Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Meet the Unsigned Free Agents: Paul Maholm, Grant Balfour, Jason Hammel, Fernando Rodney

Paul Maholm:

One player that was part of a not so friendly baseball memory. Back in June Maholm nailed Carlos Gomez with a pitch which seemed pretty pedestrian at the time. Until the last week of the season when Gomez hit a home run off of Maholm, had some words to say and unraveled a chain of events that ultimately led to Brian McCann obstructing Carlos Gomez from crossing home plate.

During the early part of the winter, I read in a couple places (I forget where) speculating along the lines of "Maholm may be someone the Brewers may look into signing"...after last year, there's about no way that happens, if it did it would be like "wow I wonder how awkward the first day of spring training and the 2014 season was".

What we got here is a former top 10 pick (8th overall in 2003) who has established himself as a decent starting pitcher but not someone that makes you easily remember he was a top 10 pick at one point. He is coming off his worst season since in his career (the first time in his career that he's been below replacement level even if it was only by 1/10 of a win).

But he's not that old (2013 was his age 31 season) and maybe he is a late bloomer who would eventually become a top line starting pitcher. However, history does not indicate that this is likely. his most similar player through age 31 is ex-Pirates pitcher Neal Heaton. After 31, he pitched a couple of pedestrian seasons in middle relief before his career came to an end.

Grant Balfour:

Another free agent with a cameo appearance in terms of Brewers history (he pitched 3 games for them before being traded for Seth McClung). Over the last couple years, he's established himself as one of the better relief pitchers in the game. In December, it appeared that he had gotten a 3 year deal from Baltimore (anything more than 1 year deal for revilers is probably not the best idea) but they backed off because of some issues from his physical and here he is still on the market in mid-January.

Both recent performance and precedent indicate there is still plenty of good years left in the tank. His most similar player through age 35 is fellow free agent Rafael Betancourt who has had two really strong seaons and one slightly above average season since turning 35. Assuming Balfour gets a shorter deal, this could be one of the better acquisitions in the off-season.

Jason Hammel:

Hammel has been a consistent (if not that great) back end starting pitcher for the last five years. He's not even close to being an ace (94 ERA+, 1.44 WHIP) but in terms of back end starting pitching goes, teams could do worse. Still, even those modest days could end sooner rather than later. Through age 30, his most similar player was Nate Robertson. After turning 30, he had two very uninspiring seasons (ERA+ of 84 & 70 respectively) before his career came to an end.

Fernando Rodney:

Which Fernando Rodney are teams going to get? The Fernando Rodney who has been an average to slightly above average for much of his career or the uber-relief ace from 2012 that channeled late 80s/early 90s Eckersley?

Considering that he's on the wrong side of 35 I think we're safely back to typically career Fernando Rodney. Best case scenario, he still has 2 or 3 decent seasons in front of him. His closest comparabile through age 36 was Mike Fetters. After turning 36, he had one okay season before his production fell off.

--numbers, comparability statements, etc found on baseball-reference.com