Just like I did last week in Hot Stove: The Arms Race, I’ll spend my time today detailing some of the hurlers that have found new homes.
The Brandon Webb Saga
Finally. After pretty much every team in baseball was tied to the righty at some point this offseason, Webb will take his surgically repaired shoulder to the AL Champion Rangers in 2011 after agreeing to a 1-year deal with a base salary of $3 million. It should be pointed out that the deal isn’t official, and since it is dependent on Webb passing a physical there is still a chance that the deal could be scuttled, but it appears like the deal will be wrapped up soon.
The Rangers lost Cliff Lee, their only ace level starter, but C.J. Wilson was pretty impressive in his own right last season in his first year as a starter (he had the 10th best ERA in the AL at 3.35). Colby Lewis, who found his groove in Japan, returned to the States with his rhythm intact as he struck out 196 batters, the 7th best mark in the AL. Tommy Hunter went 13-4 last season with an ERA of 3.73 over 23 appearances, and Derek Holland has been the arm of the future for the Rangers for a while now. That would appear to leave the 5th spot for Webb, a great fit for a guy who simply cannot be counted on after throwing four innings the past two years because of shoulder woes.
Texas isn’t a very good place to pitch given that the ballpark was 4th in the AL in allowing runs and 5th in homers according to Park Indices. The good news is that if Webb’s shoulder is back to something near his pre-injury form it likely won’t matter. A ground ball machine because of his sinking fastball, Webb had the highest ground ball rate of any pitcher in baseball who threw at least 500-innings from 2005-08.
Still, there are a plethora of legitimate concerns.
(1) Is he healthy, and if he is, will he be able to return to his pre-injury form?
(2) Even if healthy, will he have the stamina to last 200-innings after basically missing two years?
(3) If he has lost some sink/movement on his pitches, how will the move to Texas impact his performance given that he will be facing the stouter offenses of the Junior Circuit?
What did the Rangers add to their rotation? From a fantasy perspective, don’t by the hype. You can surely take a late shot on Webb if the reports are positive during camp, but keep in mind the potential pitfalls, which are many, before you go reaching for Webb’s services.
One last note. If Webb does indeed return to some semblance of his earlier form, his signing would appear to allow the Rangers their preferred option of once again going with Neftali Feliz in the 9th inning instead of having to shift him back into the rotation to fill a glaring need.
Octavio Dotel to the Blue Jays
It’s not a lock, but multiple sources are reporting that Dotel will sign a 1-year deal for $3.5 million to join the Blue Jays with the assumption being that he will be given the first crack to take over in the ninth inning for free agent Kevin Gregg (who is still looking for a team by the way). For some thoughts on Dotel, make sure you read Hot Stove: The Arms Race, where I pointed out that, despite his faults, that Dotel can still sling it with the best of them.
This move would seem to relegate Jason Frasor, once again, to a setup role. I say once again because this guy has pitched pretty darn well the last two years with a 3.12 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.98 K/9 and a solid 2.81 K/BB ratio. Keep an eye on Frasor. If he can keep the ball on the ground again – his GB-rate was back above his career 44.3 percent mark at 46.4 after back-to-back years below 39 percent – he could easily have another successful campaign and work his way into the 9th inning mix when the inevitable slump hits Dotel.
Takashi Saito Joins Brewers
Saito agreed to a 1-year deal with the Brewers on Monday. He isn’t a threat to John Axford who will, barring something unforeseen, open the year as the Brewers’ undisputed closer, but that doesn’t mean Saito shouldn’t be looked at in the fantasy game.
Saito will be 41 on Valentine’s Day, and that alone would be a big concern. Throw in the fact that he continues to be bothered by on and off again issues with his arm and on the surface he would appear to be off limits. However, whenever his elbow isn’t barking, the guy is dominating. In a big league career of 299.1 innings Saito has produced a 2.19 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 11.00 K/9 mark and a 3.89 K/BB ratio thanks in no small part to that disappearing slider of his. Amid little fanfare, Saito posted an enormous 11.50 K/9 rate and a 1.07 WHIP for the Braves in 2010 signaling that he can still get it done when his body permits.
J.C. Romero Back in Philly
After failing to work things out with Dennys Reyes, the Phillies had a hole in their bullpen for a left-handed specialist. Naturally, they turned to Romero. Despite the fact that the Phils turned down his $4.5 million option for 2011 there was always mutual interest if the price was right. Apparently the two sides found that common ground.
A piece of advice for you if you have a son and are wondering what you should teach him to be when he gets older – make sure you teach him to throw left-handed. Romero keeps getting work year after year, and making millions of dollars, despite the fact that he just isn’t very good. In 628 big league appearances Romero owns a 4.08 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP, decidedly average numbers. He is also well below average with a hideous 5.14 BB/9 mark and a pathetic 1.40 K/BB rate. He can get lefties out, he has held them to a .215 BAA in his career, but even when having that success he really hasn’t all that good with a 3.83 BB/9 mark and a 1.20 WHIP. So hopefully you brought your kid a left-handed glove for the holidays. Clear away the snow and get that kid a throwin.
By Ray Flowers