Monday, November 05, 2007

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

Why pay a healthy Carlos Silva $50 million when you can get an injury-prone former superstar to fill out your rotation of injury-prone hurlers? There are lots of low-risk, high-upside hurlers in the mound.

They're low risk in that the only thing they'll cost you is money. But if they succeed, you've got a solid performance, one capable of being flipped at the deadline for some meaningful prospect. And if they stink? Who cares? Uncle Teddy only makes $45 million this year, not $50 big ones. Sucks to be him.

Here're the main stiffs on the market.

Kris Benson
Why he's "cheap": Coming off season-ending surgery for a torn rotator cuff -- a surgery that actually counts Tony Armas as a "success."
Strengths: Before last year, 3 straight seasons of 180ish innings and a league average ERA -- a solid #4 pitcher who gives 6 innings every time out; the poor man's Loaiza.
Weaknesses: His wife isn't nearly hot enough to be that loud. Strikes out fewer batters than Bacsik.
What's He Worth?: Given the lack of success with rotator cuff and his already low upside, not too much.

Matt Clement
Why he's "cheap": Because even Dr. Andrews was amazed at how much damage there was to his labrum and rotator cuff -- the double whammy of pitcher injuries. He did throw most of the year in rehab, and pitched simulated games in September, but never got into a real game.
Strengths: At his peak, was a solid power arm with ERAs over 10% better than average -- upside as a mid-range #2 starter.
Weaknesses: Labrums are hard enough to come back from on their own. Reportedly interested in the Padres.
What's He Worth?: If he was as ready as it seems, he might be a guy to target on an incentive-laden deal; he's the kind of power arm (or was!) that this team lacks.

Bartolo Colon

Why he's "cheap": Two straight injury-prone seasons. Missed time with a sore elbow, triceps tendinitis, an ankle injury, and the first part of the year while rehabbing a minor rotator cuff tear -- those are just this past year!
Strengths: Despite that, he still struck out 76 batters in 99 innings. When healthy, he's capable of being an ace and eating lots of innings -- upside as a #1.
Weaknesses: Two straight lost years. Weighs more than the average Nats blogger.
What's He Worth?: He's someone I think it'd be wise to investigate closely. If he had the kind of season he's capable of having, the Nats would win a lot more games than most expect, and be able to get some beautiful prospects, especially with Colon's resume.

Freddy Garcia
Why he's "cheap": Had surgery to repair a torn labrum late in the year; won't be back til the All-Star Break.
Strengths: In his prime, an innings-eating horse, a solid #2 starter. Had made 31+ starts each of the previous 6 seasons and 7 of 8.
Weaknesses: Supposedly loves to drink more than our GM. Strikeout rate falling faster than Kory Casto's baseball career.
What's He Worth?: He's one of those interesting cases, where some team's going to give him a 2-year deal to rehab on their dime. You take what you can get out of him this year in hopes of getting solid production in 2009. Would you risk 2/$10 on him? No, me neither.

Jason Jennings
Why he's "cheap": 99 innings of 6.45 ball followed by season-ending surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his elbow. Previously admitted to a sore shoulder. Reports are that it's not a career-killer, but he likely won't be back til May.
Strengths: Solid innings-eating starter. Pitched successfully in Coors, which makes trying to evaluate him pretty hard.
Weaknesses: Realllly big child-birthing hips. Seems like shaky control.
What's He Worth?: He's definitely more interesting than some of the others because of his age (29) and because his injury is considered less severe than some of the others. Likely to attract a lot more interesting, driving his price past a point that makes sense given the so-so quality of his pitching BEFORE the injury.

Joe Kennedy
Why he's "cheap": He ain't that good, and he's had shoulder problems when asked to be a full-time starter.
Strengths: 1) Left-handed. 2) Mammalian. 3) Name might draw more pinkos to the park.
Weaknesses: 1) name might draw more Kennedys to the park. Walked more than he struck out.
What's He Worth?: It'd depend on what the Nats' scouts said. That they were unwilling to claim him off waivers when Oak DFAd him last year says that ain't much.

BH Kim
Why he's "cheap": Cause he's crazy, broken, and played for about 14 teams last year.
Strengths: Strikes out batters like a mother humper. Probably better than he showed last year thanks to Florida's all-world terrible defense. Youngish (just 29).
Weaknesses: Batshit crazy, little command means 25-pitch innings means 5 inning starts.
What's He Worth?: I've always been intrigued by him, especially as a swingman -- someone like what Bacsik did last year, flip-flopping from the pen to the rotation as the team needs. Getting anyone (well, almost anyone!) on a one-year deal isn't a bad thing.

