Thursday, December 24, 2009

Risk/Reward of the Justin Duchscherer Signing

And in a classic Billy Beane signing, it looks like the Athletics have found their ace:

As I reported in this morning's Chronicle, the A's were optimistic about re-signing Justin Duchscherer, and though the team might not announce the agreement until after Christmas, word from multiple sources is that a one-year deal is done pending a physical.

The base salary is $2 million, but Duchscherer could earn as much as $5.5 million with incentives, should he reach benchmarks of 30 starts and 200 innings.

Duchscherer's agent, Damon Lapa, said at the start of the free-agent period that the two-time All-Star was clear with teams that he wanted to be a starter, and considering the incentives package,it is safe to assume that the A's have agreed that that will be the right-hander's role. Duchscherer missed all of last season, first with an elbow problem and then during treatment for clinical depression.

That means, barring other moves, that Duchscherer is likely to be the team's No. 1 starter, as he had been projected to be last year, and he'll be followed by left-handers Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson and right-hander Travor Cahill. The fifth spot will be up for grabs between righty Vin Mazzaro and lefty Gio Gonzalez, with Josh Outman a possibility when he returns from elbow surgery after the All-Star break.

Even though Duchscherer missed all of the 2009 season with various injuries and depression, there is plenty of upside in this deal for the Athletics:

  • Can he stay healthy?
  • Will Duchscherer throw more than 150 innings (which is a feat he has never accomplished before)
  • Potential ace
  • Potential trade bait later in the season if he stays healthy
  • Veteran leadership
  • High upside
  • Dominant pitcher when healthy
  • Limited money ($2 million) and years (one) invested
Conclusion: There's a lot to like about this deal from the Athletics' perspective because Duchscherer is a guy that they are familiar with, has great stuff, will probably be their ace, and cost them very little. The Athletics lack the resources to go after the top free agent starting pitchers, but they must've been elated to sign Duchscherer to a contract with so little money guaranteed. From Duchscherer's perspective, this deal makes sense because it gives him the opportunity to start in a place that he's familiar with. If Duchscherer has a dynamite 2010 season, then there's no reason to think that he won't be able to land a lucrative contract next winter.

With that said, I don't think the Athletics are a playoff team even with Duchscherer on board, but this signing makes the Athletics' rotation deeper and more potent, should Duchscherer remain healthy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My overall impression of Duchscherer is quite different from yours. You paint this picture of a guy with fantastic, dominating stuff. He's really not like that at all. He's much more like a Greg Maddux or Jamie Moyer than a Felix Hernandez or a Chris Carpenter. Duchscherer's avg fastball speed is in the mid 80s and his offspeed stuff is average at best. He uses fantastic control and cunning to keep hitters off-balance rather than throwing anything by them. Though he had ace stats (2.53 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) in 2008, he certainly never had ace "stuff". The A's saw him as a middle reliever until they gave him a shot in the rotation after 5 years as a MLB middle reliever because they were thin on starters and Duchscherer had five serviceable big league pitches.

I'm not saying that this isn't a great signing given his past performance and his ability to give his team a chance to win, but expecting ace performance out of someone whose career to this point and pitching talent best matches Paul Byrd is a little over the top. Also, I wouldn't count on a guy with one year's experience as a starter to be my "veteran leader". I would say the A's paid market price for him considering all the question marks and complete lack of dominating stuff.