Monday, March 30, 2009

Should the Athletics Sign Pedro Martinez or Odalis Perez?

Uh-oh. Bad news for Athletics fans over the weekend:
"A's right-hander Justin Duchscherer, a 2008 All-Star and Oakland's projected Opening Day starter when Spring Training opened last month, is headed for surgery on his ailing right elbow and will start the season on the disabled list.

Duchscherer, who pitched for the first time this spring in a Minor League game Thursday and had to leave after allowing a walk, two singles and a home run, will miss a minimum of six weeks.

A's manager Bob Geren on Friday said the date of the surgery, an exploratory arthroscopic procedure, and the doctor who will perform it, have not yet been determined.

"We can't really answer any questions until we know what they do," Geren said before his team's night game against the visiting Padres.

With Duchscherer, 31, out until mid-May at the earliest, the A's have four spots in their starting rotation available..."
This a very interesting scenario for Billy Beane. The Athletics committed a good deal of money this offseason into bringing in quality talent on the offensive side (Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, Orlando Cabrera, and Nomar Garciaparra) thinking that the Athletics could compete in the AL West. However, if the Athletics starting staff cannot come together, than all of this offensive firepower will do little good.

And right now, the Athletics starting staff is a bunch of young and talented question marks. Just take a look at the Athletics depth chart of starting pitchers (with starts in the majors):

1. Dallas Braden (24 career starts)
2. Dana Eveland (35 career starts)
3. Sean Gallagher (21 career starts)
4. Trevor Cahill (0 career starts)
5. Brett Anderson (0 career starts)

As you can see, there is very little starting experience out of this group. None of these guys have had continued success on the big league stage, which has to be quite concerning to A's fans right now.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that these guys are not talented. Anderson and Cahill are two of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball right now and both guys have tremendous futures ahead of them. I'm just uneasy about "trying out" young starting pitchers during a season in which the owner has spent a good deal of money trying to improve the team and the fan base expects to compete for the playoffs. Even if experience is somewhat overrated, young players do experience learning pains and it will be no different for these guys.

So that brings me back to my original question: should the A's make a run at either Pedro Martinez or Odalis Perez? These two are the best remaining free agents out there and would provide some much needed experience to the starting rotation in the short term.

I'm going to assume that both guys are going to require a major league contract to with that in mind I would stay away from Martinez. Even though Pedro is a great leader and has tons of big time experience, I think he's too much of a risk for the Athletics. Even though Pedro pitched well against cruddy talent in the WBC, he is nothing more than a fifth starter at this point in his career. I really don't think Pedro would be an upgrade over the young guys (especially at $3-$5 million), even with his experience.

Perez, on the other hand, is a guy who I think can help the Athletics. In 2008, Perez put up good numbers for the Nationals (4.34 ERA, 119 K) and wound up revitalizing his bumpy career. While those stats leave much to be desired, Perez would be a solid middle of the rotation starter for the Athletics, who could conceivably give the Athletics a good amount of quality innings. The advantage of having Perez on the roster would be that either Cahill or Anderson would get more time to develop in the minors and hopefully, Perez would give the Athletics the best chance to win now.

The Athletics starting pitching will decide their season. If Beane decides to go with what hes got, then I'm sure the Athletics will lose some games early on because of growing pains. But the rewards could be massive, especially if Cahill and/or Anderson develop into stud pitchers. There is a heavy risk there for Beane given how much the Athletics have put into this season and I for one, am eager to see how the Athletics survive without Duchscherer.

It comes down to this: what gives the Athletics the best chance to win now? Is it Perez, or one of the young guys?

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