Jon Lieber
Why he's "cheap": He's old, and ruptured a tendon in his foot.
Strengths: Solid innings-eating sinker/slider-type pitcher. STRONG command pitcher, rarely walks anyone.
Weaknesses: Old. History of injuries over last few years.
What's He Worth?: He's one of the more interesting players, too, because of his injury. Feet are important for delivery, of course, and if he's not healthy, it could hurt his arm with an altered delivery, but he's the kind of 6-inning, 3-run pitcher this team has missed since Loaiza flew to Oakland.

Rodrigo Lopez

Why he's "cheap": Flexor Tendor surgery also showed the need for TJ surgery. Likely out this year, a candidate for that 2-year "I'll rehab on your dime" contract.
Strengths: His every-other-year approach makes 2010 a perfect breakout year.
Weaknesses: Forever tainted by the stink of Angelos
What's He Worth?: not much

Eric Milton
Why he's "cheap": Because crappy pitchers who have TJ surgery aren't in a position to be negotiating.
Strengths: Throwing 180 terrible innings. Distributing souvenir baseballs to fans in the outfield bleachers.
Weaknesses: Career ERA over 5. Hasn't had an ERA above league average since '01.
What's He Worth?: How much do you have in your front pocket? Halve that, and you're probably close.

Odalis Perez
Why he's "cheap": 3 Mediocre years, missed two months with knee strain.
Strengths: Had a pretty good strikeout pitch early in his career; developed a sinker last year to help pitch to contact. Had 2 GREAT seasons, and a few other #4 quality. Left-handed!
Weaknesses: Had a bunch of Bacsik-quality starts.
What's He Worth?: He's another guy who seems fairly interesting. The drop in K rate is a bit worrisome, but explainable with the emergence of his sinker. Injuries and ineffectiveness over the last few years are a concern, but see what the scouts say. If he'll come cheaply, what's the harm?

Jeff Weaver
Why he's "cheap": He blows.
Strengths: Eats innings. Relatively durable. Should appeal to GW students with his stoned-out-of-mind stare.
Weaknesses: Back-to-back terrible seasons. Represented by Satan. Never as good as you think he should be.
What's He Worth?: He's another guy I'd be interested in, and someone who could probably benefit from the AL/NL switch. Have the scouts check him out, see what St. Claire thinks, and see if he's viable. There's potential in that arm; he's had some solid #2 starter seasons, but what happened? Could the Nats staff fix it?

Randy Wolf
Why he's "cheap": He's ALWAYS injured. And he's old. (53, if I'm not mistaken). Wow, he's only 30? Seems like he's old enough to be Woody Williams' dad.
Strengths: Always right around (or just above) league average. Won't give you innings anymore, but #3 quality when he's going well.
Weaknesses: Has John Patterson's doctors on speed dial. Had shoulder surgery in Sept, though that seems to have just been exploratory.
What's He Worth?: He got $9 million or so a year with a similar pedigree the year before. But the Dodgers just told him to scram with an option worth that much. He's got potential, but just zero durability. Worth taking a chance on? He still struck out batters -- 94 in just 102 IP last year! That would have LED THE NATS.

  • So who do you like?

    Gun to my head, Colon, Lieber, Clement, Wolf, Kim and Weaver look most interesting.

    All depends, of course, on how much these guys are getting from other teams, what our scouts say, and what the injury files look like. I can only guess so much while looking at the outside.


    • The omission of John Wesley Patterson from this list is an abomination in the eyes of God. May weevils gnaw your intestines.


      By Blogger Nate, at 11/05/2007 11:03 PM  

    • sign them all and we won't have to call on the basciks and o'connors to replace themselves when they're hurt. how can you go wrong with 12 starters to fill 5 slots?

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/05/2007 11:25 PM  

    • So it seems that I'm not the only Nats fan who also loves Elvis Costello.

      John Patterson was a fine idea at the he's a brilliant mistake.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/05/2007 11:32 PM  

    • This just in according to Svrugla:
      Kasten met personally with A. Jones at his home in Atlanta.

      Tangentially, isn't it a bit odd that Kasten was meeting with Jones and not JimBo?

      While it's true that JimBo is at the GMs meeting and that Kasten has a prior history with A. Jones, that still smells kinda funky. I would personally have imagined that Bowden would have more autonomy and be a bit more protective of his patch than let Kasten do the meeting with free agents, especially one of Jones' caliber.

