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FA Options – Starting Rotation

November 2, 2012

Not long after the season ended for the Athletics, the very next day actually if I remember correctly, Billy Beane stated that if they were going to make any major additions to the team in free agency it would be to the starting rotation. With the declined option of Stephen Drew (I still think he comes back) and the still yet to be re-signing of Brandon McCarthy (also feel that he’ll come back) in addition to the money from the new MLB television deal, the A’s have some room to spend money. So let’s look at the four pitches I would like to see the A’s pursue, and hopefully sign one, in the free agency market.

Joe ‘Cupcakes’ Blanton

I know Joe’s years in Philadelphia don’t look that pretty, but that is what happens when you put a flyball pitcher in the bandbox that is Citizens Bank Park. But look at the overall numbers before you jump to conclusions.  He still boasts as career K/9 and BB/9 of 6.14 and 2.37 respectively and posted career highs in both categories last season. His career pitching triple slash (ERA/FIP/xFIP) of 4.37/4.15/4.15 is not great but it’s not awful either. Again, his numbers in those categories last year were the best they’ve been since 2007, his last full season with Oakland.

Age has been kind to him as he hasn’t seen a down turn in average velocity or movement, per Brooks Baseball. If anything his h- and v-movements have held steady and his average velocity has actually increased last year.

Blanton has also been healthy for the large part of his career.  2011 was the first time he did not make at least 30 starts in a season and he has posted close to 2.0 fWAR each year he’s been healthy. He did miss out on posting 2.0 fWAR in 2010, but at 1.8 it’s close enough in my book.

At the right price I’d love to have Joe back in Oakland. Coming off of a contract of 3/$24 I think $8MM would be a tad  much for him, but if you go by $/WAR he would be a good bargain if he keeps to his career averages.

Joe Saunders

This is the first of my ‘stretch’ choices. ‘Stretch’ not in “I don’t think the A’s can get him” but as in who knows what he will add to the rotation. His career pitching triple slash of 4.15/4.56/4.48 is something to blush at, as it is getting close the bottom of what I would call ‘acceptable’ for the rotation. Last year he posted his best fWAR since 2008 of 2.5. For having pitched in relatively hitter friendly parks the last couple of years he still comes in at or below league average for HR/FB. He posted his best K/9 and BB/9 since 2007 and his career numbers in those fields are, again, getting close to the bottom of the barrel.

But, as with Blanton, Saunders is with reliable, having made nearly 30 starts, at least, the last five seasons and logging no less that 170 IP’s since 2008.

One-year at $6MM isn’t an awful contract for him, but I’d like to see it somewhere in the 4-5MM before biting at him. Make it a low risk/high reward signing.

Kevin Millwood

Alright, after you have finished laughing just at the thought of him pitching for yet another season, hear me out on this one.

Every season in which he has pitched more that 120 innings, he has posted at least 2.o fWAR, save for 2001 and 2010. His pitching triple slash of 4.25/3.91/4.42 isn’t awful given a pitcher of his age. His K/BB of 2:1 last year isn’t bad, and for his career a K/9 and BB/9 of 6.98 and 2.97 is still serviceable.

Also, he comes extremely cheap at 1 year/$1MM. The main question is, can he stay healthy? He season ended last year because of a shoulder injury, which is concerning. But stick him in the back of the rotation or make him a spot-starter is very frugal, in my opinion.

I will also admit that I have a strange love of Millwood as a pitcher. I don’t know why, can’t explain. But I still feel that he could be a useful/serviceable option in the right kind of rotation.

Edwin Jackson

This is my ultimate ‘stretch’ option, both in the fact that I don’t know if the A’s would be able to get him (price) and what he will bring. If the A’s were to sign him this would be his eighth team in six years.

ERA/FIP/xFIP don’t really like him as his career numbers are 4.40/4.26/4.29, although he posted strong numbers last year with the Nationals. He is seen as a head case but when you look at his K/9 and BB/9 last years 7.97 and 2.75 are nothing to blush at. His career numbers in those categories are close to 2:1, but since 2007 (save for a small uptick in 2010) he has lowered the BB/9 each year while raising the K/9 each year. He is also an extremely valuable pitcher by fWAR, posting close to 4.0 WAR each year until last season, a “paltry” 2.7 fWAR. He also tied a career best, and well below league average, LD% last year of 16.8%.

There are two big question marks when it comes to Jackson as a pitcher, though. First, you never know which one will show up for his starts. Some games he looks like he will throw no-hitters and the next one he can’t get guys to swing and miss. Also, are the A’s in a position to sign him? He is a Boras client, as far as I know, and gets paid like one. His 1 year/$11MM contract with the Nationals last year is most likely going to take to sign him. And he could stay with Washington, but it still would be nice to see the A’s kick the tires on him.

I saw Hiroki Kuroda thrown around by my Tarp Talk co-host  Alan Torres as someone to go after. That would be a nice get, but I think he stays in New York.

Then again, there’s also Jaime Moyer.

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