Pitching Security Plans: Mets, Rangers, and TBD
Last year the Red Sox signed Bartolo Colon on a low-risk contract, convincing the former Cy Young winner that one season of impressive results would help him net a better deal the next year. They were right to an extent; Colon's deal with the White Sox is slightly improved over his Boston pact, and the Red Sox did get good work in spurts out of the burly power pitcher, despite his continued injury problems.
This year, a number of teams are trying to follow suit, with the Red Sox upping their own ante by signing John Smoltz and Brad Penny, the White Sox adding Colon and, now, the Mets signing Freddy Garcia.
In the end, Garcia -- who missed all of the 2008 season recovering from arm surgery -- made his choice between the Mets and Yankees, and went with the Queens-siders because of what he perceived to be a better shot of making the team's rotation. According to Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman, Garcia was concerned about a lingering chance that Andy Pettitte could still return to the Yankees, which would keep him down in the minor leagues and prevent him from earning the majority of a deeply incentive-laced contract, one which has an unconfirmed base salary but allows him to earn $8-9 million if he hits a number of innings and performance-based marks.
For the Mets, Garcia is an insurance plan, another pitcher who could become a solid starter, but more likely a fall back in the unlikely possibility that they can't re-sign Oliver Perez.
There's no insurance plan for the Rangers at all, yet they still want to sign starter Ben Sheets to a plan not unlike the deal struck for Garcia ... Or Colon or Penny, for that matter. Sheets, who is seen as intensely injury prone, actually made more starts and pitched more innings than new Yankee A.J. Burnett across the past eight seasons, but his most recent campaigns seem to have scared teams away from a strong base-salary deal.
Does that mean the Rangers will land him on a low-risk, high incentive deal? It probably should, but it might not. Sheets has routinely pushed away all offers with that structure that have been sent his way, and there's no indication he'll bend on his demands until the last possible moment.
And if he does sign, what happens to the bargain pitching market then? Believe it or not, that would make available starters all but non-existent, with the likes of Carl Pavano and Matt Clement already scooped up. So who is left? Amazingly, one of the guys who could be had is none other than David Wells. As Buster Olney astutely pointed out this morning, Wells never filed official retirement papers, which means he can still come back and pitch ... if anyone wants him. He's telling teams that he'll accept a minor league deal -- any minor league deal -- if one is offered, which just makes you think: won't someone take a flier on the big smoker-turned-diabetic one more time? Would you? Should the Nationals or Orioles?
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