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  • Grading Last Year's Free Agent Pitching Market

    In light of John's recent suggestion, I went ahead and compiled the results of the 2013 free agent pitching market. I excluded pitchers that ended up as relievers, and I excluded pitchers such as baseball's version of Gandolf the Gray (Jamie Moyer), who did not sign.

    The pitchers' results have been surprisingly better than I thought they'd be, but I'm not certain that we at Twins Daily would have gotten them right.
    I'm too lazy to look up all of the suggestions from last winter, but the names I remember being tossed around were either unrealistic (Grienke, Sanchez, etc) or have horribly performed (Jackson, Haren, Marcum). Some of the multi-year deals obviously need to be vetted in terms of their length; I suspect guys like Lohse and Greinke will not look so good at the end of their contracts.

    One interesting observation is that the Cubs took three gambles in the FA pitching market. One (Scott Feldman) has worked out very well for them. One (Scott Baker) flushed $5.5M down the toilet. One (Carlos Villanueva) may also net them a prospect. The Cubs are a large market team, so they essentially used $15M this offseason to buy some prospects in what is a lost year for them. Given their fan base will show up no matter how poor a product they put on the field, this isn't a bad strategy for the lovable losers.

    The Good:

    Zack Greinke: 8-2 3.36 ERA in 91 innings. Lost time due to an injury sustained in a fight.
    Jake Peavy: 7-4 4.19 ERA in 73 innings. Also spent time on the DL. Peripherals better than Greinke so far.
    Anibal Sanchez: 7-7 2.85 ERA in 98 innings. Though the record hasnít indicated it, he has pitched like an ace striking out more than 10 per 9 innings and walking fewer than 3 per nine innings.
    Hiroki Kuroda: 9-6 with a 2.65 ERA in 125 innings. Has pitched quite well for the $15M contract the Yankees gave him, though his K rate is significantly lower than the others; he may regress.
    Kyle Lohse: 6-7 with a 3.49 ERA for the Brewers. Peripherals donít look too good, but heís gotten the results thus far and justified his 3 yr./$33M contract.
    Ervin Santana: 6-6 with a 3.18 ERA for the Royals in 130 innings. Has to date justified his 1 yr./$13M contract and will likely be able to parlay that into a multiyear deal this offseason.
    Francisco Liriano: 9-4 with a 2.44 ERA in 81 innings for the Pirates. He signed a $1M deal with a second year option that will likely be picked up. He has been by far the best value deal of the class as heís pitched like an ace. He turned down an offer from the Twins, and Iíd say thereís a good chance he would not have pitched this well had he returned.
    Scott Feldman: 8-6 with a 3.86 ERA. Cubs were able to flip him and his 1 yr./$6M contract for prospects.
    Bartolo Colon: 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA for the Aís. Great value for $3M.

    The mediocre:

    Ryan Dempster: 5-8 with a 4.24 ERA in 110 innings for the Redsox. Heís been just better than league average, and not quite justifying the 2 year $26.5M contract.
    Jeremy Guthrie: 9-7 with a 4.41 ERA in 126 innings for the Royals. I hate to see how this will turn out in years 2 and 3 of his $25M contract.
    Joe Saunders: 9-8 with a 4.28 ERA in 120 innings. Great value from the $6.5M contract he got this offseason.
    Carlos Villanueva: 2-6 with a 4.16 ERA in 84 innings for the Cubs. Signed a 2/$10M contract and has earned his keep.
    Erik Bedard: 3-7 with a 4.41 ERA in 98 innings for the Astros. Could possibly be flipped for a prospect.
    Kevin Correia: I donít think I need to summarize this one. Heís earned his contract, though not much more.
    Jason Marquis: 9-5 with a 4.05 ERA. Probably the best of the mediocre group and cheap at 3M. I somehow doubt he was going back to MN.
    Roberto Hernandez: The player formerly known as Carmona is 5-10 with a 4.9 ERA for the Rays. Only cost $3.25M.

    The Bad:

    Edwin Jackson: 6-10 with a 5.11 ERA in 100 innings. He has not lived up to his potential.
    Brandon McCarthy: 2-4 with a 4.99 ERA in only 66 innings. He was cheap at 2/$16.5M, but has not pitched nearly enough, nor well enough to justify the contract.
    Dan Haren: 4-10 with a 5.61 ERA for the Nationals. Has not justified his 1/$13 Mcontract.
    Shaun Marcum: 1-10 with a 5.29 ERA for the Mets. At least only cost them $4M.
    Joe Blanton: 2-12 with a 5.53 ERA for the Angels. Not worth the 2/$15M contract he signed.
    Roy Oswalt: 0-4 with a 7.64 ERA in only 17 innings for the Rockies. He has pitched well in AA.
    Freddy Garcia: 3-5 with a 5.77 ERA for Baltimore. At least he was cheap.
    Jeff Francis: 2-5 with a 6.58 ERA for the Rockies. Cost $1.5M.
    Chien-Ming Wang: 1-1 with a 7.13 ERA for the Jays in only 24 innings. Singed for $.5M.
    Jonathan Sanchez: 0-3 with an 11.85 ERA for the Pirates.

