Friday, November 20, 2009

Ten Burning Free Agent Questions (Part III)

With free agency beginning at midnight, Jorge Says No! will examine ten burning free agent questions. We will break down the 10 questions into 3 parts because quite frankly, my extended responses became far more extended then I initially intended them to be.

See part I here
See part II here

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7. How poor will the closers market be?

-This is going to be a fascinating winter for closers. There are a number of factors at play here:

a. There are plenty of closers on the market

(Rodney, Soriano, Gonzalez, Gregg, Putz, Valverde, Wagner, Lyon)

b. There are not too many teams that need closers/will pay big bucks for a closer

As strange as that seems, it appears to be true this winter. Here is the preliminary list of teams that might need a closer this winter:


And ask yourself, out of those six teams, how many of them are willing to spend big bucks on a closer? Not the Astros. Not the Tigers. Definitely not the Phillies or Cubs. Maybe the Braves? How about the Nationals? They could be one of the only teams willing to toss around the idea of a long term contract for a closer.

The options are limited. What does this mean for the closers' market? It's could be a rough year for free agent closers. I expect some of these guys (probably half) to resign with their former clubs or simply accept arbitration because they better deals that they thought would be out there are looking ominously absent this winter.

c. Closers available via trade

There are a number of closers, who could become trade bait this winter, which would further cut into the market. Guys like Heath Bell, Bobby Jenks, and Kerry Wood could be on the move to teams willing to pay their salaries and a few prospects.

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8. How will the "injury risks" starting pitchers fare?

-the free agent market for starting pitchers can be broken down by categories:

1. the ace (Lackey)
2. solid yet unspectacular starters (Wolf, Pettitte, Marquis)
3. one year wonder? (Pineiro)
4. Middle of the rotation (Davis, Garland, Padilla, Pavano, Penny)
5. "injury risks"

That last category will be absolutely fascinating to see how it plays out. Even though the market for starting pitchers is weak, there is a strong crop of high upside pitchers with injury concerns/coming off injury plagued 2009 seasons. I'm eager to see the reception these guys get on the open market in a bad economy. How many teams will be willing to take that risk?

Let's take a look at the crop of "injury risks":
  • Rich Harden: did not miss much time in 2009, but can he actually be counted on to throw more than 150 IP in a season or make more than 25 starts? I wouldn't hold my breath considering Harden's injury plagued past.
  • Justin Duchscherer: Put up fantastic numbers for the A's in 2008, but missed all of 2009 because of injuries and depression. If he comes back healthy, then he could be a major coup for the team that signs him.
  • Kelvim Escobar: Has not pitched since 2007, but could be worth a minor league deal. If he's healthy, Escobar has electric stuff.
  • Erik Bedard: This was supposed to be the year where Bedard cashed in on the free agent riches, but because of injuries, he will have to wait. Bedard has only made 30 starts over the past two seasons, but when he's healthy, his stuff is dominant.
  • Brett Myers: Has not been an effective starting pitcher since 2006, but he could be worth the risk for a team looking for a #5 starter. Myers has very good stuff and is still young enough (29) to suggest that the best years of his career could still be ahead of him.
  • Ben Sheets: Missed all of 2009 because of a shoulder injury, but he should be healthy around spring training. Sheets was one of the best starting pitchers in the NL in 2008 and it'll be fascinating to see how many teams take a chance on him based on his 2008 performance alone
So which one of these guys gets the biggest contract? I say Sheets does, followed by Bedard and Harden.

How will the Aroldis Chapman bidding play out?

- Aroldis Chapman, the young fireballer from Cuba, is considered to be one of the best young pitching prospects in the world, even though he is quite raw. However, that won't stop teams from bidding for his services with the hope that sometime soon (hopefully this year) Chapman will be an impact starting pitcher at the major league level.

This is one of those scenarios where everybody knows who the main players will be: the Yankees and Red Sox. Those are the two teams that have extensive histories of signing international players and have the money to spend on a risk like Aroldis Chapman.

So if it comes down to the Yankees and Red Sox, then how high will the bidding go for Chapman? The answer: it depends how much these two teams want Chapman. If both teams are seriously interested, then Chapman could receive an offer north of $40 million; but if one of those teams drops out of the bidding, then perhaps Chapman will have to settle for something in the $25-$30 million dollar range.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't at least consider some long shots in the race for Chapman, but at this stage, I don't think there are any teams out there with the financial backing to take on such a risk. Maybe the Mariners get involved if the price is right, but even that scenario seems far fetched.

10. Who will be the first free agent to sign with a new team?

Random guess: Kiko Calero, Giants

Post your guesses in the comments.

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