have on his elbow; flexor tendon surgery and Tommy John surgery.  Flexor tendon surgery is the lesser of the two on the severity scale as recovery time is generally six to eight months.  Recovery from Tommy John surgery can take 12-18 months.  Lewis, fortunately, falls into the flexor tendon surgery category.  He underwent surgery in July after what seemed to be elbow inflammation was actually a flexor tendon tear.

Drew Davison of The Star-Telegram said the Rangers wanted to give Lewis a contract extension to make sure he had no doubts heading into the offseason and to ensure he would have access to their medical staff and facilities for rehabilitation.  It was a classy move by the Rangers, and one that should benefit both sides.

Davison went on to say the deal would be one-year and worth $2 million.  There are also incentives that could push the overall contract to $4 million.  Lewis was making $3.25 million this season in his final year of the contract he signed three years ago with Texas.  While the $2 million seems like a pay-cut for one of the most consistent pitchers on the Rangers' staff, the incentives will allow Lewis to actually make more in 2013 than he did in 2012.  To get to $4 million, Lewis will have to start an unspecified number of games and accumulate a certain amount of active service time.

Lewis last pitched on July 18th, going five innings and giving up one run on three hits.  He had a 3.43 ERA on the season, and he seemed to be on pace to improve his overall numbers compared with his past two seasons with Texas.  The 33-year old righty signed a two-year contract with the Rangers prior to the 2010 season.  The contract included a team option for 2012 which Texas, of course, exercised this year.  Lewis is actually in his second stint of service with the Rangers.  He was drafted by Texas in the first round of the 1999 draft.  He spent three years with them from 2002-2004 before being claimed off waivers by the Detroit Tigers.  Combined, Lewis has six years in the Rangers organization with 113 starts under his belt and a career 4.68 ERA with the club.

His ERA with Texas is slightly inflated due to his first three seasons, especially his 2003 season.  In 2003, he posted a 7.30 ERA in 26 starts.  Lewis seems to have figured things out since then, especially in the postseason.  His postseason success is one of the main reasons why the Rangers want to keep him around, and it is why they were willing to give Lewis a contract before he has even started exercises to test his surgically-repaired elbow.

In six postseason series, totaling eight starts, Lewis has a 2.34 ERA.  He has three World Series starts and a 2.39 ERA in those starts.  And for those interested in wins and losses (which is all that really matters come play-off time), Lewis is 4-1 in the postseason.  Lewis is exactly the type of pitcher the Rangers want to anchor their rotation going forward.  They have no intentions of taking a step back, so they need pitchers with postseason experience.  Lewis will be that guy for them in 2013.

The risk for the Rangers in offering Lewis this contract is actually relatively low.  Compared with other injuries, pitchers seem to respond well to flexor tendon surgery.  In Lewis' case, the tear was small, and he actually went out and pitched that July 18th game after knowing of the tear.  The tear was discovered on on June 24th and considered minor enough that Lewis may be able to keep pitching.  However, when he felt tightness in his last start, the team decided to shut him down.

The Rangers have built themselves quite the ball club in Arlington.  Lewis is a big part of that team, and the extension was the right thing to do from both a business standpoint and a loyalty standpoint.  Lewis will be part of a rotation that should include Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, and Neftali Feliz (also returning from injury).

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