November 12, 2013
The High Price of Free Agent Pitching
Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana Shoot for the Moon
Think I’m joking? Then you’d have to believe that FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal’s sources are, too. As Rosenthal wrote in his lede, the demands being floated by available pitchers might make Tim Lincecum’s two-year, $35 million hitch with the Giants a bargain.
Plenty of teams are searching for pitching depth this offseason, and the list of marquee arms on the market is short. Clubs that have struggled to develop their own rotation pieces have the extensions that would-be free agents signed with their original franchises in recent years to thank for the dearth of supply.
For now, the aforementioned price tags are just negotiating tactics meant to set a high bar. But with few so few options available to teams that are unwilling to either pay the prospect cost for David Price or shell out the posting fee for Masahiro Tanaka, it wouldn’t be surprising if Nolasco or Santana got what he is seeking.
That’s bad news for shoppers, who can’t be thrilled about the prospect of doling out top dollar to second- or third-tier starters. Nolasco has been worth a shade under two wins in each of the past two seasons, and his previous employer, the Dodgers, deemed him unworthy of a high-pressure Division Series assignment. By contrast, when A.J. Burnett signed his five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Yankees on December 12, 2008, he was coming off of a career-best 3.9 WARP campaign with the Blue Jays.
Santana, who was born exactly one day before Nolasco, bounced back from a rough 2012 campaign, in which he served up 39 home runs, to post a 3.24 ERA and 3.96 FIP in 211 innings for the Royals. He has been durable in recent years, amassing at least 30 starts in each of the last four seasons, but has only once exceeded 2.1 WARP in a single campaign—and that outstanding effort came way back in 2008 (4.2 WARP).
Prospective buyers would have to believe in Santana’s across-the-board improvements: the uptick in strikeouts, from 17.4 percent to 18.7 percent; the decrease in walks, from 8.0 percent to 5.9 percent; and the drop in homers, from 1.97 per nine innings to 1.11. And even then, $20 million annually on a deal that would take the righty through his age-35 season would be a steep price to pay.
We will have to wait to find out if any teams prove willing to pony up the lofty contracts Nolasco and Santana have in mind. For now, though, this winter has all the makings of a bonanza for complementary players hoping to nab star-level salaries.
Scott Boras to Peddle Stephen Drew at GM Meetings
According to a general manager who spoke with Gammons last week, agent Scott Boras has lined up “a number of meetings” with interested teams to discuss Drew at the GM Meetings, which begin today in Orlando. With the demand for shortstop upgrades outstripping the free-agent supply, the 30-year-old Drew is a near-lock to secure a multi-year commitment with an average annual value that at least approaches the qualifying offer.
Drew was worth 2.5 WARP over 124 games to the World Series champions, amassing a .272 True Average (TAv) at the plate and providing adequate, if unspectacular defense at the toughest infield position. The 2.5-win output was Drew’s best since 2010, and it suggests that he is back to full strength after missing almost a full calendar year with a severe ankle injury suffered on July 21, 2011.
Could Tomo Ohka Return to the Majors as a Knuckleballer?
Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker cited a Nikkan Sports report that indicated that Ohka is eager to latch on with a stateside organization and compete for a job, even if that means accepting a minor-league contract with no guarantees. If Ohka beats the odds and resumes his career, he would return to a 4.26 ERA in 1,070 innings.