Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Market for Ben Sheets

It's hard for me not to feel bad for Ben Sheets. In 2008, Sheets had one of the best seasons of his career by posting 13-9 record with an impressive 3.09 ERA. Sheets was so good that he even started the 2008 all star game at Yankee Stadium. Impressive, huh?

Sheets seemed to be well on his way for the riches of free agency after the season, but Sheets missed important time in September with a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. Because of the injury, teams have began to shy away from Sheets because of his extensive injury history. Teams view Sheets more as a risk instead of a sure fire ace.

So it comes as no surprise to see that the market has been very slow to develop for Sheets. It's tough to justify taking a significant risk on Sheets when so many teams are struggling to add payroll and deal with a porous economy.

To make matters worse, Sheets is a type A free agent, which means that whatever team signs Sheets will have to give up their first round pick to the Brewers. In this economy, it is tough to justify spending millions of dollars on a veteran player on top of losing a top draft pick. Draft picks have become gold and free agents have been hurt by their "Type A" status.

Where will Sheets end up? Well at this point, it's anyone's guess. But here are some potential landing spots for Sheets:

Rangers: The Rangers pitching woes have been well documented for many years. The Rangers lack significant talent on the pitching front that would enable them to be competitive in the AL West, which is unfortunate because they have a phenomenal offense. Sheets would give the Rangers a true ace that they have been missing for the past decade. A one year deal with lots of incentives would make lots of sense here, but we'll see if the Rangers are willing to spend the big bucks.

Mets: To me, the Mets are the wild card in the Sheets sweepstakes. After missing out on Derek Lowe, the Mets are still at least a quality starter short from being serious competitors in the NL East. Sheets would obviously would add lots of talent to the Mets pitching staff and give them a top flight starter to pair with Johan Santana, but it looks like the Mets prefer Oliver Perez right now. If the Mets get tired of waiting for Perez or decide that his price tag is too high, I could see them making a strong move for Sheets.

Brewers: Sheets would make a lot of sense for the Brewers for a number of reasons. The Brewers do not have to give up a draft pick for Sheets because Sheets pitched for the Brew Crew in 2008. That instantly makes Sheets a very attractive to the Brewers, who are in dire need of a top flight starting pitcher after losing CC Sabathia to the Yankees. Furthermore, Sheets would probably only require a one or two year deal instead of the long term contract many thought he would get during the season.

Astros: Sheets would make so much sense here, but it's probably not happening because the 'Stros don't want to spend money.

Cardinals: Like the Astros, the Cards need a top flight starter to go along with Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals seem unwilling to give any starter a long term deal, but that's no problem for Sheets, who will probably only require a one-two year deal. This would be a great fit for both Sheets and the Cards.

While there might not be much of a market for Sheets right now, I would expect things to pick up in the next week or so. Sheets is a risk no doubt, but this guy can flat out pitch and make whatever team he goes to much long as he's healthy.


Jason @ IIATMS said...

Josh: If the Yanks can't add Pettitte (doesn't look likely), wouldn't it make sense for them to offer Ben some $5m in base salary and the chance to double it if he hits certain performance milestones (180 innings, 30 starts, etc.)?

Ben's "cost" to the Yanks would be a 4th round pick as he'd slot after Burnett in the Elias rankings, making him a steal in that sense. He's pure upside as a #4 or #5.

He could re-establish his value with a good year on a great offensive team and hit the market again next year.

Josh said...

Jason: You can never count the Yankees out of any major free agent...most of the time.

But I thik they are pretty comfortable with Hughes as their fifth starter right now. They need to give this guy a shot and now would be a great time to do so.

It would not surprise me to see the Yankees make a play for Sheets, but I think Hughes is the way to go for now.

thanks for the great comment.

tHeMARksMiTh said...

I hoped the Braves would add him (I still think they should and have the high-quality defensive, though possibly offensively challenged outfield of Schafer, Anderson, Franceour -- hey, we respect defense now), but now, it seems that it would come with losing out on any offensive help, which the Braves need. A rotation of Lowe, Sheets, Vazquez, Kawakami, and Jurrjens would really make things interesting and possibly neglect the need for more offense. When thinking about this earlier, I wondered if Lowe-Sheets would have been better than Lowe-Vazquez, and I came to the conclusion that talent-wise (on paper) it does but could the Braves suffer the potential injury in that instance (then again, they would still have Flowers and others to get a replacement). I still think Atlanta should sign him. This is not to say you should have added the Braves because there's no reason to have (especially as dismissive as the Braves have been of him), but I just thought it was an interesting idea.

Josh said...

theMarkSmith: If the Braves sign Sheets, they would have an absolutely stacked rotation. I think at this point though they have to address their holes in the outfield if they are serious about competing.

thanks for the comment.

Evan said...

Imagine if the Mets had him and he was healthy...SANTANA & SHEETS would be a dominant 1&2. He's a risk...but if it pays off, it does bigtime. Now that they signed Freddy Garcia who knows but I could see them giving him a 2 year deal with lots of incentives.