baltimoresun.com

« Orioles: Looper would make sense | Main | Draft choice compensation rules »

January 29, 2009

Orioles: Demystifying Ben Sheets

Though I realize that hundreds of blog posts can't be wrong, I'm still going to take issue with the popular notion that free agent pitcher Ben Sheets would be a smart gamble for the Orioles at this point in the offseason.

Here are some issues that are not in dispute and would argue for taking a chance on Sheets:

1. Sheets is a very talented pitcher who had a 3.09 ERA in 31 starts last year and has a terrific walk/strikeout ratio.

2. The Orioles still have a gaping hole in their starting rotation, if you can even call it a rotation when there currently are only two pitchers who appear certain to be in it.

3. The O's can probably afford to do whatever they want, since they have sliced a number of well-paid players off the payroll the past couple of years.

sheetsgetty.jpgHere are the reasons why it doesn't make nearly as much sense as some might think:

1. He's been on the disabled list five times in the last four years and has made 30 or more starts in only half his major league seasons.

2. He had a great ERA last year and still won only 13 games for a playoff-caliber team. His career ERA also is very good (3.72) and yet he's only three games over .500 for his career.

3. He ended the year with a torn forearm flexor, which remains enough of a question that he is still on the market with two weeks left before spring training.

4. The Brewers offered him arbitration to retain draft choice compensation if he signs elsewhere, but are not seriously bidding for him now.

5. He's still holding out hope of getting a two-year deal at about his 2008 salary ($11 million).

Here's my opinion:

Now, I realize that it's not your concern whether the Orioles cough up $20 million or so on a dare, but I'd like you to try to imagine the reaction they would get if they sign Sheets and he undergoes elbow surgery in May and is lost for 1 1/2 of those two seasons. I'm pretty sure a lot of the same people who think he's such an obvious choice would be lining up to blast the O's for another brainless, short-sighted move.

But that's not even the best argument. I don't care whether the club makes money or not, but committing an eighth of your annual payroll for a guy who has never won more than 13 games in a season doesn't make any sense to me at all. Heck, Garrett Olson won only four fewer games in five fewer starts with a 6.65 ERA on a bad team.

Yeah, yeah. I realize he's got a great WHIP and he has elite talent. He might end up being a 20-game winner on a good team if he can stay healthy. I'm just trying to make the point that he likely would be a 12-game winner here if he stayed healthy and you can have all the 10-game winners you want for half the price.

I would look at the situation differently if the Orioles were on the cusp of contention, because the potential upside from that kind of gamble would be much higher with a higher quality team, but you've got to get this guy for one year and a club option for about $7 million for there to be any logic in it for the Orioles.

Now, here's your challenge: Change my mind.

Getty Images

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 12:27 PM | | Comments (145)
Categories: Just baseball
        

Comments

when you say you can get all the 10 game winners that you want. who are they?all the ones they have picked up haven't won 10 in mlb as yet.pauley,hendrickson,etc looper would be a positive but as yet everyone but guthrie is a question mark, so I say sign him with incentives.john b

You can call me crazy if you want but I would rather see Sheets 10 to 15 times a year than to watch Braden Looper all year and every fifth day. And I feel the same about Mark Hendrickson. These are two former bullpen guys that would be 3rd and 4th starters on our team. Good teams which they are trying to become would have guys like them in AAA not in the rotation. Sheets has issues granted but he has two things those other two stiffs don't have potential and talent.

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Really, if it was your money, you'd pay the guy $1 million per start for 12 starts?

Won't try to change your mind. But I'm curious why no one is talking about Oliver Perez as an option. I don't know much about him but I believe he is only 27 years old, has had some decent years and is still available. Just asking?

Pete,

Can't...

Still want to see something in a solid major league quality arms to tide us over and making watching O's games somewhat tolerable for 2009. Watching Liz and whomever else they trot out there get lit up 4-5 nights a week doesn't make for an entertaining season.

If Jones makes more improvements this season, this offense can be dynamic and will put up runs on anybody, but if we're down 6-0 in the 3rd every night save Guthrie, then its going to make everyone sick.

Looper, and one or two other "solid" 3-4 type rotation guys makes this season more easily disgested as we await the future.

Pete, after reading your post, I doubt there's anyway anyone can change your mind. The reason is you don't understand baseball statistics. You picked all the unimportant ones as evidence for your argument. Your argument on the statistical side makes no sense, but you used it, therefore, you must believe it. Therefore, you can't be convinced.

On the money side, fine. Could be a disaster. Agree with you on that.


..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: No, don't have a clue about baseball statistics after 29 years of covering baseball.

Pete,

I don't think we should sign him either, but talking about Wins is silly. Pitchers don't have any control over how many runs their teams score. Well, maybe a little in the National League I guess. But stick with the injury history, knocking his win totals is a weak argument.

Joe

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I wasn't knocking his win total. I was pointing out that the difference between his win total and guys who are getting minor league deals makes him a bad gamble at $11 million per year. Sure, wins are deceptive, but if they aren't there, it doesn't matter on a team like this, so you shouldn't throw away that money. I said in the piece that if the O's had more upside, it would be a different equation.

Pete, I agree with you that Sheets is not a good deal for the O's. As you say, he just wont help a losing team very much (75 vs 73 wins). But I take exception to you saying that Sheets having a good ERA and WHIP, yet not having a lot of wins, means he "doesnt know how to win." All a pitcher can do is not give up runs and keep guys off base...period. Dont judge him by a lack of wins.


...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I didn't say he doesn't know how to win. I'm placing value on his performance based on the quality of the Orioles this year and next. It won't make sense. If they were a team that was one 15-game winner away from the playoffs, I'd be all for taking a chance on him. He might be great this year.

Peter, there's a pretty simple two-fold reason why you're right: (1) Sheets is a Type A free agent, and will cost the Orioles their second-round draft pick if they sign him; and (2) Sheets will be gone long before the Orioles are a competitive team.

With those two things in mind, even if Sheets signs with Baltimore has two 20-win seasons, it will *BY DEFINITION* be a dumb, short-sighted move that won't contribute to the next pennant-winning team here in Baltimore.

Look at how many draft picks the O's have forfeited over the past few years because we were busy signing stopgap players. In '07, for example, the Orioles got Matt Wieters -- the best prospect in baseball -- and then had to watch 123 more players fly off the boards before drafting again in the 4th round. Why? Because the Orioles signed Danys Baez and Chad Bradford.

Wouldn't you rather have two more prospects in the system than Baez (bust) and Bradford (whom we gave away to TB)?

That's why you pass on Sheets now, even if his price drops, and even if his arm is sound.

Agreed. Not worth the risk. The O's are not going to contend and the risk is you pay millions for a guy that will surely go see Dr. Andrews this year or next.

It makes great sense for 4 big reasons.

1) Excite the fan base! It seems no one inside the warehouse or the Baltimore Sun really understands how badly we want an ace pitcher worth cheering for. We never got over the loss of Mussina.
-Sure one of these young guys might become an ace someday. But Sheets is one now and we are tired of waiting.

2) Worse case scenario he gets hurt and the team wastes 20 million. The fans will be thankful we finally at least took the risk. Guys like Millar, Baez, Walker, Cordova, Payton, etc cost the O's millions and I never heard a single O's fan get excited about any of them from the day they signed their contracts and above all we never won. (No Surprises There)

3) Best Case scenario- He pitches like the ace he is. Maybe he only wins 13 games, but with his ERA and the O's offense improving dramatically every year he could win 20. (Wins mostly reflect run support, ERA reflects good pitching, he's a darn good pitcher) In addition he would be a fantastic mentor to our upcoming staff of the future.
Matusz, Tillman, Hernandez etc.

