Wednesday has been a day filled with plenty of news with most of it focused on the men who take the hill. There’s also a bit in here at the end about that rich guy who will patrol the outfield for the Nationals for those of you looking for a hitting fix.
Rich Harden: The flame throwing righty has reportedly agreed to a one year deal for $1.5 million to return to the club that he began his major league career with – the Athletics (there are another $1.5 million available in incentives). The deal will not become official for a couple of days yet as Harden still has to pass a physical – clearly not a given at this point. Early reports suggest that the A’s are looking at Harden as a bullpen option more than a challenger for a starting role, but you have to think they might be tempted to give him a shot at the 5th starters role. Regardless of where he pitches he is a wild card. Coming off a career worst 5.58 ERA and 7.34 K/9 marks – this guy owns career marks of 3.63 and 9.13 – Harden will be the quintessential late game flier. I’ll tell you this. Even with his average fastball sitting at just 90.5 mph last season, I wouldn’t want to face this guy coming out of the pen. Can you imagine batters trying to get their bats on that heater and his amazingly sinking change up? That sounds like a recipe for success if you ask me.
Cliff Lee Update: The final details of his contract are in. The Phillies will be paying the 32 year old lefty $120 million over five years. There is also a vesting option for $27.5 million (if he doesn’t reach the needed incentives in the deal, he would pickup a $12.5 million buyout meaning the deal comes to at least $135 million over the course of six years). A couple of obvious questions that need to be answered.
Does this signing make the Phillies better? Are you on crack? Of course it does. It not only does that, it makes them World Series favorites.
Does this deal give the Phillies the best starting rotation in baseball? Without a doubt it does.
Was this a smart deal for the team to enter into? This is a serious question that could play out very badly for the Phillies in the long run.
(1) If history is a guide, this was a terrible decision. This was the sixth $100+ million deal ever awarded to a pitcher. Here are the first five with a grade.
CC Sabathia (7 years, $161 million): So far, so good. An incomplete “A.”
Johan Santana (6 years, $135): He was great for one year and then solid in two. He had shoulder surgery and will likely miss half the year though in 201. An incomplete “B-” that grade could get much, much worse.
Barry Zito (7 years, $126 million): He’s stayed healthy and given the team innings. But all you need to know about his value is the fact that he was left off the playoff roster. An incomplete “D+”
Mike Hampton (8 years, $121 million): In a word – awful. “F.”
Kevin Brown (7 years, $105 million): Continually injured, he pitched well when healthy but for the duration of the deal he was merely average. “C-.”
(2) Does it make any sense to give a pitcher a deal that is this long when he is 32 years old? What this deal leads to is that at 35, 36 and 37 years of age Lee will be making $25 million a year. When he is 38 he will make either $12.5 or $27.5 million (depending on whether or not his option is picked up). If you think that sounds like a good idea I bet you are also the fella who would trade Chase Utley for Aaron Hill if he hit .220 in April.
The bottom line is that this signing gives the Phillies a magnificent chance to win the World Series in 2011, but they could pay a dear price in the long run for that short-term success.
Pitchers on the Market: Fausto Carmona, Zack Greinke and Carlos Zambrano
Greinke will be the most costly to acquire of this trio, and I touched on his situation a couple of days ago in Hot Stove: December 13, 2010.
Carmona is being viewed by some clubs as a cheaper fall back option if they aren’t able to get Greinke in a deal. Everyone knows that Carmona is nowhere near as impressive as Greinke, but he also won’t cost near as much to pick up. No matter where he ends up, Fausto just isn’t a very good fantasy option. While he throws an exploding sinker that can lead to wonderful outings, he is also a disaster when it comes to throwing strikes. I’ll give the guy some credit, he did knock his BB/9 mark down to a solid 3.08 last year, but he owns a 3.67 career rate and was over five per nine in 2008 and 2009. Carmona is also far from a strikeout option. In fact, despite throwing 210.1 innings last season, his total of 124 Ks was less than the totals of guys like Kevin Millwood (132) and Kyle Davies (126).
Zambrano is a very intriguing option. The most volcanic personality in the game, Big Z is as capable of throwing a no-hitter as he is likely to vent his childhood frustrations on an unsuspecting Gatorade cooler. The guy is just a flat out mess. At the same time, he rebounded from banishment in late June to allow two or fewer earned runs in each of his last 14 appearances during which time he posted a stellar 1.58 ERA. It likely wouldn’t take a hell of a lot to pry him from the Cubs given that he is due $17.85 million in 2011, $18 million in 2012 and $19.25 million on an option. Clearly if the Cubs want to move him to another club they are going to have to open their wallets big time and pay a large portion of that coin.
Jayson Werth: He was introduced officially at a press conference today, and manager Jim Riggleman mentioned that Werth might be asked to play center field against left-handed pitching. That means a couple of things. First, Nyjer Morgan and Roger Bernadina better not buy a house because they aren’t in the club’s daily plans. Second, Michael Morse could end up getting a lot more playing time than some people think in right field. Don’t overlook Morse. In 618 career at-bats he has hit .291 with 21 homers, 88 RBI and 73 runs scored. He could be a wonderful NL-only option this season.
By Ray Flowers