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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Free Agent Pitchers: Blue Jays need a new Wing

Updated: 11/19/08:
And by wing I mean arm, but you should have known.

There are several arms available, but the value is not there for most of them. Sabathia, Burnett, Sheets, Dempster, Lowe, Moyer and Johnson complete the list of reasonable choices for JP Riccardi and the Blue Jays. When you get below the surface of these men you're really looking into some skeleton-filled lockers.

Sabathia and Burnett have been marathon men over the last two seasons. In fact, they have literally thrown more innings in the past two years than any other in the MLB. "Carbs and Calories" Sabathia and his cohort "Agitated Jerk" Burnett blew past career highs in IP in pretty impressive fashion last season -- C.C. in an effort to push the Brewers to the World Series, and A.J. attempting to aid the Jays' futile playoff drive. These two are perched atop the risk:reward pyramid with abused and potentially fragile arms and due a Kings ransom. Let the Yankees have them both, as I wouldn't be shocked if either man supplies the highest bidder a full compliment of starts (in Burnetts case I'll set the prop at 22 starts +/-, 25 for CC).

Sheets and Dempster are in the second tier -- notably, the one which I think offers the most tolerable risk (on a cost basis, of course). Sheets can hurl with the elite class of SP's in the major leagues, but has stumbled with injury recently (22,17,24 starts in 05-07, with 31 last season posting a solid 13-8, 3.09 ERA, 1.15 WHIP). The only way you should price Burnett above Sheets is if you've been seduced by the formers' stuff (and almost everyone is).

Ryan Dempster is another fiery right-hander with an interesting past. He started a mere 6 games in the four seasons from '04-'07 posting staggeringly high ERA coming out of the bullpen, most often in a closing role. The case for Dempster as a Blue Jays is an interesting one, and I can't pretend to possess sufficient insight to diagnose it correctly, so lets roll play.

Dempster's Agent: Coming out of the bullpen reduced the volume of innings he's thrown over his career, his ERA is historically lower when starting, playing in his home country would provide a comfortable atmosphere and ensure performance.

JP Riccardi: There is added pressure with pitching in Canada for Canadians and given his weak performance in the clutch during the playoffs I am doubtful of your last assumption. Also, we have a stocked bullpen and thin rotation, if Dempster struggles demotion is not an option. When coupled to the anomaly that was his most recent season, why should I pull the trigger on your boy?

Dempsters Agent: Pleeeease, have you checked the ticker recently? My investments are in the shitter and I need this commission like I've got the clap and it's the cure!

JP: Fine, 25mil over three years. Team option after year one and two...

End tangent. Bottom line is that Sheets trumps Dempster in nearly every category. I expect both will pitch slightly above average as a 2nd, 3rd man in whatever rotation they end up in.

Lowe, Moyer and Johnson are the grizzled veterans lingering for another kick at the can. Granted, Lowe is only 36 and clearly a better option than the ageless lefty's listed above. Lowe -- unfortunately for the Blue Birds -- has many suitors which could elevate his price north of Sheets-Dempster, while remaining to the South of Burnetts' plunder. Having pitched in the AL East before gives Lowe a considerable advantage over those new to such a daunting task. That being said, if Moyer or Johnson are willing to come North and bring their rubber arms with them, I'd welcome a grandfather-like figure who'd be willing to take a more vocal leadership role (I'm thinking Johnson could be one of the best player-coaches in baseball history and all he'd have to do is glare at people!).

A list, to capitulate all my speculation, non-sense and postulation. If I am JP, here's where I'm at:

1. Ben Sheets (rumours around Texas and Milwakee at the moment. Incentives will be the name of the game for this guy and his hamstring-of-the-arm tear. Flaky elbows aren't in line for solid dough.)

2. Derek Lowe (Boras client is asking 5-year at 18 mil per. Not really a surprise given the market, but I'm certain that prices him out of the range Riccardi would stomach. 4 years at 15 per might be a little more reasonable, but I'd let the Braves have him at that price.)

3. Ryan Dempster (signed 4 years, $52mil with the Cubs. Good luck, I hope for everyones sake he's healthy and can reproduce his walk-year performance... About that, Cubbies fans don't like my gut.)

3. Randy Johnson (Dodgers are reportedly interested, Angels are not. Cubs are "on the short list" according to his agent who is clearly fishing for offers after the Diamonbacks shortchanged them with 25% of the $8M/year he wanted.)

4. Jamie Moyer (Looks like he'll stay kozy and re-sign in Philly. Might be asking multi-year in excess of the $7M he was awarded last year. Dude, retire on top fo the game, you'll be 46 next year! Why does no one respect the Elway-way anymore?)

5. AJ Burnett (from MLB.com "As of Wednesday morning, every American League East team except Tampa Bay, plus the Phillies and Braves, were believed to be prepared to make an offer or were considering making an offer for Burnett." This will get interesting... he might fetch 16-18 million a season. WOW, he not coming back for that price.)

6. CC Sabathia
(six-year, $140mil offer from the Yankees on the table. Reckon the Angels could steal him for $130?)

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