Fast forward to 2008, the Indians have just spent roughly $15 million bucks adding Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa to the team. After a lack luster 2008, the Indians now appear set to seriously compete for a division crown. This team has the potential to be very deep and dangerous.
However, I still believe that the Indians are still another starting pitcher away from being serious competitors. Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, and Scott Lewis might become good pitchers one day, but who knows what they can bring to the table in 2009? Furthermore, the Indians will likely get nothing out of Jake Westbrook, who is expected to miss the entire 2009 season after undergoing Tommy John Surgery.
Enter Ben Sheets.
The right handed pitcher has the make up of an ace with his heavy fastball and devastating curveball. However, he also has an extensive injury history and concerns about his shoulder and elbow that are sure to drive teams away. The only team that has expressed serious interest up to this point is the pitching deficient Texas Rangers.
Yuck. Why in the world would Sheets want to pitch in Texas, where pitchers careers go to die? That would not be a good move for his career.
The Indians have a wonderful opportunity to make a serious push on Sheets. They can offer Sheets the opportunity to prove to the rest of baseball that he is indeed healthy and that the concerns about his arm are for naught. A big season with the Indians coupled with a potential post season birth could lead Sheets to a big contract in 2010, just like Millwood.
And as the off season drags on, the price tag on Sheets will only go down, especially if the Rangers decide not to make a big push. A one year deal worth under $10 million bucks is certainly not out of the question.
Given the current economic situation, it is highly unlikely that any team will overpay for a pitcher with significant injury history. However, the best move Sheets could make right now would be to take a one year deal with a competitive team that could boost his stature and prove the baseball world wrong.
By only signing a one year contract, the Indians would only take on limited risk in the deal. If Sheets gets hurt, then the Indians would lose several million bucks and move on with the young guys. However, if Sheets performs at an all star level, the Indians could catapult above the White Sox and Twins in the AL Central and make a strong push to compete for the AL Pennant.
I know it would be terribly difficult for the Indians to afford Sheets in 2009. With a payroll already approaching $80 million, I'm sure the Indians owners are not too eager to add another $8-$10 million to that total. But this move is worth the risk because the potential reward could be vast and greater than anything the Indians have experienced since 1954.