December 10, 2013
Felipe Paulino, Not the Steal of the Winter
Signed RHP Felipe Paulino to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million with a club option worth $4 million. [12/9]
A rule of thumb: if a deal looks like the steal of the winter, then it's probably not the steal of the winter. This is less about the efficient-market hypothesis than about how things work; players who receive inexpensive or short deals tend to be old, injured, bad, or a combination thereof.
Paulino fits under the last part. He missed most of last season due to Tommy John surgery rehab and subsequent suprascapular nerve decompression in his throwing shoulder. Before the procedures, Paulino had the reputation of being a stuff-over-results pitcher, as his ERA and other numbers rarely looked as good as his strikeout rate or radar-gun readings. The best explanation for the discrepancy is sloppy geography caused by a large body, violent delivery, and multiple release points—he moves on the rubber depending on the opposing batter's hand, a la Trevor Bauer and Francisco Liriano.
Taken altogether with Paulino's arsenal—a hard, straightish fastball and above-average slider—makes him a good fit for the bullpen. Yet, even so, the White Sox seem likely to slot Paulino into their rotation, perhaps to replace a traded starter. Who can blame them? This is the kind of pitcher who can have things click and blow past our expectations. Is it likely? Heavens no, and that improbability is why Paulino seems more likely than Dan Haren or Chris Young to be the steal of the winter. —R.J. Anderson
On one hand, Paulino went to a team for which he has a legitimate chance to serve as a starting pitcher for however long he stays on the field. On the other hand, Paulino landed in a park that aids left-handed hitters, and they’ve already hit .282/.374/.476 against him during his career. There’s certainly some upside here thanks to Paulino’s ability to miss bats, but it’s hard to advocate drafting him given his injury history and troubles with command. At this point in his career, I think his fantasy value might be higher if he moves to the bullpen, as he has late-innings stuff. You can take a flier on Paulino in AL Only leagues if he earns a spot in the rotation, but I that’s about all I can recommend.
Rumors abound that the White Sox are planning on trading a starter this offseason, but if they don’t, one of Johnson, Paulino or Hector Santiago is likely to be the odd man out when the season begins. I think Santiago has a better shot of staying in the rotation than does Johnson, but he also has a better chance of being traded. This will play itself out in the coming weeks, but those of you who were banking on Johnson as a sleeper in deeper leagues should have a Plan B in mind. —Ben Carsley