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Market for Injury-Prone Pitchers
Posted by Bret Cohen at 11/28/2006 12:16:00 AM
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Everything is relative, so it's hard to call this free agent market completely crazy. The signing to lucrative contracts of one-hit wonders in a contract year like Gary Matthews (or Carl Pavano last year) seem to be commonplace in any sport. But two of the most astonishing pickups I've seen this offseason are the ones in the past day or so of Adam Eaton for three years and $24 million, and $8 million guaranteed to Randy Wolf for next year (with a $9 million vesting option if he reaches 180 innings).

Just to recap, Wolf has pitched 273.1 innings over 48 starts the last three seasons, coming back at the end of last season after Tommy John surgery. Even throwing out last season's numbers, when he had a career-worst 5.56 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and 44:33 K:BB ratio (yea, I know, players get better their second season after TJ), Wolf had the worst numbers in his injury-plagued 2004 and 2005 since his second season in 2000.

Eaton has pitched only 193.2 innings over 37 starts the last two seasons, missing time both seasons with a recurring strained finger injury. Don't forget that he started only 23 games total in 2001 and 2002 due to elbow surgery. Moreover, Eaton pitched in pitcher's parks in a pitcher's division his first six seasons in San Diego, and has a career home-road split ERA of 4.19/4.65 (his seven home starts in Texas last season are relatively negligible in the grand scheme of things), and now is moving to the hitter's haven that is Citizen's Bank Park. At least Wolf's deal was only for one year -- Eaton has had two seasons of more than 24 starts in his entire seven-year career, and now he gets a ton of guaranteed money for three years? It's not like he's an All-Star either. Taking a couple examples from, oh, the past two years, he looks like another Eric Milton or Carl Pavano waiting to happen.

It actually looks here like Kerry Wood ($1.75 mil plus incentives) and Wade Miller ($1.5 mil plus incentives) took below-market deals, the way teams are paying previously injured pitchers. Are teams really that desperate for pitching? Or are they just "awash in cash"? How much is an injured pitcher with a better track record, like Mark Mulder, going to cost -- $10 million?


As crazy as the deals are, at least the Wolf deal is one year, plus an option if he actually works out. That's the best of almost any deal right now because the money isn't on the books forever like the insane Gary Matthews deal.
Posted by schoenke at 11/28/2006 8:32:00 AM
If the Wolf signing keeps Kuo from making his share of starts this year, then it will be an $8 million waste, as Kuo is probably on par with Wolf in terms of stuff and talent at this point. As a Dodger fan, if Schmidt is signed and Penny is traded as part of a deal for a power hitter, then I will be okay with this.
Posted by vtadave at 11/28/2006 10:00:00 AM

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