Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Meet the Unsigned Free Agents: Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo

Taking a look at the 2014 MLB Free Agent tracker on the CBSSports.com website and it appears that a few of the players discussed are starting to catch on with minor league deals (Cesar Izturis in Houston & Delmon Young in Baltimore) the second tier of free agent signings seems to be picking up as we move past the holiday season.

Since we've moved pretty far down the list for hitters, i'm going to switch course and discuss some of the free agent pitchers (I may return to these lower-tier hitters later on). Since everyone with a budget is discussing Mashairo Tanaka a bit much and he's at the stage where people are bidding merely for the right to negotiate with him, i'm going to keep moving down the list to the other pitchers.

Ervin Santana:

Santana has been very up and down in his career so I guess its a matter of perception. Personally, I don't have the brightest perception of him. I had him on my fantasy baseball team in the beginning of 2012, which ended with him leading the league in home runs allowed. Over the last nine years, he's bounced around from being terrible to average to pretty good and back with no particular rhyme or reason. Gathering up the sample sizes of the last nine seasons he has been as average as they come (100 ERA+). That may not be the most glaring endorsement but even being average is good enough for him to get (over) paid somewhere.

His most similar player through age 30 is Brett Myers. After age 30, he had a good season out of the bullpen in 2012 and 4 mostly terrible games for the Indians last year. I don't know if anyone reaches financially to give him the $10 million plus he's been paid the last couple years but stranger things have happened.

Matt Garza:

Even though Garza spent some time with the rival Cubs team, I can't really root against him too much as he also is a former member of the SLO Blues. 

Garza has pitched relatively well in his career (108 ERA+) but has never really been a star. He most recently was traded to Texas for three minor leaguers, one of which (Mike Olt) could make this a trade the Rangers may regret making in the long term. He does have some post-season experience and has pitched well in five post season starts so he may be a good fit as a #3 or #4 starter on a contender. One thing that is quickly forgotten is that he is still relatively young (he just turned 30 during the off-season).

His most similar pitcher through age 29 is Jim Lonborg. Lonborg had a three above average pitching seasons after turning 30. Between Santana & Garza, I think Garza would be the better of the top two non-Tanaka pitching free agent options left out there. While Santana is probably going to have to settle for less than what he was hoping, I think someteam out there gives Garza something near a 3 year 35 million dollar deal.

A.J. Burnett:

In his career, Burnett has pitched relatively well except for his time with the Yankees (even then he had one above average season). He may have issues with control as he walks a lot of people and throws a substantial amount of wild pitches but he is another available slightly above average pitcher on the market. While he has postseason experience, i'm not sure this works in his favor as he has struggled in eight post-season starts (6.37 ERA). His most similar player through age 36 is baseball announcer Rick Sutcliffe. After age 36, he had two very sub-par seasons.

Bronson Arroyo:

Like Arroyo, Burnett has been an overall decent pitcher with a specific problem area (giving up home runs) that prevents him from being a top-level pitcher. With that said, I think he's still good enough to help a contending team as a mid-rotation starter, especially if he ends up on a team that plays its home games in a more pitching friendly ballpark. Through age 36, his most similar player is John Burkett who pitched a couple more fairly average seasons before retiring.

Out of these quadrant of pitchers, I would rank them in the following order in terms of how much value they will be over their future contracts:

1-Garza
2-Arroyo
3-Santana
4-Burnett