Type A Starting Pitchers

Players classified with the Type A tag are generally the big boys, the cream of the crop. These players are all amongst the top of their respective positions and tend to command larger and more lucrative contracts. The team signing a Type A free agent loses a draft pick, depending on its slot in the draft, which goes to the team losing the newly-signed player. Yesterday, we took a look at the three remaining Type A relief pitchers on the market. Naturally, the next step is to look at the available Type A starting pitchers.

CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett signed with the Yankees, removing them from this post. Both project nicely though Burnett has had an unhealthy injury history. With both of these pitchers off the market, just four Type A starting pitchers remain free agents: Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez, Andy Pettitte, and Ben Sheets.

Lowe has been discussed here time and time again. He will be 36 years old halfway through the 2009 season but has been the most durable and consistent of this bunch. The Mets have a 3-yr/$36 mil offer on the table that he and agent Scott Boras all but scoffed at. Lowe is seeking closer to $16 mil/yr which may be unrealistic given the current market heavily favoring the buyers. With a projection calling for a 3.67 FIP in 185 innings, Lowe would be worth +3.5 wins in 2009.

Assuming a dropoff of -0.6 wins each season, then Lowe would be worth near +8.7 wins over the life of a 3-yr deal. If the current dollars per win rate is $4.8 mil/win, and 10% inflation occurs over the next few seasons, then Lowe would be worth +3.5 wins at $16.8 mil in 2009; +2.9 wins at $15.4 mil in 2010; and +2.3 wins at $13.4 mil in 2011. All told, that is $45.5 mil, and he is seeking somewhere closer to a 3-yr/$48 mil deal. As was mentioned in earlier posts, once negotiations are ended, I fully expect Lowe to sign for about 3-yr/$45 mil, which would properly value his projected contributions.

Andy Pettitte has a similar projection to that of Lowe’s, calling for a 3.75 FIP in 187 innings. Pettitte recently rejected the 1-yr/$10 mil offer from the Yankees, as he does not want to receive a salary lower than the $16 mil he made in 2008. Perhaps the Yanks will up their offer but Pettitte has flirted with retirement before, and it would not be terribly shocking to see him call it quits if he cannot receive the “right” offer.

Anyways, a 3.75 FIP in 187 innings would place him around +3.3 wins. Properly valuing his contributions would result in a 1-yr/$15.8 mil deal. Basically, Pettitte deserves the same salary relative to his projected production. Given the Yankees payroll and the fact that he would be a significant upgrade over someone like Ian Kennedy, it just makes sense to sign him to this deal. Will it happen, though? Who knows. Probably not.

Oliver Perez seems to be the odd man out of this group, not just because he is the only pitcher of the four under 30 years old, but also because he projects to be worth under three wins. Using FIP, Perez looks like a 4.60 pitcher in 180 innings. This would deem him +1.6 wins. Even if we amend the FIP to be closer to his projected ERA of 4.30, he is merely average, at +2.1 wins. Perez is not anywhere in the vicinity of Sandy Koufax, as Scott Boras has claimed, but he does have value. A 3-yr/$28 mil deal would make sense for Ollie, though I can see that deal upping itself to 3-yr/$36 mil when Lowe inevitably signs his 3-yr/$45 mil contract.

Lastly, that leaves Ben Sheets, arguably the most talented of the group albeit the most oft-injured. At 30 years old, Sheets is still relatively young, but he has proven to be very brittle. When healthy, he is a dominant force, but the caveat beginning this sentence should speak volumes towards his durability. In any regard, his projection calls for a 3.60 FIP in 180 innings, placing him around +3.4 wins. While Pettitte and Lowe are durable enough to garner 3-yr deals and Perez is young enough to merit a similarly lengthed deal, a more responsibly GM would offer Sheets a 2-yr deal with options that automatically vest due to playing time.

I could see a team like the Rangers signing him to a 2-yr/$28 mil deal with a third and even fourth year option. Again, he might be the most talented, but his resume does not necessarily make decision makers eager to dish out large sums of money over extended periods of time. Later on, we will look at the Type A free agent hitters available.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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Both Petitte and Lowe have had over 200 IP in the last 4 seasons. Is 185-187 IP a good estimate for them?