4) The finally reason is; Because we can.

The O's finally have the money to sign an ace pitcher with the MASN deal and the pitching market is such that they can get a $15-$18 million dollar pitcher for $10million per for less years. As Ben Stiller said in Starsky and Hutch "Just do it"!!!

...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: The thing i absolutely disagree with was your contention that if he is a major bust, people will appreciate the effort on the part of Peter Angelos. Not a chance. The vast majority of fans will use it as proof that he's a terrible owner who makes bad decisions and MacPhail is a bad GM who diverted from his plan and wasted $20 million that could have been spent on someone else.

The Orioles starting rotation is:
1)Guthrie
2)Uehera
3)Hendrickson
4)??
5)??

If he's healthy, you save your bullpen and him signing would show other Free Agents that Baltimore is turning it around. They can compete this year if they get some starting pitching, probably not playoffs, but Compete

CHANCES CHANCES CHANCES-Since when did we stop taking chances on someone with a proven track record of performance.-Albert Belle runined it for all of us. I like Andy's approach. We need to build from the ground up and we are doing that, but were missing the point if we dont take a few chances on players like Sheets. Take the times when the Orioles have prospered in the past. We have had our Murrays/Ripkens/ B. Robinsons come through the Orioles system. We also had players we picked up from other teams that assisted in those World Series Teams-al la-Singleton/Dempsey/Flanagan and another guy named Frank. I think we will have a very strong team when the pitchers and Weiters arrive, but we must use a time like this when the market is down to go after some other key players for that championship run in a few years. Sheets may blow his arm out, he may sneeze and have amnesia and forget how to pitch, but if were not willing to take a chance on some of these players we will never build a strong team and will never have a Teixeria type player sign on in a few years to complement Nick and hopefully B-Rob. Sheets is worth the chance. I know a mile-long list can be made of bad Oriole FA signings and trades over the last two decades, but that can not stop us from taking a chance on the starter of last years all star game-come on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Pete, Didn't you just tell us Looper was a good idea because of a softer market "where Jon Garland -- who originally was seeking a multiyear deal worth $13 million per season -- just accepted a one-year deal (with a mutual option) reportedly worth $6.25 million?" Sheets may not get his two-year deal either.

Here are the reasons why Looper doesn't make nearly as much sense as some might think:

1. Looper has made 30 or more starts in the last two of his 11 major league seasons.

2.. He had a league average ERA last year and still won only 12 games for a playoff-caliber team. His career ERA also is 4.28 and yet he's five games below.500 for his career (two games under as a starter).

Basically, your real argument comes down to money, because Looper will still be cheaper than Sheets. (Remember, you get what you pay for)

"The O's can probably afford to do whatever they want, since they have sliced a number of well-paid players off the payroll the past couple of years." is an understatement. For 2010, the payroll consists of Markakis ($6.75M), Uehara ($5M) and Izturis ($2.6M). Those three, totaling $14.35M are the big ticket items we have. After that, maybe Sherrill and Guthrie are the only other players not making the major-league minimum, That's an enormous reduction in payroll from the $67M paid in 2008 and the $93M paid in 2007.

Mr. Angelos thanks you for promoting his cost cutting measures but give a little more credit to those of us that know how to read a budget spreadsheet.

The Orioles are more than one piece away from contention in 2009, no doubt. But can't some of those pieces be put in place this year?

Ae we assuming that once the Big Three of Arrieta, Matusz, and Tillman arrive that everything else will naturally fall into place? We don't need a solid starting pitcher in the meantime, just in case, that Big Three plan turns into a Big Two, or a Big One?

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Yes, and if you read to the end of my post, I said that I would be in favor of Sheets for one year at $7 million with an option.


The issue isn't why, it's why not. for that price, (assuming you have to go that high, he doesn't have a line around the block Burnett style) you get a serviceable starter who can provide a bit of Senior leadership to the young staff and if we can get 12 (each year) wins out of him, and he can help some of these youg guys bridge over....that isn't a bad 2 year ROI.

Peter,

I don't want to change your mind. Your analysis is spot on. We shouldn't go anywhere near this dude.

Pete, I agree with you, I don't think the O's should go after Sheets (or any of the other free agent pitchers out there unless they can get them for a heavily incentive laden deal). But, 1 point you did forget about, if Sheets has a spectacular 1st half, he could bring in some nice talent at the trade deadline.

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: That would be a factor, but his salary and injury history would still be an issue.

Ok....in my opinion nothing is ever guaranteed. He could break his arm on the first pitch or he could win 20 games. Isn't that a gamble with every pitcher. Excluding the Daniel Cabrera's and Brian Burress's of the world. I feel like this could be a great sign for the Orioles. It could also flop. I'm going to go with the upside though. On top of Jeremy Guthrie when have we ever had someone with this potential. The Lineup is there to get him 5 or 6 runs on any given day and with our bullpen he could get another win or two that the Brew Crew threw away for him. If he gets hurt and misses a year big deal thats baseball. Isn't that why we are filling our minor league system with prospects. Next man up, there is plenty of people to fill the void.
With that said here's a problem i feel like no one is looking at. Who's going to be our left handers in the rotation. We need someone to mix up teams on a three game series. With this said we would have three solid righties. Sheets should be signed. He has electric stuff and that will be fun to watch. When he gets hurt next man up. That will also be awesome to watch. Penn, Albers, "hopefullynot" hendrickson, It would be a great sign and as for possibly throwing away money, I'm down for that to see Sheets in a Baltimore road jersey. It adds a certain legitimacy to this rotation. I feel like this makes perfect sense.


...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Yes, anyone can break an arm in the first game, but that's why you weigh the probability against the price.

It may not be good business, but what if McPhail and/or Angelos (a big IF, I know) came out and said they were going after Sheets as a gesture to the fans. That in the midst of the rebuilding and "lower" signings, they wanted to inject a little shot of excitement into their fan base.

That way if Sheets gets hurt, the exempt themselves from criticism or bashing.

Either way, I agree he's not worth his previous salary. I think the O's should offer him one year, with a mutual option for a second, a base pay of $6mil, with incentives for starts and wins that takes it up to $10 mil per year.

I totally see where you're coming from Pete, but at the same time, I do think it's important to have one or two "token" signings during a rebuilding process, to create a little excitement during the down years. At very least, fans could come out and (potentially) watch an electrifying Sheets start during an otherwise dismal season.

I'm all for Sheets, but yes, they should not be offering him anymore GUARANTEED money than about $6mil a year.

Pete; Your analysis is spot on. If we needed someone to put us over the top, then fine, take the gamble that his arm doesn't fall off, but we just aren't close to that yet.

A question. Do you know what Sheets ground ball to fly ball ratio is? He's given up 1 HR per nine innings in the NL over his career. If he leans to giving up fly balls, that number is sure to go up in the AL, especially at Camden Yards.

Yea Pete, but all those 10 game winners out there will only be 5 game winners with the Os.

I would love to, but I couldn't.
My reasons are non-sense but everyone will know they're complete truth.

If Sheets came here there'd be 90% chance of catastrophic arm issues. (The chances of which go up more, the bigger the contract). With the O's luck they need to stay away from anybody whose scounting report contains the phrase "When healthy".

Also he's a career NLer. For former NLer pitchers coming to Baltimore, add 2 runs to their ERA. I don't have all the stats handy, but tell me of a NL Starting pitcher to come to B-more and do well. (Fernandez, Merker, Chen, Drabek all disasters) ...Ben Sheets would be another Chris Benson...minus the crazy wife.