    The ugly:

    Colby Lewis: Has been paid $2M to not pitch.
    Chris Young: He did not sign a major league deal, so this really didnít not hurt his team. He has not pitched well in AAA thus far.
    Scott Baker: I want get paid $5.5M to never set foot on a mound.
    Daisuke Matsuzaka: Signed a minor league deal and has yet to pitch in the majors.
    Carlos Zambrano: Signed a minor league deal and has yet to pitch in the majors. Has pitched well in the minors.
    Aaron Cook: Signed a minor league deal and is getting shelled in the PCL.
    Kip Wells: Signed a minor league deal and is getting shelled in the PCL.

    Breakdown:
    Good: 9 players
    Mediocre: 8 players
    Bad: 10 players
    Ugly: 7 players

    Since Ryan was clearly looking for shorter term deals, we can look back to see who were the best signings.

    The best contracts overall were for Liriano (who turned down an offer to return), Feldman, and Colon. Both signed short term contracts and have vastly outperformed them. We all know the enigma that is Liriano, so it doesn't bear repeating. There is significant question whether he would have pitched this well in Minnesota.

    Many of the mediocre contracts would have played out similarly to Kevin Correia. None of these guys would be major difference-makers, but most of them would be upgrades to our current rotation.

    Approximately 50% of the players that signed have performed well enough to earn their contracts. Given that a number of the good players, such as Sanchez, Grienke, Liriano, and Lohse weren't likely to come here due to either a large contract or problematic history, Ryan's odds of succeeding were less than that. The Twins would likely be in different shape had they signed Feldman, Colon, and Kuroda this offseason. These were not names that many were arguing for, and at 15M, Kuroda would have sucked up the entire budget. As a result, I'm not sure the posters at Twins Daily would have assembled a much better rotation than what Ryan did, and it most certainly would have cost more.
    This article was originally published in blog: A return to the 2013 FA pitching market half way through the season. started by diehardtwinsfan
    Comments 350 Comments
    1. Mave's Avatar
      Mave -
      Jurrjens, recently designated for assignment, was another name that was interesting to think about over the winter.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      2 quibbles, Liriano received more than $1M. Pelfrey isn't listed.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Yeah, for all intents and purposes, the Liriano deal was something like 2/12. The "non-guaranteed" portion was due to his non-throwing arm injury, which wasn't expected to be very serious.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Also not sure about the list -- not only is Pelfrey absent, but Ervin Santana, Jake Peavy, and Colby Lewis were not free agents this past offseason.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Finally, I will re-post my comment that got "lost" in the blog version of this article:

      I think a primary criticism is that the Twins self-imposed budget and short-term contract limits were unnecessary and not in the best interests of the on field product. So I would hesitate to rely much on those factors in this review.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      I would like to also point out that the Pelfry signing wasn't that bad as he has had 6 decent starts in a row and is pitching more at the level we would need from him. With a few more decent starts I wouldn't be opposed to the Twins signing him for next season as I do not see a bunch of pitchers knocking on the door to the majors with Meyer getting hurt this year and missing several months. I can also see Pelfry signing with KC for a 2/15 to replace Santana when he leaves as a FA.

      As far as who I wanted the Twins to sign this offseason, I didn't do that great. I did want the Twins to get Santana, or Liriano, or Joe Sanders as a 5th SP, or Villanueva as a 5th SP to some capacity. But I really expected them to get Blanton as a 3rd and wanted them to go after Baker to a point, Edwin Jackson as a 2nd SP and Colby Lewis as a 3rd SP after recovering from the injury.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I meant to put it in my post that I grabbed all contract information off of thebaseballcube.com. I thought Liriano did 2/7 deal, but I know it also got renegotiated when he hurt himself this winter, so I'm not sure the exact amount. It also was incentive laden.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      I would like to also point out that the Pelfry signing wasn't that bad as he has had 6 decent starts in a row and is pitching more at the level we would need from him. With a few more decent starts I wouldn't be opposed to the Twins signing him for next season as I do not see a bunch of pitchers knocking on the door to the majors with Meyer getting hurt this year and missing several months. I can also see Pelfry signing with KC for a 2/15 to replace Santana when he leaves as a FA.

