Monday, August 11, 2008

Free Agent at the End of the Season: Ben Sheets

In 2000, the world was introduced to a young pitcher named Ben Sheets. Sheets, pitching for the US Olympic Team, proceeded to outpitch Cuban ace Pedro Lazo and win the gold medal for the US. What a moment it was. By 2001, Sheets had made it to the big leagues with the Milwaukee Brewers and quickly established himself as a stud pitcher. However, with all of his potential has come the yearly Ben Sheets injury. Injuries include: a inner ear infection, shoulder tendinitis and a sprained middle finger. Needless to say, Sheets has struggled to establish himself as a consistent stud pitcher because of all the injuries. Sheets has flourished this season with 11 wins and a 2.95 ERA, which is convenient given the fact that he will be a free agent at the end of this season. So which team will pony up the dough for a potential ace?

The Case for Sheets
-When he's on, he's dominant. Sheets has a WHIP of 1.15 and has struck out 129 batters in 155 innings.

-He can be an innings eater. From 2002-2004, Sheets pitched 216, 220, and 237 innings respectively, which reeks of ace.

-Sheets has tons of potential. As we have seen in the past, teams will pay for potential (AJ Burnett, Darren Driefort) and Sheets not only has great upside, but he has shown it before.

-He has three great pitches. A heavy 94+ fastball with a dropping 80+ MPH curveball and a solid changeup.

The Case Against Sheets
-He doesn't win that much. Besides 2007 and 2008, Sheets's record has consistently been under .500 or a game over .500. That's not good for an ace. Sheets is only 5 games over .500 for his career. Yikes.

-His injuries. Sheets has been hurt before and whose to say he won't get hurt again? Sheets doesn't have the best track record and that will hurt him when it comes to getting the almighty dollar.

-He is 30 years old, which is two years older than CC Sabathia.

-He is an awful hitter. (I'm nit picking here)

-The only pitcher who is in Sheets's class is Sabathia, who will be in for an absolutely huge deal. As far as right handed pitchers go, Sheets's only competition will be Derek Lowe, AJ Burnett (if he opts out), and Jon Garland. Quite frankly, I'd rather have Sheets, but only if the price is right (not too many years).

5 years/$85 million
My feeling here is that Sheets will shoot for the moon (Santana or Zito type deal), but his injuries will force him to come down on his demands. If I was Sheets's agent, I would look at these deals for realistic contracts:

Carlos Zambrano (5 years/$91 million)

Jake Peavy (3 years/$54 million)

Neither of those deals is unreasonable, and Sheets's statistics are comparable to both Zambrano and Peavy. As I said before, Sheets has a ton of potential and any contending team can look at Sheets and see him as the missing piece-an ace who has shown he can pitch the big one (2000 Olympics). I look for the Yankees, Braves, Cardinals, Phillies and maybe the Rangers to be in on it. Unfortunately, I don't think the Brewers can make much of a run at him because of their salary restrictions, but I'd love to see him go back there.

We will continue to look at the free agent class of 2009 with Adam Dunn.

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