Pete,
You make a solid argument. I would argue these points:
1) Of course Andy is building from the bottom up, but Braden Looper is no spring chicken. If you are willing to sign Looper then why not Sheets? He is a lot more talented than Looper.He's basically the same pitcher as A.J. Burnett, only you don't have to commit 5 years to get him.
2) Maybe he doesn't fit into your perception of the long-term plan, but don't you think it's a good idea to try to become gradually more competitive as opposed to dwelling in the basement for another year or two?
3) Guthrie is our ace. Wouldn't the rotation look better with Guthrie as the 2 and Uehara as 3? The move could make Guthrie a lot better in the long haul by taking some pressure off of him.

Peter,

You are right about this one... Sheets is a pretty good talent, but the Orioles don't need another guy to add to their DL in mid-June... The Orioles have shown signs of life the last few years early in the season, but the overworked bullpen shows signs of wear and tear in June and July... The Orioles need a starter or two that will eat up innings and give the bullpen ample rest during the season... If the starters can go 6 or 7 innings per game, the Orioles may win some more games than last year... The Orioles may not contend, but they certainly could factor in who wins the AL East... I say sign Looper and see if what Wolf is asking for... Pitchers usually perform better a year after a major surgery...

Given that the modern baseball player seems to be made of glass, isn't any contract somewhat of a gamble?

For two years, he's worth the risk. I think you are too caught up with wins and losses instead of viewing him as a commodity. If you accept the fact (and I have) that the Orioles have no chance of contending in the next two years, then you know that Sheets will not be here if, and when, the Orioles turn the corner.

If he pitches well, and stays healthy, maybe instead of losing 100 games, the Orioles only lose 95, or maybe 93. The best he can do for the Orioles is turn them from a gut-busting laughingstock to a knee-slapping laughing stock. More importantly though, if Sheets were healthy and pitching well in July, he suddenly becomes a very valuable commodity in the trade market. A team on the verge of contention would look at 1 1/2 years of Ben Sheets (or 1/2 year in 2010) as a low risk-high reward acquisition. The Orioles could continue to acquire young talent so they can contend in 2015.

Pete. Someone with a pulse or no one. You chose no one.

Pete , you sure know how to take the fun out it .

Pete:

When you're right, you're right. We don't need a version of Carl Parvano. The O's have other fish to fry than picking up a broken toy or, in the case of Looper, a mediocrity. Just check the rotations for the Rays, Yanks and Sox. If we can get our ace against their number 5 guy, we might have a chance to win a game. Lets hope that our injured guys are healed and will help and that some of the troops from AA can be brought up in August. I still don't agree with you on Wieters. If you think he would benefit by handling a minor league staff, he can do that here in Baltimore and we at least get a live bat. Let's use the pitcher money to ensure that we have a first and second baseman after this year and maybe a few bucks for a third baseman (Mora got thrown out of the aliens pool last September, after all).

I thought you knew better Peter than to use Win totals to try and justify how good/bad a player is. Along with saves, wins are the most overrated stat in baseball.

............................................................................................
Pete's reply: You use the simpler stats when there is no reason to go any further. You don't pay a guy $12 million to have a great WHIP on a bad team.

I agree. He's should be an obvious choice for large market/contention teams like the mets, dodgers, perhaps even the cubs (rotate harden and sheets every other start).

If he would agree to club options, auto-vesting options (based on IP) or mutual options, the O's should definitely look to sign him, but for two years guaranteed... even if he does give you 18 wins per, seems like it would be smarter to spend that money on a couple of starters like wolf and garland, or if they believe in oliver perez, investing long term for a younger pitcher like him (though he's to inconsistent for my tastes)

Peter: I concur with your conclusion, but I strongly disagree with your reasoning.

As a statistic for evaluating pitchers, wins are worthless. Might I ask you to look back at Steve Trachsel's record?

That said, Sheets is injury prone and coming off a season-ending arm injury. He's worth a short-term risk for a contender hoping to get a playoff start or two out of him. That does not describe the 2009 Orioles.

...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I agree to a point, but as I said to an earlier post, you don't have to go to the next level of stats here. You're not going to pay the guy $12 million to have a great WHIP on a bad team.

Schmuck, while I doubt I can change your mind, I am hoping for a better argument than wins per season. Also, it probably doesn't help to say that I think signing Sheets would be a waste of money on what I assume the front office may perceive as a losing season, barring everyone reaching their potential and staying healthy, but here's my shot.

Now, no matter who Sheets signs with, his arm will get intense examinations before signing off on a deal. If the best docs the O's can find can't find anything wrong, I'd chance signing him.

I don't care that Sheets won x games one year or y games that year. The simple argument I can come up with is that when he is healthy, he averaged getting through 6.5 innings per start... ok, inflated that one, 6.46 IP/start. With the exception of 2006, he has pitched a complete game in every season (even in his injury shortened seasons he averaged 6+).

Over the course of 2008, did you know that the ONLY pitchers at double-A or above in the O's organization that averaged more than 6 innings per start were Brad Bergesen and Guthrie? That also should help one's cause in trying to change your mind.

Now, combine averaging getting midway through the 7th inning and add in that per 6 innings, he averages 2.48 runs. Not an official stat, but I think it should be. In other words, this guy averages a quality start per start, which is something the O's had to be near dead last in all of baseball, if they weren't.

Well, it was fun arguing a side I don't necessarily agree with, did I introduce you to a new idea?

Thanks for the challenge.

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Thanks for the effort, but it's not because I don't understand statistics. I've been around the game awhile. It's just that those stats become largely irrelevant to a 90-loss team. They might win you four more games, but that's not worth $12 million.

He is worth the gamble for a two year deal worth a total of $12-15M, based on incentives such as innings pitched and games started. It would be like getting back Bedard for nothing. IF the Orioles want to sign B. Roberts to 3-years, then they need to gamble on a pitcher that they would not be able to obtain otherwise.

As much as I like Roberts, we need to get whatever we can for him. He is an elite player that can put a contender over the top. IF the White Sox are still in the game, the O's need to include Sherrill in a deal to obtain Floyd, Beckham, Poreda and another pitcher. The Sox should love a deal when they get 2 All-stars for one proven player (Floyd).

When the O's are ready to contend in three years they will be able to sign Roberts back.

Peter - I can't change your mind. Your argument is too strong, particularly regarding the health issue. Even if Sheets' passes the Glen Davis Memorial Physical, it's no guarentee that he won't blow something out.

Another point: how will he make out against A.L. pitching with 9 batters in the lineup?

However, given that our rotation contains only 2 pitchers at this point, I have to go back to the old rhyme from the Milwaukee Braves: "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain."

What goes with Guthrie?

...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Good question. Maybe it's "Guthrie and Uehara, and there's probably no tomorrow."

I'm totally in your court on this one. He has Kris benson written all over him. Save the bucks and if for some unforeseen reason, we find ourselves with a few nice surprises on the mound we can dabble elsewhere. If Pie works out as a peach and not a lemon, the O's may have an outfielder to spare for someone in June and we may be able to pick up another decent pitching prospect then. Another year of so-so baseball won't be that bad if there's a light at the end of the tunnel (that's assuming we're even in the tunnel, yet).

Come on Peter. When are folks going to realize that W/L records for pitchers is the most overrated stat in baseball? For the record I agree with you about Sheets not being worth the risk.

You're right signing Sheets could wind up a disaster. And maybe he would never be anything more than a 12 game winner in 2 or 3 seasons with the O's. But here's the reason they should sign Sheets: Because he automatically become's the staff's ace.

One of the biggest reasons the O's pitching prospects have been such a bust the last decade is because they're so desperate for pitching as soon as one of them shows any sign of promise they're tagged as the staff ace.