      As far as who I wanted the Twins to sign this offseason, I didn't do that great. I did want the Twins to get Santana, or Liriano, or Joe Sanders as a 5th SP, or Villanueva as a 5th SP to some capacity. But I really expected them to get Blanton as a 3rd and wanted them to go after Baker to a point, Edwin Jackson as a 2nd SP and Colby Lewis as a 3rd SP after recovering from the injury.
      I think most of us didn't do well. The names I heard the most (that were realistic) were Haren, Jackson, Saunders, and Marcum. One of those guys earned his salary.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      Also not sure about the list -- not only is Pelfrey absent, but Ervin Santana, Jake Peavy, and Colby Lewis were not free agents this past offseason.
      I took this off of John's list in the other thread. I didn't double check every contract, but I did check these two.

      Baseball cube had Peavy signing a 2/29M deal for 2013-2014 seasons. I'm guessing the White Sox took care of this before he actually hit the market, so yeah, we technically had no shot there. That's one less good pitcher off the market. Lewis looks similar here with a 1/2M deal.

      I should have looked at Santana a bit closer. The Angels executed a 13M option and then traded him to the Royals for 26 year old AAA relief pitcher Brandon Sisk. Sisk kind of looks like the Royals version of Anthony Slama. Yes, he technically wasn't on the market, but he could have been had for a song. Of note though, at 13M, that would have sucked up pretty much all of the money TR had to spend.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brandon View Post
      I would like to also point out that the Pelfry signing wasn't that bad as he has had 6 decent starts in a row and is pitching more at the level we would need from him. With a few more decent starts I wouldn't be opposed to the Twins signing him for next season
      The problem is that he hasn't done us any good this year. He's been awful most of the season and if he does rebound here the last half of the season it's too late to get any value out of him and he may price himself out of where it would make sense to gamble on him again. (Considering he's never been a particularly good pitcher)

      If this had been the intent, a TO would've been more wise.

      In any case, this list looks like it breaks down like you'd expect over the course of on year of production - pretty easily spread out over the levels listed. Most of us got our targets wrong as far as who would've been best to sign, but I'm not sure that helps me feel any better about our offseason failing to help the big league club avoid another 90 loss season.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      The is the gamble of quantity over quality. Twins will have between 20-30 million to spend this year and hopefully most if not all will be on starting pitching. Might be better to spend for 1 $15 million a year guy and 1 $10 million a year guy. Getting it right will be the issue. Also the Twins have the problem of looking non competitive next year (though probably better as more of the young kids come up). Pelfrey probably would not be a bad signing depending on the price if he continues to pitch well.
    1. Brandon's Avatar
      Brandon -
      Pelfry has a 3.86 era in his last 7 starts. With a few more starts he'll show he's back on track. He is nothing more than a marginally better Corriea at best. He is from Kansas so I suspect he would want to either pitch here or Kansas City I would feel better (than when the Twins sign Corriea) giving him a 2 year 10-14 million to keep him next year and that would give us a rotation going into next year of:

      Corriea
      Pelfry
      Dedunno
      Gibson

      Diamond
      Worely
      Albers
      DeVries
      Hendriks
      Meyer
      May
      Hernandez

      Hopefully we go after someone like Hughes too.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      Of note though, at 13M, that would have sucked up pretty much all of the money TR had to spend.
      Obviously, if you accept TR's self-imposed budget of ~$15 million, and no more than 1 or maybe 2 year deals, his modest acquisitions look a lot better.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Given results so far (or lack thereof), Pelfrey would fall in the "bad" list, and Harden in the "ugly" list.

      So TR restricted himself to spending ~$9 million on starting pitchers acquisitions this season, and so far he's got 1 mediocre pitcher, one bad pitcher, and one ugly pitcher to show for it. The mediocre guy has needed a near career-best half-season to earn his classification. Furthermore, the best recent improvement trend is for the "bad" pitcher, but the one signed beyond this season is the over-performing mediocre guy.

      And ultimately, Twins starters are last in the league in ERA and IP again in 2013, actually with a slightly worse IP pace than last season. So TR is going to have to do this dance all over again in a few months, with no fewer questions than we had last offseason.

