Walking Wounded Headed For Free Agency

I was talking to Eric this afternoon about Erik Bedard, and during the conversation, I mentioned something to him that I noticed a while ago but hadn’t talked about here – this winter is shaping up to be a free agent auction of the walking wounded. Ever wondered how much a talented but injury prone starting pitcher is worth? We’re going to find out this winter.

The list of potential free agent pitchers this winter is littered with names who offer remarkable upside when healthy, but are among the pitchers that have track records showing that they just can’t really be counted on.

Erik Bedard. Rich Harden. Ben Sheets. Kelvim Escobar. Brad Penny. John Smoltz. Justin Duchscherer. Carl Pavano. Jason Schmidt.

If you were going to assemble the All-Time-Talented-But-Fragile Pitching Staff, those nine would probably end up prominently featured. It’s a collection of big arms with top shelf stuff, all of whom come with needles, scar tissue, and more than enough MRIs to build a bridge to nowhere.

It’s a veritable plethora of pitching potential wrapped in all the reminders of how fragile an arm really is. A couple of years ago, a rotation of Bedard-Harden-Sheets would be the kind of thing that dreams were made of. Now, it’s a race to see which of them can grab the largest collection of innings-based contract incentives.

It should be interesting, if nothing else. Last winter, we saw a glut of corner outfielders hit the market at the same time that teams were shifting away from poor defensive sluggers. This winter, the market will be saturated with ultra high risk/reward pitchers. We’ll find out pretty quickly how well teams have learned from the mistakes of the past – like, say, the last time Schmidt was available in free agency.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Tom B
13 years ago

how many of these players signed their last contract before drug testing started? people worry so much about homeruns, but pitchers/relievers got the greatest benefit from these drugs… and promptly fell apart when they couldn’t use them anymore.

Garrett
13 years ago
Reply to  Tom B

I really think baseball’s dirty secret is (rich) players can certainly still use if they want to. The only ones stars getting paid big bucks who are still getting caught are the dumb ones. Steroid distribution is so far ahead of the testing curve in MLB, it isn’t even funny.

philosofool
13 years ago
Reply to  Garrett

Of course, there’s a very serious ethical question about forbidding players to use PEDs for injury rehabilitation. Consider the following parralel: you have entered a special field of construction a serious risk to your health. Construction workers of your ilk are handsomely paid, but in choosing to enter the line of work in question, they forgo almost any other professional opportunity they might have. On the job, you suffer a back injury that will prevent you from working if you do not recover fully. You doctor tells you that steroids would greatly increase the chance of a rapid and full recovery. However, your boss forbids it. You ask for the good reason and the response involves some nebulous claim about the integrity of his business. You would be perfectly justified in responding “This is my fucking livelihood, and I don’t even understand why the integrity of your business is threatened when you allow your hard working employees access to medical treatment. Etc.” –I realize that isn’t the whole story, but it is part of it, and it’s a part that isn’t being said nearly loudly enough.

Raf
13 years ago
Reply to  Tom B

That certainly wasn’t the case with Smoltz, Pavano & Sheets who are/were injury prone.

joser
13 years ago
Reply to  Tom B

Yes, because we never had pitchers fall apart before the PED era.

Tom B
13 years ago
Reply to  joser

you’re right… we never had 9 of the “best” pitchers in baseball fall apart at the same time