And from that point on they have the double pressure of having to lead the rotation while they're still developing themselves.

Sheets on the other hand has been the Brewers ace for several seasons and it would be nothing for him to take on the pressure of being the O's ace. And thus taking the presure off all of the O's top pitching prospects from Norfolk and Bowie, and letting them then develop at their own pace as they're integrated into the rotaion over the next few years. And gives the young guys a veteran to model themselves after.


..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Obviously, he would be worthwhile if he's healthy, but you have to weigh how likely that will be.

Pete I agree with your comments 100%. Everyone is bashing the O's for being stupid or cheap for not attempting to sign Sheets, but if the guy was really healthy then what are the other 29 MLB teams excuses? Also, if he was really healthy, but the market wasn't to his liking, wouldn't Sheets WANT a 1-year deal so he can then go out on the market next year and get a big contract?

This reminds me of Mark Mulder 2 years back when the Cardinals signed him for a 2-year deal and he barely pitched. MacPhail is just now getting out of the mess of bad contacts signed by the previous regime. It makes absolutely NO SENSE to then start adding MORE bad contacts.

The ONLY way I consider Sheets is if its a 1 year incentive laden contract, like that of John Smoltz's or Andy Pettite's.

Their is no one in the organization with his proven stuff and if healthy we would not even be talking about the guy because he would have already signed with the Yankees.

All of the arguments you made could have also been made for Burnett. Yes, he may be hurt and then you are paying two years for your mistake, but if healthy, he is a steal and suddenly you have an ace for the price of a #4 starter. If your a contender I would argue you would only sign a (if possible) sure thing. When you have been struggling for 10+ years you have to take chances.

This guy is and has been lights out in the 1st half of every season, it has always been the 2nd half that he either got hurt or struggled. This guy is an ace, no one else available beats out Guthrie.

Thank you for the Sheets post. He would be a waste for the O's. Sorry for previous post.

There's some very good reasons that Sheets is still available just about 2 weeks before pitchers report, and Pete hit on all of them. The biggest? He can't stay healthy.

While I have no illusions about the O's signing Sheets, it is those injury concerns which make signing him a possibility.

Heading into this off-season, Tom Tango's salary scale projected Sheets should get a 4 year deal for around $60M.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/ar...en-sheets-get/

Sheets injury history, coupled with the economy has driven down Sheets' ability to command that type of money.

The fact that he would not cost signficantly less, is where the value comes in.

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/S/ben-sheets.shtml
DOB - 7/18/78
2008 - 198.1 IP, 181 hits, 158 k's, 47 walks
2007 - 141.1 IP, 138 hits, 106 k's, 37 walks
2006 - 106 IP, 105 hits, 116 k's, 11 walks
2005 - 156.2 IP, 142 hits, 141 k's, 25 walks

Injury history
2003 - Bulging discs in his back
2004 -
2005 - Inner ear infection
2006 - Shoulder tendititis
2007 - Hamstring
2008 - Flexon Tendon Tear

The bottomline is that he has sustained some serious injuries, and some which are non-factors. He has recently pitched before Nolan Ryan and Texas Rangers and showed his health.

Even in the last 4 injury marred years, he has avgeraged 150 innings… his coming off a season where he pitched 200 innings, and started the All-Star game.

There would be plenty of risk in any deal with Sheets, but there would also be outstanding value to be had with a 2-3 year deal.


...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: If you're going to use the Rangers workout in front of Ryan as an example, you might want to include that Nolan is insisting on an incentive-laden one-year deal.

I'm kind of mystified as to how you're using W/L records as your argument against Sheets. If Jeremy Guthrie has shown us anything it's that W/L records are bogus. Sheets might not be worth the gamble, but it's not because he only won 13 games last year. A pitcher can do his part by posting a great ERA and a great WHIP, and the rest of it is up to his offense to take advantage. Sheets was just tough on luck and accumulated a lot of bogus no-decisions, much like Guthrie has over the years. If Sheets could stay healthy, the 12-14 wins he could give us with his ERA and WHIP would be absolutely invaluable.


..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: This is the fourth time I've addressed this. I understand that wins are an imperfect measure of a pitcher's performance, but not in a situation where the team has absolutely no chance to contend and the pitcher will have his value diminished by the low quality of the rest of the team. In that situation, WHIP and other telling ratios mean a lot less than they would if the team was a contending team. When you're winning 70 games, it's fair to ask whether it's worth paying an extra $7 million per year for a guy who gives you three or four more wins than a minor league callup who makes $400,000.

No! Wouldn't give up a high draft pick on a chance like that...

Here's to changing your mind...

*IF* he is healthy, he's one of the top 6 pitchers in baseball. You've been around baseball long enough to know that W/L record has little to do with the pitcher (see Guthrie, Jeremy). Based on his past history, if he is healthy he deserves to be paid and paid well. If he's not, then the team deserves some protection.

I say that signing Sheets makes sense if and only if (1) he is willing to take a contract with a team-friendly base salary with incentives that get him to the pay level he wants, and (2) he is willing to take a one-year deal with a team option for a second year that automatically vests if he reaches certain durability levels.

I would not insult Sheets with performance based incentives, because that is not in question. What is in question is his health, and even with a huge ego he must realize that in this economy teams are no longer going to take risks on players (especially pitchers) with a poor track record of durability.

My intent was not to change your mind, but to make you say that under certain circumstances the Orioles should be highly interested. I hope I accomplished my goal.


..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: There is no such thing as performance-based incentives in baseball, except awards incentives. Every incentive has to be related to quantitative stats like innings and starts. And I said in my post that I would be in favor of a one-year deal at about $7 million guaranteed with incentives and an option. You can read the other posts to get my explanation for why I refered to his win total.

Pete, I cannot really argue with you. But if he were to pass a physical and was able to pitch, you could put together a contract based on incentives like the one our favorite lefty out of NY just signed. So if he makes 30 starts he doubles his money.

As far as his wins total, I really do not know what to think, great pitchers in past times found ways to win regardless of the team ala: Steve Carlton 1972 Phillies. However Steve Carlton never had to rely on his bullpen to get through the 8th inning, he did it on his own. The great Walter Johnson who completed more games in 1911 than anyone started in the major leagues in 2008 found a way to win 25 games that year, but he completed 39 of them. Sheets and every other major league pitcher these days rely heavy on the bullpen carrying the game from the seventh inning on. So really is hard to figure and I guess the best way to look at it is the guy only lost 14 games on a really bad 2004 team. Sheets probably would have won 20 games on a good team that year.

So I guess a 30 year old with injury history does not fit in but two 34 year old starters one that never pitched in the big leagues and one that never won more than 12 in the big leagues do fit. But your point is really valid he missed somewhere between 38 and 40 starts over the last four years and just had surgery even though it was not a ligament.

If the Orioles do sign Sheets, I wouldn't worry about having to give up any draft choices for him.

I mean, with the way that the Orioles draft, it's not like they would be giving up a future major leaguer or anything ...

Ben Sheets is the Hayden Penn that made it to the majors before he started getting hurt by all kinds of random things.

Basically, it wouldn't be a good investment, unless his asking price was down to about what Garland signed for. Don't you think it is convenient for a guy like Sheets, who has had lots of arm problems recently, to pitch almost 200 innings in his contract year? Reminds me of AJ Burnett. And just about every other pitcher and player in the majors. He won't last a whole season in Baltimore, and it would just mean that the O's would be shuffling more and more guys between Norfolk and Baltimore. Don't they figure to be doing that anyways?

