Thanks for the input in the comments section yesterday. As spring training develops, we may see more and more out of options players either hit the trade market or battle for starting spots. Here are the two guys that I picked out among the pitchers as the most interesting targets for today.
SP Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays
In 2008, Dustin McGowan was a big part of a pitching staff that ranked #1 in the Major Leagues in WAR. Although his traditional stats didn’t look like much, McGowan had done a great job of suppressing fly balls and therefore home runs, keeping his FIP below 4.00 in both 2007 and 2008. In the 270 IP he had compiled in those two years, McGowan put up a 6.2 WAR, making him a legitimate #2 or #3 starter in most rotations. A shoulder injury and a knee injury derailed McGowan for all of 2009, and now it remains to be seen if he will be ready for the 2010 season.
There’s a large cast of characters competing for the starting jobs in Toronto, including Ricky Romero, David Purcey, Jesse Litsch, Shaun Marcum, Marc Rzepcynski, Dana Eveland, Scott Richmond, Brett Cecil, and Shawn Hill. Given that others in this group aren’t out of options, I would predict that McGowan starts the season with the Jays. If McGowan can make a full recovery, he should be a valuable asset to either a young, rebuilding Jays team or another team willing to deal for a starting pitcher.
SP Charlie Haeger, Dodgers
Everybody loves knuckleballers, from Hoyt Wilhelm to Tim Wakefield; from Charlie Hough to R.A. Dickey. Charlie Haeger has a chance to be the next one in what seems like a dying breed. CHONE projects Haeger at roughly 1.0 WAR, putting him in roughly the same boat as Eric Stults (also out of options), Giancarlo Alvarado, and Russ Ortiz, all of whom could compete for the 5th starter spot in Los Angeles.
Haeger’s only had 53 IP worth of opportunities in the major between 4 stints and 3 teams. His big issue in the majors has been poor control – 33 walks in those 53 innings – and he has a 5.26 ERA and 6.03 FIP to show because of it. In those same 4 years and over 600 minor league innings, Haeger’s overall BB/9 rate is closer to 4. Although he doesn’t strike out too many batters, numbers like that in the majors could work for Haeger. Home runs haven’t been an issue in the minors (although they have in the majors), and he’s shown an ability to suppress BABIP, never having allowed a full-season BABIP over .296 in the minors. Only more MLB innings will tell us if he these positive minor league indicators can translate to the show.
Maybe I just want to be indulged and see another knuckleballer in the major leagues, but I would really like to see Haeger in some sort of ML role by the start of the season. His production deserves a spot in somebody’s starting rotation.
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