Risk – Reward Free Agent Pitchers
As Sandy Alderson has told us, the Mets are not concerned with making the postseason in 2011. Further, they may have only $5M to play with on this winter’s free agents.
Considering those two factors, do ANY free agents make sense?
This is a difficult question, because it is hard to figure what exactly is the motivation for signing free agents for the 2011 season. Considering that nearly every free agent is over the age of 30, signing one with the idea of keeping him for 2012 / 2013 doesn’t seem likely. I’m guessing that the team will sign short-term deals with a small handful of players who can fill holes and help the team stay out of last place. Additionally, they may look to sign some risk / reward types who can a) possibly give the Mets enough performance to push them toward a postseason berth; or b) become trading chips to deal to pennant chasers in return for younger talent in July.
These are pitchers coming off injury who likely will need to take incentive-laden contracts with minimal dollars guaranteed (i.e., far less than the six million it took to rebuild Steve Austin, astronaut).
Webb was one of the top 5 pitchers in the NL before blowing out his shoulder on Opening Day 2009. He’s missed two full seasons and no one is sure if he’ll come anywhere close to being the pitcher he was before the injury; he topped out at 83 MPH in an October instructional league. Webb turns 32 in early May.
Like Webb, Bonderman has been stifled by major injuries — to his elbow and shoulder. He came back to start 29 games in 2010 but was so uninspiring that he considered retiring before the season ended. The former triple-digit-flirting flamethrower struggled to break 90 MPH last year, but he’s only 28 and might still return to health.
This soft-tossing lefty once won 18 games for the Brewers, but missed all of 2008 and 2009 after his second Tommy John surgery. He came back in ’10 by posting a 3.95 ERA and striking out 54 in 66 IP — and showing more hop on his fastball than people remembered. He turned 32 in August but if healthy, could be one of those lefties who can hang around for a long time getting by on location and changing speeds.
Similar to Capuano in that he didn’t have great stuff, but somehow won 17 games in 2007. Shoulder surgery knocked him out of 2009, and he returned in 2010 looking similar to the sore-shouldered pitcher who went 4-10 in ’08. It’s doubtful he can be a mid-rotation starter again, but maybe he can turn into an effective reliever.
Remember when people thought this guy was good? He’s not anymore, and he suffers from chronic back issues. He’ll be 33 next May and it appears his best days are behind him. But he’ll be really cheap, and still has a 90+ hard sinker (though his slider has lost some bite), and is generally around the plate. Like Francis, I’m thinking he can reinvent himself as a middle reliever — particularly with the help of a big park like Citi Field.
He’s really tall, really smart, and used to be really good. However, he suffered from shoulder problems beginning in early 2009 and made only 4 appearances in 2010, tossing 20 innings. He did strike out 15 and allow only 10 hits in those 20 IP, so there is a modicum of optimism that he can return to his old form.
When healthy, Duchscherer has been effective, but his past problems have included his shoulder, elbow, back, and hips — as well as clinical depression. He threw 28 innings in April before ending his 2010 season to have hip surgery. There isn’t much left of his body to be rebuilt — he’s the modern-day version of the Bionic Man. He may cost only $1M, which is less than what Omar Minaya gave Kelvim Escobar, and Duchscherer offers both less risk and higher reward.
Missed all of 2010 and most of 2009 (and most of 2008) with shoulder problems. If he can stay healthy for three months and pitch effectively, the Mets would have a fantastic trading chip. Unfortunately, that seems like a stretch; his most recent shoulder operation occurred this past August.
Forget it — he’s out all of 2011 after Tommy John surgery.
What do you think? Should the Mets roll the dice on any of these risky arms — if the price is right?