Braden Looper doesn't have a medical history comparable to Sheets o Burnett, has pitched a lot of games as both a reliever and a starter, and does make sense. What the O's do have is a strong bullpen with plenty capable reserves down in Norfolk if they get overworked this season. Hopefully all those guys stay healthy and make it through the season.

2010 rotation:
Guthrie
Uehara
Tillman
Looper (if they get him)
Liz

Matusz and Arrieta will come in and replace Liz and someone in the bullpen, respectively. Then, in 2011, both will be in the rotation, and if the team keeps the bullpen somewhat similar, this could be a very strong, young pitching staff.

Doesn't the fact that he has a great ERA, but not nearly enough wins say more about the team he was on than him? I would consider his season last year alot like Jeremy Guthrie's. Both probably should have had at least three to five more wins. Neither received the kind of run support they should have.

...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: And won't this year either, so why would you guarantee the guy two years at $18-20 million, which is what a lot of posters have proposed.

Don't have to change your mind one way or the other. The situation is moot. As soon as you mention $$$$, the FO pack their bags and get outa Dodge so fast that it would make a NASCAR fan envious.

Peter,

Your points are logical, but I would say this. He's been a pro's pro the entire time in the league. He'd fit in a leadership position and anchor the staff with Guthrie. He's a less durable, more talented version of Guthrie who's pitched in MLB longer than pretty much any starter on the rotation. I would not pay him 11 million a year guaranteed, but I'd guarantee 7-8 of it and give him 4-5 more in incentives. Also, he too has really never been on a winning team excpet the last couple years. Sometimes you just don't get the run support you need, just ask Guthrie.

Fans already can't stand Angelos. Do you really think it could possible get any worse if Sheets turns out to be a bust. I would argue that mixing Sheets in with a group of young up and coming stars would do nothing but good. People seem to forget that he pitched 200 innings last year and pitched them well.

You can't win if you don't roll the dice on real potential every once in awhile. And if we don't do it this year I'm not sure that we'll get another opportunity to pay these prices for an ace for a long time.

While I have no illusions about the O's signing Sheets, it is those injury concerns which make signing him a possibility.

Heading into this off-season, Tom Tango's salary scale projected Sheets should get a 4 year deal for around $60M.
http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/ar...en-sheets-get/

Sheets injury history, coupled with the economy has driven down Sheets' ability to command that type of money.

The fact that he would not cost signficantly less, is where the value comes in.

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/S/ben-sheets.shtml
DOB - 7/18/78
2008 - 198.1 IP, 181 hits, 158 k's, 47 walks
2007 - 141.1 IP, 138 hits, 106 k's, 37 walks
2006 - 106 IP, 105 hits, 116 k's, 11 walks
2005 - 156.2 IP, 142 hits, 141 k's, 25 walks

Injury history
2003 - Bulging discs in his back
2004 -
2005 - Inner ear infection
2006 - Shoulder tendititis
2007 - Hamstring
2008 - Flexon Tendon Tear

The bottomline is that he has sustained some serious injuries, and some which are non-factors. He has recently pitched before Nolan Ryan and Texas Rangers and showed his health.

Even in the last 4 injury marred years, he has avgeraged 150 innings… his coming off a season where he pitched 200 innings, and started the All-Star game.

There would be plenty of risk in any deal with Sheets, but there would also be outstanding value to be had with a 2-3 year deal.

Why try to change your mind when everything you said is true. I don't know if I'd take the gamble even if we were a winning team. I'd still want Sheets to sign an incentive-heavy contract like the Yankees did with Pettitte.

Come to think of it, a guy like Sheets doesn't even deserve anything close to what Pettitte got...

Peter,

Just to throw this in look at AJ Brunett he only won more than 12 games in his career once, with the Bluejays last year and is a year older than Sheets has had a career spent on the DL and look what he got. So my argument would be if Sheets had no surgery this year, he would be worth 15 million a year, but because of it he is worth a good contract with incentives that will reward him for staying healthy. Funny in my world disability insurance does not pay 100% and certainly does not pay for the whole year.

I disagree w/everyone who says wins are an overrated stat for pitchers. There's only one reason to play a baseball game - to win. And there's one player on your team who controls that more than any other - your starting pitcher. Sheets has averaged only 6 innings per start over the past three years. His endurance or lack thereof probably as much as any other thing has impacted his win total. On the other hand, I remember a pitcher named Jack Morris whose stats weren't so great but would rack up the wins - and the bigger the game, the tougher he got. We don't need another Bedard who will ask out of the game as soon as he gets rosy cheeks and expends two drops of sweat.

On the off chance he does remain relatively healthy, signing sheets would be good for you personally . You're going to have to spend 15 extra minutes every 5th day coming up with synonyms for "terrible" to describe whoever else would be in that slot.

In 2008 the Brewers gave Sheets 4.45 runs per game of support. They were 18-13 in the games he started. He's made the All Star Team the last two years. He's 29. He's pitched fewer than 140 innings only once in 8 years and fewer than 150 twice. His innings pitched have increased from 106 to 141 to 198 over the last three seasons. He's a better pitcher than has been seen around here since the likes of Mussina in 1998. He could actually pitch in the AL East, unlike any of the other options out there. How is AJ Burnett worth more than this guy? Offer him $16 million over two years guaranteed, or $11 million this year with a club or incentive-based option for another $11-13 million next year.

Not that he's probably interested in coming here.

Might I suggest "Guthrie, Uehara, and then... sayonara?"

Someone kindly take the pitcher of Kool-Aid away from Pete!

People have already jumped on you for using wins to demonstrate anything, so I guess I don't have to.

I think the best thing I can argue here is that you've basically given up on this season already.

The Orioles are still going to play 162 games... and if I'm going to watch them I want to see quality players. Now, Sheets may go out there and hurt himself on his first pitch... but I'd take my chances on a quality player like Sheets over a relief pitcher like Looper or Baez, or an awful starter like Hendrickson in the rotation.

We have a bunch of open spots in the rotation and we need bodies to fill them up. I'd much prefer to have someone who has a chance to be good over someone going out there with a gas can every fifth day.

Even if we're not going to win this year (and I think it's likely we're not sniffing the playoffs again), we're still fans and we still have to watch these bums. A guy with good WHIP makes for an entertaining game. Beats the hell out of Cabrera walk-a-thons. Isn't it painful enough to watch a losing team? Can't we at least TRY to improve the quality of the pitchers?

And the money? Pete... please. It's not like paying Sheets is going to effect any other moves we need to make. Even if we paid him 25 million this season it doesn't do anything but hit Angelos in the pocket. It's not like we're saving up the money we're not spending on him to use later. If we were, then I'd suggest using some of the earmarked Vlad/Konerko/Tex money. There's plenty of that just waiting to be spent.

We have no reason not to take a chance on Sheets. If your best argument is that we don't need him cause we're not going to compete... shoot, go be a Yankee fan. I still have to watch this team, and I want quality ballplayers.

...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I actually think spending $20 million would not only have a financial effect on the future, it also would have a psychological effect, preventing the team from making a similar gamble when it might actually be the right thing to do.

Pete,

Wins are one of the most over-rated stats in baseball. Last year Brandon Webb won 22 games. Johan Santana won 16. Does that make Webb better then Santana? Nope. John Garland (14 W) better then Jeremy Guthrie (10 W)? Nope. Wins are mostly based on the offense. I remember Beckett won 16 games a couple years ago with an ERA over 5. Because Boston scored him a lot of runs.

But I do agree on no Sheets. O's are going to be bad anyway. Why add sheets and screw themselves out of a 2nd round draft pick this year and a lower spot in next years draft?

