Friday, January 24, 2014

Meet the Unsigned Free Agents: Bruce Chen, Joel Hanrahan, Scott Baker, Darren Oliver

Bruce Chen:

What He's Done:

Chen is pretty much been anywhere and everywhere in his major league career (including 4/5th of the National League East). While he jumped from team to team frequently early in his career, he's surprisingly spent the last five of those in Kansas City.

He's actually coming off his best season since 2000 with an ERA+ of 126 but since its pretty rare for pitchers to hit their peak at age 36, this is likely more of a career year than a change in trends going forward.

What's In Store for 2014:

Likely to have to compete his way into a #4 or #5 starter slot for a team that thinks he can repeat 2013 performance or at the very least give them 1 or 2 productive seasons. My estimate is that he gets somewhere in the range of $2 million/1 year contract to pitch.

Comparative Analysis:

His most similar player through age 36 is Mark Gardner. After turning 36, he pitched three more seasons struggling in two of them and pitching slightly above average in one of them. My guess is that Chen has a pretty average season (close to his 2010/2011 totals) for the coming year but anything beyond that would be a lot to ask.

Joel Hanrahan:

What He's Done:

He's had some success closing out games in the 2011/2012 seasons but had a disastrous 2013 season where he did nothing tho contribute to the Red Sox winning the World Series as he needed to get Tommy John surgery.

What's In Store for 2014:

His career is at a crossroads. Is his 2013 just a minor bump in the road or is it an indication that his career peak has come and gone. He may be more of a play to contribute in 2015 than 2014 and it depends on how his arm recovers from surgery.

Comparative Analysis:

His most similar pitcher through age 31 is Heathcliff Slocumb. After turning 31, he had three seaons left in the tank with one of the those (1999) being better than average. My feeling is that Hanrahan will come back strong from surgery (even if it isn't this year) and get back to being a productive reliever.

Scott Baker:

What He's Done:

Had a nice stretch in the Minnesota Twins rotation from 2006 to 2011 before being sidelined with injuries. Came back and had a few decent starts with the Cubs last year but too small of a sample size to indicate whether he can be relied upon to pitch through a full season.

What's In Store for 2014:

Baker looks like a low-risk decent-size reward candidate. He'll likely get signed to a minor league deal but should get into a starting rotation somewhere.

Comparative Analysis:

His most similar pitcher through age is Shaun Marcum who is also coming off his age 31 season and injury problems the last couple years (though with Marcum he missed parts of seasons but didn't have entire seasons wiped out).

I think that Baker manages to pitch 100-150 innings at some point this season but i'm not sure if he'll necessarily be effective.

Darren Oliver:

What He's Done:

He's pretty much been everywhere in a career that started way back in 1993! Early in his career he was a marginally effective starting pitcher. After not pitching in the MLB in 2005, he came back and started his more effective second phase of his career as a reliever (with the Mets, Angels, Rangers & Blue Jays).

What's In Store for 2014:

 He's one of those lefty relievers that still manages to get batters out and the best current hope of an active player still being in the bigs after they turn 50. I don't think he gets signed until around March but he'll have a lefty specialist role somewhere.


Comparative Analysis:

With Oliver still playing at an age where the vast majority of players have retired, I was curious to see who his closest comparison is. Through age 42, the top comparison is Jeff Fassero. While Fassero had more success as a starter, he had less momentum as his time as a reliever than Oliver did. After age 42, he made 10 sub-par appearances for the 2006 Giants. I think Oliver avoids that fate for at least a couple years as he is still putting up consistent performance numbers as he gets older.


All Numbers, Comparisons, etc found on baseball-reference.com