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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. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      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.
      It's the worst rotation in baseball and, if it stays the course, we might be saying it's the worst MLB rotation in baseball this millenium considering all aspects of what you expect from a rotation (and, as a bonus, considering our park and division.)
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by diehardtwinsfan View Post
      and not many people were screaming for the likes of Kuroda, Colon, and Feldman.
      So because message board posters didn't advocate for them, we don't expect Terry Ryan to notice them either?

      I'm all for giving TR some benefit of the doubt in regards to hindsight -- injuries happen, guys emerge/regress, you can't sign everyone, etc -- but he is supposed to be a professional talent evaluator. He should be held to a little higher standard than that.

      And he has never acquired any value in free agent starting pitchers, outside of Tewksbury in the 1990s and Kenny Rogers as a late spring training signing in 2003. Heck, prior to this year, his three most expensive starting pitcher free agents of the past decade were all dumped before completing one season with the Twins. In that regard, I guess 2013 might be an improvement for him, but it's really hard for me to look past:

      - last in starter ERA again
      - last in starter IP again
      - looking to sign 2-3 more FA starters again this offseason

      He's held the line on a last place pitching staff, that's it.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      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.
      The year is far from over but I would say 4. Hicks, Pressly, Arcia, and Gibson.
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      I like this exercise. I still think too many are judging TR against the ideal as opposed to the possible. It's only in hindsight that we can say with a straight face that TR should have gone after some one like Colon.

      For what the Twins were in the market for, it was a poor pitching class in terms of identifying value.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      I like this exercise. I still think too many are judging TR against the ideal as opposed to the possible. It's only in hindsight that we can say with a straight face that TR should have gone after some one like Colon.

      For what the Twins were in the market for, it was a poor pitching class in terms of identifying value.
      For what the Twins are in the market for, it's always a poor free agent class. Again, if you limit yourself to one-year deals, for at or below league-average salaries, you're never going to get much value on the free agent market. (And that's not even getting into the Twins strong preference to avoid any injury histories, positive PED tests, or "bad reputations", much less pitch-to-contact/hit-to-contact type players.)

      And lo and behold, the Twins have never got much value on the free agent market!
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      I like this exercise. I still think too many are judging TR against the ideal as opposed to the possible. It's only in hindsight that we can say with a straight face that TR should have gone after some one like Colon.

      For what the Twins were in the market for, it was a poor pitching class in terms of identifying value.
      Indeed. Raging against the hypothetical.

      I also would say people have really unrealistic expectations on how quickly and effectively an entire rotation can be turned over. The rotation imploded in every spot in 2012. It's not going to be fixed a year later. Especially with a mediocre (at best) free agent class and few options in the upper minors. This is the mess Ryan inherited.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      The year is far from over but I would say 4. Hicks, Pressly, Arcia, and Gibson.
      I'm pretty sure Gibson has contributed nothing so far in 2013, except hope for brighter days ahead. Pressly's contributions have mostly been mop-up duty which also isn't worth much in present-day value, and overall Arcia was well below average in his MLB time so far.

      If the defensive numbers are true, Hicks has been a positive contributor, though.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      It is not even better in 1 spot......no improvement was made, no one expected them to fix the whole thing, but they are last again.it is a self fulfilling prophecy that if you will not spend a lot, you will likely get bad results.

      Sorry, but Hicks and Arcia are not making the team better this year. Arcia is back in the minors, and hicks cannot hit. Gibson maybe, but we lost half the year waiting to see him. As for a relief pitcher, I do not care. They have such a tiny impact.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by drjim View Post
      Indeed. Raging against the hypothetical.

      I also would say people have really unrealistic expectations on how quickly and effectively an entire rotation can be turned over. The rotation imploded in every spot in 2012. It's not going to be fixed a year later. Especially with a mediocre (at best) free agent class and few options in the upper minors. This is the mess Ryan inherited.
      No doubt, it is difficult to turn over an entire rotation. How about just one spot? Ryan turned over nothing in 2013, outside of calling up Gibson (and grabbing a couple prospects for 2015+, along with what is becoming one of the most infamous Twins acquisitions of all-time, opening day starter Vance Worley).

      I am pretty sure most posters here could have maintained the Twins rotation ERA and IP rankings from 2012 to 2013.

      Given his free agency track record, I'm not sure I'm willing to give TR many points for simply treading water and delaying necessary acquisitions.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by drjim View Post
      Indeed. Raging against the hypothetical.

      I also would say people have really unrealistic expectations on how quickly and effectively an entire rotation can be turned over. The rotation imploded in every spot in 2012. It's not going to be fixed a year later. Especially with a mediocre (at best) free agent class and few options in the upper minors. This is the mess Ryan inherited.
      Agreed, no one should have been expecting a massive improvement (and after the offseason most weren't) but the rotation is actually worse and that with two better situations from last season: no significant injuries and a much improved up the middle defense. One would expect on those factors alone, the pitching should be better.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Remember when everyone said there was no way the pitching staff could be worse than last year? Remember when Ryan said it was priority number one to fix?

      Well, it's about the same. So Ryan failed to fix something even most of the optimist said would surely be better just on luck if nothing else, but it's still as bad as it was. How is this holding him to an ideal? How, based on his own remarks, is this anything but a failure?
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      Remember when everyone said there was no way the pitching staff could be worse than last year? Remember when Ryan said it was priority number one to fix?