...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I agree that wins are also a function of the quality of the team, much like the respect a manager gets often is closely connected to the talent he has rather than the moves he makes. However, I also have spent a lot of time in the game and have a simple philosophy when it comes to paying real big money to pitchers: "Winning pitchers win. Period."

I'm going to make this short.
1) We would have our 1st and only have to wait until the 3rd since the Type A would surrender only a 2nd rounder so please don't inflate the pessimism.
2) I think we are being extreme we we discuss him missing almost two full seasons. For the most part, the worst surgery is Tommy John and that is recovered from in a year. Sheets will not only pitch one month in two years, the is ludicrous and cynical.
3) Looper is a middle of the road boring unknown that has only pitched two full seasons, third full season is almost just as likely to cost us his season as Sheet's torn tendon.
4) Sheets did not have run support, with us he will have run support. The Brewers just now ave put together some bats. The games Sheets does pitch, we will win a lot of, we can score and we he is pitching he can pitch.
5) It would just be freaking fun to have him. Business, business business, even we have not walked after 11 seasons we are not going to walk away. Do the farm and make trades to get prospects, create a great team, love you McPhail. But, sometimes the entertainment aspect has to be taken into consideration and signing Sheets would be entertaining, much much much more so than Looper.

Pete,
Would you go 8 million? Would go without the option? What about a mutual option? What is the absolutely furthest you would go in term of Sheets getting what he wants?


...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: The Orioles scored 32 more runs than the Brewers, which means that -- absent the designated hitter -- they were a lesser offensive team than the Brewers. I would go $7 million with a team option.

Here's a bit of Orioles insight from a guy who has been watching the Birds for the past 30 years. Never, ever sign a guy who has a history of arm troubles. Those guys never pan out, unless they're pitching AGAINST the Orioles. You trot out Nolan Ryan in his prime--he's nothing, Belanger hits him at a .300 clip, we kicked his butt most of the time. But then trot out Doug Rau of the Angels (Doug Who? Exactly), coming off 80s-era shoulder surgery, an ERA higher than the national debt from his rehab assignment in D- Ball...shuts us out. Why? Don't know. You need a mind greater than mine to answer that one, like the guy who invented spray cheese. Personally, I think the reason the O's haven't signed one of the current vet free agent pitchers comes down to two things: One, money. AM's strategy is to wait things out cuz as we get closer to spring training, these guys who don't have a job yet will be bringing down their price big time lest they need to find employment in the hospitality or food service industries. Anyone who thinks AM isn't under scrutiny to see how he spends his boss's money must have been playing too many downs without a helmet. Or be from Pittsburgh. Anyway, the second reason is, the guys out there are likely in AM's opinion no better talent wise than any of the guys we already have on the roster and in our system. It's a plethora of mediocrity out there kids, a smorgasbord of average, so why spend millions on some doofus 10-game winner when we've got plenty of potential doofusi of our own to choose from? Hayden Penn anybody? And as EVERYONE seems to agree, we don't stand a hair spray's chance in Donald's Trump's house of winning anything this season, and likely the next couple, not so long as the Yankees can get away with spending HALF A BILLION DOLLARS on four All Star players. So, everyone relax. Besides, the last guy we had here named Sheets wasn't the greatest player in the world, was the final out in the 1989 game that eliminated us against Toronto, remember Larry Sheets? No? Exactly.

Pete,
I understand that 4 or 5 wins may not be worth 12 million but I think that may be an understatement. We saw how one good start from Guthrie impacted the bullpen's ability to help out when another starter couldn't last long. When he couldn't it affected the bullpen for basically 9 games, with exceptional starts from Waters, Liz and Olson few and far between.

Now, add another guy who we know is going to go at least 5, and usually 6, but has also thrown a CG every year, minus his 106 inning season, you have the ability to save your pen.

In the Orioles sense, and perhaps from a business perspective, if a $12 million calibur pitcher is healthy, he may be able to protect over about $15 million sitting in that pen. Biaz healthy because he's not over used, Walker healthy because he's not overused, etc. Now, adding $12 million may, in this case with the Orioles, if Sheets is healthy, make the per inning and output per dollar better than without spending 12... and that's how good Sheets is whe he's healthy, but that is something widely accepted across the league. An interesting matter is that, perhaps one more starter may make this a .500 team with a healthy pen, because everyone in this pen has ability. 3 out 5 with a chance to win every time (assuming Koji is a .500 pitcher) makes the O's a lot closer to .500, and heck, I think if they only lost 82-89 games, that could rejuvenate this hibernating fanbase.

Pete, you're making this game eat up into my class time, but don't tell my parents.

While I agree with you that he's not worth the gamble and he might win the Orioles 3-4 more games this season if (big if) he stays healthy, isn't there a distinct possibility he doesn't want to pitch here anyway?

If he's forced to sign a short term contract, why sign with a last place team that has to face the lineups of Boston, New York, and Tampa Bay 57 times (or some number close to that)?

...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: That's another factor, but I was just analyzing his value to this team.

Two points to add . . . first of all with at least 25 teams in need of starting pitching to one extent or anothe, no one else is jumping on Sheets either so maybe, just maybe the professionals who see him pitch, see his medical reports and know the poop on the guy actually know more than the guy in the stands with their stats and other roto geek opinions.

Second is that except for the obvious "sure things" like Sabbathia, the odds of improvement is as great from the internal options as from the FA arms. No doubt one of the free agents will come through and excel and all of the bloggers who have taken turns throwing out a myriad of names will all turn in unison and scream "I told you so!" But it is just as likely that an Albers or Patton or Penn or Liz will excel. All of those guys have as much chance as Sheets or Burnett, but more time on their side to come through. Everyone here seems to constantly ignore the possibility ot internal improvement

Bill813,
You might want to check your numbers before posting. You say "For 2010, the payroll consists of Markakis ($6.75M), Uehara ($5M) and Izturis ($2.6M). Those three, totaling $14.35M are the big ticket items we have. After that, maybe Sherrill and Guthrie are the only other players not making the major-league minimum, "
Well you left out just a few:
Baez $6,166,667
Walker $4,500,000
Hendrickson $1,500,000
Hennessey $1,600,000
Zaun $3,750,000
Freel $3,000,000
Mora $7,826,915
Roberts $6,300,000
Huff $8,000,000
Total $42,643,582 Source is ESPN.com

I may be wrong but all of those appear to me to be just a tad over the major league minimum.

Pete, Do you ever feel like you are a grade school teacher with a class full of students who have a problem paying attention to anything you say?

You do a heavy incentive laden deal. Obviously, all teams are concerned about his health and nobody is going to guarantee him $20-$22M over 2 years. You offer $6.5M guaranteed for 2009 and $8.0M for 2010 with incentives (innings pitched, starts, etc) that could bring him up to $8-9M for 2009 and $9-10M in 2010. Also, include a buyout clause for the 2010 season. If he goes under the knife after a few starts, hopefully the O's took out insurance on him...

Roughly $6.5 - $9M on a guy who could potentially give you 15-20 wins is worth it in my book. Besides, if we're out of contention in July then trade the SOB.

My father is from Milwaukee and is still a Brewers fan, so I am exposed to the Brewers year round (still an O's fan, though, thanks Mom!). I've followed Sheets, in particular, and every year it is the same old with him. The obvious are the disappointments that come with his injuries. The lesser known of the whole story, though, is that much of the injuries and lack of success is accredited to a poor work ethic by Sheets, which became tiresome for the fans. IF he were to win 20 games, we're probably still not a contendor (although you never know). In addition, we don't need another poor attitude with a poor work ethic. Let someone else deal with his problems, because the O's are on the right track and don't need speed bumps like Sheets to slow them down.

