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Uh-Oh: Ben Sheets May Need Elbow Surgery

Of all the unsigned players still out there on the free agent market, Ben Sheets may have been the biggest shock. He's not old, like Pudge Rodriguez or Ken Griffey Jr. He wasn't making exorbitant demands, like Manny Ramirez. He isn't a defensive liability, like Adam Dunn. Why wasn't anyone signing the former ace of the Milwaukee Brewers, and the starting pitcher for the NL in last July's All-Star Game?

A big part of the mystery was solved today, when reported the Texas Rangers backed out of a two-year deal with Sheets when a physical exam revealed a torn flexor tendon in his elbow, which might require surgery. Sheets struggled through elbow pain through much of 2008, and was left off the Brewers' postseason roster. Oddly, though, the Brewers were confident enough about Sheets's health to offer him arbitration, which, had he accepted it, might have resulted in a salary of $13 million or more in 2009.

Obviously, this is terrible timing for Sheets. Normally, given his talent and resume, he might have expected to land a deal not unsimilar to the one the Atlanta Braves gave Derek Lowe -- $60 million over four years. Now, he could be left to sign a much smaller deal with a team willing to let him rehab for much of 2009.

Such deals are not uncommon. The New York Yankees, for example, did it with Jon Lieber in 2003, signing him to a two-year deal despite knowing he would not be able to pitch that season. Lieber came back in 2004, and won 14 games for the Yankees.

Problem is, this isn't 2003, and most if not all teams don't have such financial luxuries.

By Dave Sheinin  |  February 5, 2009; 2:33 PM ET
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No team is going to sign Sheets till after the draft, who would give up a first round pick, or even a 2nd rounder like the Nats, for a guy who won't be ready till spring training 2010.

Posted by: estuartj | February 5, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

damn, that guy has no luck whatsoever. i bet there are a lot more players accepting arbitration next year after watching players this offseason.

Posted by: adampschroeder | February 5, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

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