Showing posts with label Johan Santana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Johan Santana. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Baltimore Orioles take a flier on Johan Santana

The Baltimore Orioles continued their recent habit of shopping in the bargain bin on Tuesday, signing two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana to a minor league deal.

Santana, who missed the entire 2013 season, is attempting to come back from a second major surgery on his left shoulder. Reports indicate he had trouble getting his fastball over 80 mph when he threw a bullpen session for interested teams last week, but apparently Baltimore saw enough to take a flier on the former Minnesota Twins ace.

Since it's a minor league deal, it's not much of a gamble. If Santana is unable to regain his arm strength, the Orioles can just cut him and be none the worse for wear. If Santana impresses this spring, the Orioles can add him to the 40-man roster at a relatively low cost.

The 34-year-old lefty would get a $3 million, one-year deal if he is added to the roster and would have the chance to earn an additional $5.05 million in roster and performance bonuses. He would receive the full amount for 120 days and 25 starts.

Baltimore earlier added pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez and outfielder Nelson Cruz to its roster late in free agency. I was critical of the Jimenez signing, but I can't blame the Orioles for picking up Santana. They still need pitching help, they don't have anything to lose by giving Santana a shot.

In his Minnesota heyday, Santana's out pitch was his changeup. He threw it from the same release point as his fastball, and there was such a wide variance between his heater and his change that opposing hitters had their timing completely disrupted. But if his fastball is going to top out in the low- or mid-80s, there isn't going to be enough variance between that pitch and his changeup for him to be effective.

The Orioles need to hope Santana can get his fastball back up into the 88 or 89 mph range. If he does, he might have some good innings left in his arm.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Big contract for any pitcher is risky business

The contract Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka is going to receive is already giving some people upset stomachs. The size of it might end up being more eye-popping than the $50-60 million contracts teams gave to Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Keep in mind that was before the posting fee was capped at $20 million. The Red Sox and Rangers each coughed up posting fees in excess of $50 million, making the total investment for each pitcher more than $100 million.

It was a big deal when Kevin Brown
became the first $100 million pitcher
in baseball when he signed with the Dodgers.
That big of an investment rarely works out well if you're expecting the player to pitch well over the life of the whole contract. Here are the biggest contracts ever given to pitchers:

Felix Hernandez, Mariners, $175,000,000 (2013-19)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $161,000,000 (2009-15)
Zack Greinke, Dodgers, $147,000,000 (2013-18)
Cole Hamels, Phillies, $144,000,000 (2013-18)
Johan Santana, Mets, $137,500,000 (2008-13)
Matt Cain, Giants, $127,500,000 (2012-17)
Barry Zito, Giants, $126,000,000 (2007-13)
CC Sabathia, Yankees, $122,000,000 (2012-16)
Mike Hampton, Rockies, $121,000,000 (2001-08)
Cliff Lee, Phillies, $120,000,000 (2011-15)
Yu Darvish, Rangers, $111.700,000 (2012-2017)*
Kevin Brown, Dodgers, $105,000,000 (1999-2005)
Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox, $102,111,111 (2007-2012)*
Adam Wainwright, Cardinals, $97,500,000 (2014-18)
Carlos Zambrano, Cubs, $91,500,000 (2008-12)
-Source: Cot's Baseball Contracts
*posting fee included with salary

Obviously most of these contracts are newer as teams have been flush with cash and the pay for elite pitchers has gone up. Though maybe it's interesting is that five of the top six contracts ever given out to pitchers weren't signed by free agents, but were extensions for guys with a year or two left before hitting the market.

Of the contracts that have been completed, all of them looked like a disaster at some point. Hampton's looked like one almost as soon as the ink dried in the thin Colorado air. Zito's was almost as bad save for the fact he still soaked up a lot of innings for the Giants over the course of his seven-year deal.

Over the course of Zambrano's extension, he suffered a decrease in either his performance or ability to take the mound each and every year of his new contract. Matsuzaka and Santana each had a few good years at the front ends of their deals before ineffectiveness and/or injuries did them in.

The best contract of all of them in my opinion was Brown's. Baseball's first $100 million arm was good for more than 1,000 innings with a 3.23 ERA over seven years. Brown, who I think has an underrated Hall of Fame case, missed some time with injuries, but still pitched a lot of mostly good innings for his money, only completely losing it the final year when he was 40.

The jury is still out on the other contracts. Cain, Verlander, Hamels and Sabathia each just endured their worst season in years. Greinke was very good, but missed time after breaking a bone in a scuffle with Carlos Quentin. With Hernandez, Lee, Darvish and Wainwright, things are looking so-far-so-good, though only Lee's contract is even close to completion.

The results here seem pretty apparent. If you don't have to spend almost $100 million or more on a pitcher, then don't. The risk is still one that teams are willing to make, especially teams that are close to contention. Should they be?

Possibly. In a way, this is already how teams view the cost of dabbling in free agency. They're willing to get a good value on the front end of a contract in exchange for dead money at the end.