My reasons have been mentioned already...
1. ERA is ERA, WHIP is WHIP,wins are about offensive support.
2. Trade Value at Midseason- I really thought this was an original idea, not happy that someone already posted that!
3. Give the youth that veteran presence to stabilize the rotation
4. Butts in the seats

None of those seemed to have changed your mind so I guess we'll agree to disagree.

The guy who mentioned the loss of draft picks almost changed my mind, but I still would go for Sheets.

Jack,

You're an idiot over here on Pete's blog also!

I'd rather see two or three solid veteran starters -- which can be had on this pitching market -- for the same amount that Sheets would cost. People have got to realize that we're not trying to buy a top-notch rotation ready to compete for the division this year. We need stop-gap guys that can keep the seat warm for the kids down on the farm.

Pete
Thanks for your input on this. I raised the Sheets issue in response to your earlier blog today. Not advocating that the Os sign him but wondering what the feeling was about signing him. So you have answered my question, with the "help" of other passionate Orioles fans.

Since it is not my money, I would be in favor of giving him a 2 yr deal at $8 million, with an option for three. He could turn out to be a great bargain. There is certainly more upside there than with many of the other FA we have signed over the yrs. Even if he is just decent, it might allow some of the younger pitchers in the system time to develop rather than rushing and ruining them to the ML.

If he gets hurt, I give you my word that I will not be upset! I would be leary about the cost of a draft pick, although it is often hard to judge how those picks are going to turn out. Worth the chance if the price comes down.

you dont touch this guys.. looks at the other "chances" teams have been taking on guys like Prior and Mulder.

The answer probably lies in an incentive laden deal.

That would decrease the risk of the signing team. And a pitch limit of about 100 should be placed on him to protect him and the team. Sheets is capable of giving Orioles a shot in the arm.

Orioles medical staff should put their heads together, and figure out how much damage there really is.

You are probably right. Even if Sheets pitches well, he is not going to be a difference maker for the Orioles. That said, if the Orioles sign Looper instead of Sheets it just continues a culture of mediocrity that is endemic to this franchise for the last 10 years: "Let's play it safe and get a so-so guy instead of taking a gamble on someone who could be a good/great player." If the O's don't sign Sheets, I would prefer that they not waste any money on Looper. The team needs to commit one way or another: if we are going to suck in '09 commit to sucking and run out a bunch of pitchers already in the organization to see if any of them are worth anything. Don't waste money on Looper to post a 12-13 record with a 4.8 era.

Here is the game score breakdown, (Bill James) for 2007-8, plus team records in those games.

Less than 40 is a blow out, 50 is average and plus 60 is good, plus 70 is excellent.

They line up the same in the middle, it's just the terrible/great splits that stand out.

So assuming Sheets even makes 30+ starts, it's about 2-3 wins per season, mostly in the form of avoiding >40 games.

So for the money you are paying Sheets over Looper, you get 2-4 more team wins and 1-2 dominant/shut out games to watch (assuming Sheets makes it 30 starts).
Looper
64 starts (31-35), Game Scores:
40>: 17 (3-14)
40-50: 10 (4-6)
50-60: 16 (12-4)
60-70: 11 (7-4)
70-80: 7 (4-3)
80-90: 1 (1-0)


Sheets
55 Starts (33-22), Game Scores:
40>: 8 (1-7)
40-50: 10 (5-5)
50-60: 18 (10-8)
60-70: 10 (9-1)
70-80: 4 (3-1)
80-90: 5 (5-0)

Last year we threw any body we had into the rotation... any BODY. Sheets qualifies as a body... and one with significantly more talent than the bodies we threw in there last year. Injuries or not - we just need people at this point.

There were too many posts to read, so great job eliciting a response. It's so sad to see how many people care about the O's...inspiring, but sad. Lots of great points by a lot of people, but with all the stats thrown out there and people saying stuff about we have to do "something", I really only read one post that I beleive is dead on. For what MacPhail is trying to do, you CANNOT pick up anyone who is going to cost you a draft choice. We still need SOOOO much minor league help regardless of our improvements, and we just cannot lose a single high draft choice. To me, that is the one and only pertinent argument...everything else is just emotion. I always wonder why we don't go after all these seemingly decent players "out there" too. The answer is the same as why most teams don't-the draft choice is too important to MOST teams. There is no doubt of its importance to the O's.

Hey Pete,
I meant to write in your previous blog before you wrote this one bus as i started writing my boss interrupted me and put me on a very important project, three hours later i m done and see not only did you only write a new one but there were a ton of responses already. Pete I HAVE YOUR BACK ALL THE WAY. I wanted to write that in the previous blog. I also wanted to state that you are a great, funny, and controversy writer who will always state his mind and you happened to seem pretty courteous as well, but I think you shouldn't even bother wasting your time with responding to a lot of these comments and attacks on you (or even McPhail) I say any Oriole fan has the right to say WHATEVER they want about Angelos but they're letting there frustration of 11 years of losing get to them. Don't get me wrong it's been just embarrassing the past 11 seasons, and i even cried like my parents were getting divorced when Moose left us for our sworn enemies, I've been trying to track down Jeffrey Maier forever to get some "closure" on that ALCS play I love the Orioles more than anything and I finally feel like we have a true Baltimore guy in McPhail (his roots and all...) who is following a very simple, but good plan that even the shell shocked AngeLOSE can't seem to get mess up.
Sir Pete, I also was going to mention that Sheets is not worth the picks we would for a risk that's not going to even help us play 500 ball next year. Mr. Schmuck, I'm sure you never doubt yourself but if you ever do just remember (especially when dealing with a bunch of frustrated people who can't be reasoned with) that you have the BEST surname in sports and that anyone who contradicts or argues with you is a wannabe SCHMUCK that's just jealous!!!

P.S.- Angelos a world series might feel good but it's not going to make us forget about the past 11 seasons, you won't be beloved like Jerry Reisndorf (when the White Sox FINALLY won) you might do a bro bono case here or there but you still bank off of the money the rest of your firm makes and MASN and etc. so stop complaining about how poor you are and forget your attempt to make Baltimore love you, sell the team to Cal and I ll totally forgive and rid you of your terrible transgression towards our great city of Baltimore!!! We only have room for one ICONIC PETER in this town of Black and Orange and trust he ain't worth hundreds of millions, doesn't dress fancy or rich, probably picks his nose in public and us fans always know how to reach him through our local newspaper!


...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Jonathan, thanks very much for the great support. I can use it. But it's okay for posters to criticize me and my opinions. That's part of the fun.

Just becuase he is the only elite pitcher left does not meen you casually throw 25 million his way for 2 years of frustrating service. Heres my guarantee: he will have at least one lengthy stint (by that I mean 2-3 months or more) on the DL in the next two years. It's not like is injury history is only recent; hell, it's his entire career in a nutshell. 13 wins and we're supposed to give him 11 miliion plus? So our team is going to fix itself by spending roughly $1 million per win on a pitcher who wouldn't make it through a whole season anyway? We might as well bring Bedard back for 12-15 million per. This is exactly the kind of short-sighted thinking that has buried us in this mess. I agree with you 100%, Pete!

Pete,

There's an important point that all the fans who are calling for the O's to sign guys like Sheets and Looper and Dunn are missing: Draft position! Look, winning a few extra games this year is not going to get us in the play-offs. And if we're going to be a losing team we should lose BIG! The worse our record is this year the higher we pick in the draft next year. Ownership has finally demonstrated with guys like Wieters and Matusz that they are willing to pay the kind of signing bonuses it takes to sign top draft picks. Just think, if we'd lost a few more games several years ago we could have drafted Texiera instead of watching him end up in Texas. So don't sign anyone else Andy. Bring up the 4A players and AAA Retreads if you need to protect the kids. If we're going to be bad, let's really STINK! Go O's (in 2010)!