      By Blogger Michael Taylor, at 11/06/2007 12:42 AM  

    • Michael-

      Bowden's turf is intact. Kasten only meets with the players the Nats don't intend to sign. He'll be taking a Northwest flight to Japan next to meet with Fukudome. It isn't clear whether he will have a layover in Minneapolis. I hope Kasten keeps on serving head fakes to at least let us dream before we end up with Corey Patterson in center field.

      It is hilarious and sad, Chris, that you first describe one of the pitchers you think the Nats should explore with "He blows."

      By Blogger Positively Half St., at 11/06/2007 4:57 AM  

    • Skedeebs -- they haven't yet created a word that I'd use to describe Bacsik, so...

      JeffB -- I didn't include Patterson here because re-signing him (probably for around $1.5 million) is a no-brainer. All it'd cost is some of Uncle Teddy's pocket change, and the upside of his performance is definitely worth that.

      Michael -- Bowden's turf is pretty much everywhere that Kasten doesn't pee. ;) The personal history that Kasten and AJ have is such that I don't imagine that Bowden would mind -- especially since he'll likely be the one negotiating in the end. Kasten's role was likely more of an informal friend-to-friend, this-is-why-you'd-be-good-in-dc-and-your-agent-is-a-vile-scumbag-type chat.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/06/2007 8:55 AM  

    • Bowden did wine and dine Perez when he was a FA. Weaver is just a punk. Yuck.

      At some point in time it would be nice if the team stopped rummaging in the trash cans at McDonalds to see if anyone threw away some fries that they could snack on and realize that they have some cash in their pocket to buy their own food and more. I have no problem taking a risk with perpetual rehabs like Patterson and Hill but let’s draw the line somewhere and not add more of them. I’m not sure where you got those contract numbers for Santana, I haven’t seen anything like that. If Boston and NY got into a bidding match it might get there I suppose. Regardless, the Nats can afford a starting pitcher of that stature. A mid-twenty something true top of the rotation type guy. Is it going to cost some money, yeah. Is it going to cost them some decent prospects, yeah. But I’d rather have a guy like that than some washed up friend-of-Stan like Glavine and pay him 10 mil to yoda the young pitching staff. Fork up another 5-7 mil and really get a great pitcher who will impact the team for 5+ years. Not only does the team have the revenues to pay a starter like that but keep in mind that the rest of the starting pitching staff from now through the next 4 to 5 years, especially the 3-5 starters, will mostly be pre-arb young starters. The Nationals may not spend more than 5 mil for the rest of their starters for some time so they have the cash for one big time contract. Think big, think excellence, think quality. Will they do it? My guess is about as likely as they get A-Rod or Posada.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2007 11:00 AM  

    • Again, that's well and good as a philosophy. But who? who would you target?

      There's just nobody like that available. And teams aren't going to give up that kind of pitcher in a trade unless you trade someone like Marrero -- basically the only premium prospect in the system.

      Santana's going to get a contract that's mindblowing. Start with the Zito contract and keep adding millions per year. I can't see the Nats committing to that (nor being able to win the bidding anyway.)

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/06/2007 11:02 AM  

    • Who? In the next few years Sabathia, Santana, Garland, Lackey, Peavy, Penny, Sheets, Bedard, Willis, Beckett, Haren, Bonderman, and Young just to name a few will be hitting the market. Some teams will resign them others will be looking to move them before they approach free agency because they know they can't sign them.

      I also think it remains to be seen if Zito's contract will become a ceiling or a floor for contracts. It was an anomaly and right now SF is regretting it and others may not follow SF's path. It remains to be seen if pitchers are offered deals significantly above that particularly in the number of years. Maybe more likely in dollars per year.

      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2007 11:46 AM  

    • With revenues the way they are, that's going to be a floor... you're going to have to at least equal that for most of these guys. and likely surpass it.

      The trend over the last few years -- one that's likely to continue -- is to lock your aces up before they become FA.

      One other point... Dollar for dollar, you get LESS bang for your buck when you buy a pitcher. If you assess each player in terms of how many runs they allow/prevent compared to alternatives, pitchers cost MORE per run than do batters -- in other words, hitting is 'cheaper' vice pitching. It doesn't usually make sense to pursue free agent pitching, especially when you're talking 17-25 million per season.

      By Blogger Chris Needham, at 11/06/2007 11:52 AM  

    • Giving Zito money to a starter with lots of innings on his arm is risky business. That's why it's smarter to try and build the staff thru the system. I figure that Colon will sign somewhere else, but that could be because I'm a Nat'spos fan so I never expect FA signings. I'd love to see Lieber and let St. Claire work some magic with Weaver.


      By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/06/2007 11:50 PM  

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