Looking at each of these contracts, none of them really stopped the team paying the checks from doing anything else. Zito didn't keep the Giants from winning two World Series titles. Lee and Hamels aren't the problem with the Phillies' payroll. Even Mike Hampton's contract was eventually carved up and served in digestible bites that teams other than the Rockies helped swallow.

Unless Tanaka pulls a Hampton-Zito, the team that wins the bidding for his services will be getting a good pitcher for at least a few years. So any team with the money might as well bid away.

Friday, December 13, 2013

More Cubs/Sox Rule 5 Draft Fun!

The word "fun" really deserves any derisive quotation marks you would throw around it. At least when talking about the Rule 5 Draft results for both Chicago teams.

Too be fair, it's been tougher to mine talent from this draft since MLB changed the rules for who is eligible before the 2006 draft. Organizations now get another full season to decide if a guy might be Johan Santana (taken by the Marlins from the Astros in 1999, then immediately traded to the Twins) or Andrew Sisco (taken by the Royals from the Cubs in 2004, a year later traded to the White Sox, perhaps soon toiling in an independent league near you!).

The idea of transforming under-appreciated, or maybe under-developed talent remains tantalizing, even if the pool of talent is diminished. And maybe you must be an optimist to think players unloved enough by their current organization to be left of the 40-man roster can be useful for your big league team the entire season.

So what was have the White Sox and Cubs hoped for then gotten from the Rule 5 Draft in recent years?

The Cubs have taken many more chances on guys in the draft. That's probably partly because the Cubs have had more "rebuilding" rosters, and because for some reason the Sox didn't look at guys like Andy Gonzalez, Lance Broadway, Jack Egbert or Donny Lucy and think, "Huh, maybe we could do better?"

Results since the rule changes:

Angel Sanchez (2012): Taken by the White Sox from the Angels.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's a middle infield with a slick glove, maybe he can make enough contact to be as good as Alcides Escobar!"
How He Worked Out: Sanchez appeared in one game and went hitless in both plate appearances. He got hurt, went on a rehab assignment to the minors, and was offered back to the Angels when the rehab was over. The Angels said no thanks, so he went back to Charlotte. Then the White Sox said no thanks when they released him.
Impact For Sox: Meh. He might have been better than Andy Gonzalez. That still probably makes him less good than an ideal utility infielder.

Hector Rondon (2012): Taken by the Cubs from the Indians.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's a right-hander who strikes guys out and doesn't walk many guys! He could be a setup man or closer!"
How He Worked Out: Rondon did stick with the Cubs last season, though with a low-90s fastball, he wasn't able to keep his strikeouts quite as high, or the walk totals quite as low as he did in the lower levels of the minors.
Impact For Cubs: That Rondon might be part of the closer discussion for the Northsiders next year says more about the Cubs bullpen than Rondon's ability. He is still around, and still back-end bullpen filler until he can start getting more pitches past big league hitters.

Lendy Castillo (2011): Taken by the Cubs from the Phillies.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's another solid bullpen piece! He doesn't walk many guys, give up many hits or home runs!"
How He Worked Out: During his 16-inning stint with the Cubs, Castillo walked or gave up a hit to almost half the batters he faced. He wasn't returned to the Phillies, but he continued to get battered around in the minors, his walks and home-runs allowed both rocketing upward.
Impact For Cubs: The hit Castillo gave up to pitcher Mark Buehrle could make it onto a Buehrle career retrospective DVD. Maybe if it's a box set.

Mason Tobin (2010): Taken by the Cubs from the Angels, sold to the Rangers.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "The Cubs make a few bucks! We can apply it to payroll!"
How He Worked Out: He hasn't worked out for anyone.
Impact For Cubs: Whatever the Cubs made probably went to Alfonso Soriano's contract.

Mike Parisi (2009): Taken by the Cubs from the Cardinals.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's a guy with a little big league experience!"
How He Worked Out: Parisi's experience with the Cardinals was getting blown up for for an ERA over 8.00 for a couple months and 23 innings the year before. It remains his only experience.
Impact For Cubs: Zip.

Jim Henderson (2006): Taken by Cubs from the Nationals.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Here's a guy who really turned the corner in the minors last year after converting from starting to relieving!"
How He Worked Out: Henderson needed more work, but did toil a couple more years for the Cubs in the minors before they released him.
Impact For Cubs: None until the Brewers picked him up. Now he sports a career 2.98 ERA for them with 31 saves -- including seven against the Cubs.

Josh Hamilton (2006): Taken by Cubs from Rays, sold to the Reds.
An Optimist Might Have Thought: "Something for nothing!"
How He Worked Out: The Cubs got basically nothing for 2010 AL MVP.
Impact For Cubs: Fortunately the Reds also didn't think much of Hamilton, shipping him to the Rangers for what they hoped was pitching help. At least Cubs fans didn't have to see much of Hamilton while wondering what would have happened if they'd just kept him instead of signing Soriano.