"Agent Casey Close said that Sheets is doing "very well" in his rehab from flexor tendon surgery and plans to be 100 percent by the start of spring training. Close also anticipates no shortage of interest from clubs in the coming weeks.
"We have already heard from a number of teams inquiring about Ben's health and availability for 2010," Close said in an e-mail Friday to ESPN.com. "I will tell you that he has a very good chance to be one of the most impactful free agents, without question."
Sheets, 31, made four All-Star teams in Milwaukee and established a reputation as one of baseball's most formidable "stuff" pitchers despite a career record of 86-83. His best season came in 2004, when he posted a 12-14 record with a 2.70 ERA and 264 strikeouts in 237 innings."
Even though the economy is terrible and many teams are cutting costs, I agree with Close here. i think teams will view Sheets as one of the few guys on the market, who has ace stuff and can dominate a lineup. In addition, Sheets will likely be forced to take a one year deal with a low base salary and lots of incentives because of his injury history.
So what teams will should have interest in Sheets? Let's take a look:
Rangers: Sheets nearly signed with the Rangers last winter so it would not be surprising to see talks rekindled between these two sides. However, given all the turmoil with the Rangers ownership situation, it remains to be seen what kind of money the Rangers will have to offer free agents.
Astros: I know the Astros are trying to cut payroll, but if Sheets is willing to take a low base salary with plenty of incentives, then the Astros would be an intriguing option. Outside of Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, the rest of the Astros starting rotation is a bunch of unknowns and question marks. In the end though, it will come down to money, which probably makes the Astros somewhat of a long shot here.
Mets: The Mets need a solid and consistent #2 starter behind Johan Santana and when Ben Sheets is healthy, he fits the bill. Sure his injury history is very concerning, but Sheets could be a risk worth taking for the Mets if they strike out on John Lackey
Yankees: The Yankees have the payroll to take a risk on Sheets and given their lack of rotation depth at the moment (sort of), the Yankees could take a chance on Sheets to be their fifth starter.
Red Sox: We've seen the Red Sox take chances on injured players with high ceilings before (Smoltz, Saito, Penny, and Baldelli come to mind) and signing Sheets would make a lot of sense from the Red Sox perspective. Like the Yankees, they have the payroll to take a chance on Sheets, but the Sox have a more pressing need for upper level starting pitching. If Sheets is healthy, then he might be able to give the Red Sox exactly what they need: another hard throwing, quality starting pitcher.
Tigers: Another long shot, but if they can find the funds, then Sheets would be a great fit here. The Tigers rotation is thin outside of Verlander and Jackson, so a healthy Ben Sheets could be a major boon for the Tigers. We'll see if the Tigers are willing to spend money on Sheets with Bonderman, Willis, and Nate Robertson all on the books for big money in 2010.
Dodgers: The Dodgers are in dire need of a top of the rotation starter to pair alongside Clayton Kershaw. However, with the Dodgers owners currently engaged in a nasty divorce battle, I doubt the Dodgers will be able to spend heavily on a starting pitcher. This could lead them to Sheets, who will be a far cheaper option because of his health, but offers the upside that the Dodgers crave. Sheets to the Dodgers makes a lot of sense.
Angels: With John Lackey potentially bolting this winter, the Angels could sign Sheets to replace Lackey. The Angels 2010 rotation is very deep and offers four solid starters already, so Sheets would slot in nicely as the team's fifth starter. If the Angels opt for Sheets instead of Lackey, then perhaps they could make a stronger run at a big name free agent OF like Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.
There's eight teams right there, which is a pretty healthy market in my eyes. Sheets should go to the team that offers him the best opportunity to show that he can be a healthy and productive starting pitcher for the entire baseball season.
Where do you think Sheets will end up?
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