      I guess if the goal was to be fairly cheap and simply "hold the line" with a last-place starting staff in 2013, TR's mission was accomplished. I'd say, at best, that ranks somewhere toward the bottom of the "mediocre" classification for GMs, arguably in the "bad" category, basically the equivalent of that Roberto Hernandez aka Fausto Carmona performance in your list (but with worse peripherals?). Throw in the Vance Worley acquisition, and TR's 2013 starting pitching grade has to border on ugly (although Meyer and May still have promise in the future, although not much likely before 2015).
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      I think the original reason this list was created was to judge whether or not this free agent class of pitching was particularly "thin" - had worse results and wasn't worth signing people. A few high profile folks on the "bad" list sort of drove that perception.

      It doesn't appear that is a fair assessment, though I think you could deduce that it was fairly mediocre so far - about a 1/3 split between the three areas. It was not as good a class as I thought during the offseason (or has not performed at that level through the first half year of their contracts) but it wasn't a bad class. If that's the reason so little was spent, then it seems to have been a misconception.

      I'll say this - these guys were a lot more expensive this year than I thought they would be. That might have taken the Twins off guard. They might have just thought the prices were crazy, but I think that's because they failed to recognize the new norm that is going to be free agent prices with the new CBA caps in the drafts.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      'Ryan’s moves doomed the 2013 Twins to another season of failure. His unwillingness to spend big money on free-agent pitchers fits with his philosophy of avoiding the kind of huge contracts that have embarrassed or hamstrung other franchises.'


      Souhan: Twins' lack of pitching is on Ryan, not Gardenhire | StarTribune.com

      On top of that, on ESPN1500 in the last day or two, apparently he came right out and said 2013 wasn't the year to spend and yet he told the season ticket holders and potential season tickets holder he'd do everything possible to truly improve the rotation. So, if he never planned to even try to improve this year's rotation, why tell them he's going to? I know, besides the fact that everyone lies so it's somehow okay. The people buying season tickets should be comforted by those kind of statement.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      I think the original reason this list was created was to judge whether or not this free agent class of pitching was particularly "thin" - had worse results and wasn't worth signing people. A few high profile folks on the "bad" list sort of drove that perception.

      It doesn't appear that is a fair assessment, though I think you could deduce that it was fairly mediocre so far - about a 1/3 split between the three areas. It was not as good a class as I thought during the offseason (or has not performed at that level through the first half year of their contracts) but it wasn't a bad class. If that's the reason so little was spent, then it seems to have been a misconception.

      I'll say this - these guys were a lot more expensive this year than I thought they would be. That might have taken the Twins off guard. They might have just thought the prices were crazy, but I think that's because they failed to recognize the new norm that is going to be free agent prices with the new CBA caps in the drafts.
      You are correct, it wasn't as thin as I thought it would be. Though on further thought, a good number of the "good" aquisitions really weren't options for various reasons. The Twins were in on Liriano, he wanted to go elsewhere. Peavy wasn't really an option, neither were Greinke and Sanchez. I doubt Lohse would have been interested in returning here too. That's half of the list, and not many people were screaming for the likes of Kuroda, Colon, and Feldman. Santana was technically a trade, though the Twins could have had him for something slightly better than Anthony Slama. When I did my 2013 blog, I think I recommended they send Slama to the Angels for Haren... It was the wrong choice clearly, but they could have done something similar to get Santana.

      On the meciocre side, we definitely could have gotten some of those guys, but they would have been marginal upgrades, certainly not difference makers.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      One of the worst staffs in baseball, again. It is Ryan's job to fix that, by whatever means is at his disposal. He did not. They lineup is also awful. If anything, this team is worse that last year, and again, not 1 rookie has come up from the minors and made the team better this year. All in all, 2013 is only good for being bad, and getting another early draft pick. About all they've learned is the Parmalee isn't very good. I don't think any othe question was answered.

      We can excuse Ryan all we want, but at some point, you have to judge the quality at the MLB level. And right now, it is awful, especially the starting pitching.

      IF Pelfrey has turned a corner, it might be too late to do the Twins any good.
    1. Dman's Avatar
      Dman -
      Very nice article as this topic seem to come up in a lot of posts. I have to say I am disappointed by how few good pitchers there actually were in FA. Many of which we didn't really have a shot at getting.

      Although I understand most of the mediocre pitchers are as good or better than what we have, I think what we need in a FA pitcher is that ace or near ace potential pitcher otherwise why not try to fill from within and hope our own guys get better.

      I have been hard on TR about getting us a good and or very good FA pitcher as it seems we have the money to do that but finding the right guy can be troublesome. Ahhh, If only we could develop our own ace.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      A number of those bad/ugly guys on the list are really of the Rich Harden lottery ticket type -- I'd give a GM extra credit for getting value out of them, but they shouldn't be considered here, it's just going to weigh any list of this type to the bad/ugly side. Major league contract should be a requirement.
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