Brandon Webb, when healthy, is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Period. Alas, his wonky shoulder limited him to a mere four innings this season leaving the D’backs with one whopper of a decision to make in regards to the future of their organization: should they pick up the $8.5 million option on his contract, do they try to renegotiate the deal at a lower rate, or do they simply let him walk away? Before I get to what their decision appears to be, let me give some background on the situation.
(1) From 2005-2008 Webb tossed at least 220 innings each season. Webb was the only pitcher in baseball who tossed 220-innings in each season from ’05-’08 and he was one of only four who reached the 200-inning level in 5-straight years from 2004-08 (and he threw 208 innings in 2004 following up a 180.2 inning rookie season).
(2) Webb improved his victory total each season from 2004: seven, 14, 16, 18 and 22. From 2005-08 he was one of only six hurlers who won at least 14 games each season, and his total of 70 victories in that time were the most in baseball (Roy Oswalt and Johan Santana were second with 66).
(3) Webb posted an ERA below 3.60 in each season from 2004-08, a feat only two other hurlers could match (Oswalt and Santana again).
(4) Webb racked up at least 164 strikeouts in each of his six big league seasons. Only one other hurler was able to produce at least 160 Ks each year from 2003-08, and it was accomplished by the best lefty in baseball; Johan Santana.
(5) To wrap up this little review, here are the rakings of Webb in a variety of categories for the 2005-08 seasons.
927 IP, the best mark in baseball
70 wins, the best mark in baseball
3.23 ERA, the sixth best mark in baseball
727 strikeouts, the eighth best mark in baseball
10.98 base runners per nine, the 9th best mark in baseball.
Clearly, Webb was one of the most consistently excellent hurlers in the game, though he wasn’t always valued as highly as he should have been in the fantasy game.
Flash forward to 2009. Here is what we know.
Webb was unable to agree to a long-term contract with the D’backs after it was learned that tests on his shoulder showed some irregularities (the club was unable to secure insurance for the deal because of the state of his shoulder). Webb then went out, appeared in one game, had multiple setbacks in his recovery, and eventually was forced to go under the knife. Reports are that the procedure went well, there was less damage than feared, and that his recovery is on track. Given all that what are the D’backs going to do with Webb (officially they have five days after the end of the World Series to determine if they will pick up the $8.5 million option on his current deal)?
Currently the D’backs have a couple of big ticket items in the rotation in Dan Haren ($7.5 million this season) and Dough Davis ($8.75 million this season) and with dead weight like Eric Byrnes ($11 million next season), they are likely getting a bit nervous about their payroll given that across the street Coyotes of the NHL are in dire financial straights (Davis will be a free agent at the end of the year, so they will save a little there if they let him go). With those concerns, paying over $8 million to a guy coming off a season of four innings doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense – these aren’t the Yankees – so it may not happen. In fact, Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote that he believed that the club will try to sign Webb to 1-year, incentive laden deal instead of simply giving him $8.5 million for 2010.
Time will tell if that ends up being the right call or not, but if it was my money I’d tell Webb to sign on the dotted line with an incentive laden deal, probably one with a second year added on for some security in case he returned to full health, and let er’ rip (this may actually be Arizona’s thinking). But hey, I just write about this stuff and don’t sign anyone’s checks, though judging from the way that some sports teams run their organizations maybe that shouldn’t be the case. I will work for food and a roof over my head too, so if any organization out there needs a hand, just let me know.
By Ray Flowers