      Well, it's about the same. So Ryan failed to fix something even most of the optimist said would surely be better just on luck if nothing else, but it's still as bad as it was. How is this holding him to an ideal? How, based on his own remarks, is this anything but a failure?
      Ryan would agree with you himself, but there's no need to take the ball and go home. Rebuilding is a process and mistakes are made. He's working on it as we speak, he'll be working on it this winter, and he'll be working on it in the June draft. Our job is to argue over his day by day progress ad nauseam.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Quote Originally Posted by drjim View Post
      I also would say people have really unrealistic expectations on how quickly and effectively an entire rotation can be turned over. The rotation imploded in every spot in 2012. It's not going to be fixed a year later.
      Nobody expected Ryan to turn this rotation into the 2011 Phillies, but he could have made a better effort to bring them into respectability, instead of pinning his hopes on 4/5 guys coming off elbow surgery whose ceilings aren't very high to begin with.

      The Orioles did it in 2012. They signed a free agent in Wei-Yin Chen, brought Miguel Gonzalez in on a minor league deal. They traded for Tommy Hunter. Not all of those moves worked out (esp. Tommy Hunter as a starter), but Dan Duquette used all avenues and showed an aggressiveness that I don't think Jr has matched and didn't do any of it at the expense of the rebuilding effort (unless you count winning more games).

      Its actually pretty striking how closely the 2011 Orioles' rotation resembled the 2012 Twins' rotation.

      Starting Pitching 2011 Orioles 2012 Twins
      IP 881 880
      ERA 5.39 5.4
      K% 14.9% 14.0%
      BB% 8.4% 7.4%
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      Ryan would agree with you himself, but there's no need to take the ball and go home. Rebuilding is a process and mistakes are made. He's working on it as we speak, he'll be working on it this winter, and he'll be working on it in the June draft. Our job is to argue over his day by day progress ad nauseam.
      So far, one of the two parties is doing a better job
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      It is not even better in 1 spot......no improvement was made, no one expected them to fix the whole thing, but they are last again.it is a self fulfilling prophecy that if you will not spend a lot, you will likely get bad results.

      Sorry, but Hicks and Arcia are not making the team better this year. Arcia is back in the minors, and hicks cannot hit. Gibson maybe, but we lost half the year waiting to see him. As for a relief pitcher, I do not care. They have such a tiny impact.
      Thank you for your thoughtful analysis. Put me in the group that thinks the minute they put their jocks on and walked on to Target Field the Twins became a better team.
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by howieramone View Post
      he'll be working on it this winter
      Do you have confidence that TR will be successful addressing the rotation this winter? Considering last offseason, his history of FA pitching acquisitions, and the fact we will almost certainly require free agent reinforcements (3 out of 5 spots likely up for grabs, no starters immediately ready in the upper minors)?
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by spycake View Post
      Do you have confidence that TR will be successful addressing the rotation this winter? Considering last offseason, his history of FA pitching acquisitions, and the fact we will almost certainly require free agent reinforcements (3 out of 5 spots likely up for grabs, no starters immediately ready in the upper minors)?
      It won't be the right time to try and nab a quality FA starter or two. It would be a waste of oh so limited funds. :-)
    1. spycake's Avatar
      spycake -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      The Orioles did it in 2012.
      Chen was definitely a big piece for Baltimore, and is the type of quality free agent the Twins have not been able to land. There are potential great values on the international market, if the Twins were not completely soured by the Nishioka experience (or if that signing was not truly representative of the Twins international scouting abilities).

      Swapping Guthrie for Jason Hammel helped -- imagine watching a pitcher improve after your club acquires him! It does happen, Twins fans!

      Tillman (longtime prospect) and Gonzalez (out of nowhere guy) are harder to replicate... Gibson and Deduno, perhaps? Although Diamond looked like a good find for a while too...

      An interesting study, though: worst rotations in the league every year -- did they improve the next year? How?
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      So what should Terry Ryan have done, exactly? Give up Sano for Sheilds? Sign Scott Baker? Edwin Jackson? Build an ace out of playdough?

      Oh, he should have signed and traded for all the pitchers that ended up doing well. Duh.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      The primary goals this offseason were
      1) to shore up the starting pitching for this year and
      2) to shore up the starting pitching in the minors for future years.

      But I don't think they went in that order, as seen by what Ryan traded for in two pretty big moves. #2 he made progress on (albeit less than we thought with Worley's struggles). #1 he didn't, which I think a lot of impartial observers thought at the time and which looks like is the case, given the ERAs of the starting rotations from the two years.

      And I think howieramone is right - Ryan will probably agree with that analysis. And I'll happily accept the job of looking at it day-to-day ad nauseum.

      Finally, yes, I think the Twins are in much the same boat as last year, albeit with more reinforcements for future years in the pipeline. But if Ryan has the same philosophy regarding free agency (or about how close his club is to competing) then it could be a pretty dismal offseason (and 2014).

      But perhaps he learned something from this past year. Perhaps he got over sticker-shock, or perhaps others in the organization have encouraged him to be more aggressive given the record and the reaction of the fan base. To me (and there are infinite ways to read this evidence and construct a paradigm), that is the hope.
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