Guthrie and Uehara, then Sayonnara.

Hendrickson, Hennessey, Albers, Penn etal don't deserve to be mentioned for the rotation yet. Sheets. Looper, etal shouldn't be signed. Let the kids fill in the holes. Lots of arms with potential. Let's see what they have. Of course, Cabrera had that and he's gone. Best way to decribe the rotation is either a "work in progress" or TBD.

People that think its a waste are crazy. Yes its a waste for 12mil a year. But a 2yr/16mill deal it is not. Thats two more years to delvolpment some of out talent instead of rushing liek we always do. And look where that has gotton us. Im also sorry if anyone thinks Sheets is like Benson you have never seen Sheets pitch. Benson could hold his Jock.Ever. But sign Sheets for the two years let the young arms come along like they should and then at the end of the two years Sheets is what 32? Still could be there to be that Ace and prove the Qrioles were right for signing him. ANd then they extend him and he is there for we can contend cause the odds are maybe and that a maybe that one of the young arms we got coming up will be as good as Sheets is right now,health issue or not.

There is no excuse not to inquire. We can't assume the depth of his injury. We have a process to evalutate players and a process to manage the risk of signing hurt players. We should leave the medical diagnosis up to the doctors. All players must pass a physical, Ben Sheets will be no different. Remember Aaron Sele. We made the same assumptions about his arm falling off when he left BOS and he went onto Texas and pitched over 200 innings for the next 4 season while winning a bunch of games.

Pete,

I don't see the downside on taking a chance with Sheets. He gets hurt and fans blame the club? That's the downside? If he's hurt and misses the majority of a two year contract, then oh well, it's a possibility that was certainly forseeable. Will there be plenty of people to criticize the signing? Sure. Though since the Sun just called Angelos the worst owner in ALL OF SPORTS, I doubt people will be too upset at the risk. O's fans know who we are dealing with.

The upside is he's a number 1 starter for the O's. He wouldn't be on most clubs, but he could be on this one. How can you possibly not take a shot on a potential number 1 starter? Is it likely that he's only win 10-12 games as you say? Sure. I'm confident the O's will not have a 20 game winner in their rotation anytime soon, though of course, neither will the majority of the clubs in baseball. And if you think 10-12 game winners grow on trees (or at least as many as we want for half the price), then name the ones currently available to McPhail so he knows who to call so we can sign two or three of them.

I think a three year/21 million contract gets Sheets here and if he makes 60+ starts, he's worth the deal to help us stay competitive until the young pitching is ready.

Roy-I disagree strongly about draft position and no major league team enters the season with the goal to obtain the number one draft pick. The idea is to be competitive, put fans in the seats put wins on the board.

Who the heck is Jack?

Sabermetrics, Peter, Sabermetrics.

"Winning pitchers win. Period." is insane. Your simple philosophy (astrology?) notwithstanding, the number that is most useful for predicting the wins that a team's pitching staff will have is not the number of wins that the pitchers on its current roster had the prior year, but rather the ERA and WHIP that the pitchers on its current roster had the prior year.

There's too much math to prove it all here, so I'd refer you to Bill James's most recent books for further explanation.

I would sign Sheets for two years because the Orioles have a competitive advantage when signing free agents because they are in the bottom 15 teams (since they don't follow sabermetrics, either). They wouldn't have to give up a first round pick to sign Sheets; they could sign him for only a second round pick, and then trade him late this year, this offseason, or late next year for prospects whose value would exceed that of a second round draft choice plus the cost of signing Sheets.

Besides, in this market, the Orioles could get creative and sign Sheets to a two year guaranteed deal with club options for additional years based on the number of innings that he pitches. That way, if Arrietta, Tillman, and Matusz pan out and are all up by 2011, Sheets could join Guthrie and the kids in the rotation.

To win, a low-salary (not to be confused with small-market) team like the Orioles needs to take creative risks to win, especially in the AL East. Signing a top pitcher (based on sabermetrics, not wins) when his price is low may be the only way the Orioles can land an established ace in Baltimore.

I wouldn't pay big money for Garland or Looper, but Sheets has real talent. Of course, the deal would be out the window if he failed his physical.

Otoh, if the Orioles don't sign Sheets, they'd better use that money to build a top spring training facility, a video replay station that the players can actually use, and a top-tier scouting and player development system.

No, I don't expect any of those things, of course. The Orioles are the Orioles, after all. A (dis)organization in its final pre-contraction throes, to whom even signing good players sounds pointless because they are so far behind.

"Guthrie, Uehara, and then... sayonara," indeed.


..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I'm old-fashioned. I used to have a friend who worked at a car dealership and people would call him and ask him how much he would give them for their trade-in. He always said, "I don't know, hold it up to the phone." It's not like WHIP is some complicated stat. I believe you add walks and hits and divide them by innings pitched. I think it's a past performance stat that's a great predicter of -- drum roll please -- ERA and wins. No matter what you see on the stat sheet, you still have to look at each pitcher on a case-by-case basis, and the injury risk here is too great for a mediocre team to accept at a premium salary. Do you really disagree? And, yes, I've watched 3500 major league games in person and I stand by my observation that "Winning pitchers win."

1. Sheets is only 30 compared to 35+ for Looper.

2. In 8 seasons he has only put un under 150 IP twice. Over 197 IP in half of those 8 years,

3. Last year he put in 198 IP with a 1.15 WHIP.

4. He's been in the all Star game in half of his seasons in the majors.

His performance last year was stellar, so since he pitched 198 IP, the injury that we need to be concerned about is the last one that ended his season, not the ones prior like a blister on his finger variety.

His injury was described in October as a torn elbow muscle, later diagnosed as a torn flexor tendon. I'm not a doctor so I don't know how this relates to a torn labrum for example.

I'm pretty sure the Rangers are going to sign him cheap while we sit on our duffs. Their owner Hicks has now gotten involved, and Sheets is from Louisiana.

It's a shame, because frankly if Sheets puts in a year like last, he solidifies our staff dramatically.

One can say why gamble if he goes on the DL. My response - the O
s aren't going to the playoffs - what's the gamble, except a little excitement at the Yard to see an All Star pitcher on the staff. If he goes down, so be it, we then trot out the minor league staff we have. But if he succeeds for two years, we've potentially got a chance to make things exciting in the AL East. Frankly, I'm getting older and don't even know if I'll be alive when Baltimore is a contender. But I'd sure like to go to the yard, and know the guy out there o nthe mound is an All Star that can stand up and face any team in the league and shut them down.


...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: The gamble is $20 million, which isn't much if you're not paying it.

The key to all of this is the draft compensation we could lose. Unlike football, baseball rules are complicated, at least to me.

Could someone explain how the MLB draft works in terms of free agents lost (or signed)?

In other words, why would signing Sheets cost us a second round pick? Why not a first round pick? Or a third round pick?

Additionally, someone pointed out that we waited a whopping 123 picks after picking Wieters two years ago because we signed Baez and Bradford. Why such a long wait? (And just as an FYI, wasn't Arietta the guy we finally got?)

...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: In this case, free agents are classified as Type-A, Type-B, Type-C and unclassified. Ben Sheets, for example, is a Type-A and requires compensation because he was offered salary arbitration by the Brewers. If the O's signed him, they would lose a second-round choice. If a team in the top half of the majors in terms of winning percentage signed him, that team would have to give up it's first-round pick. If a team loses a Type-B who has been offered arbitration, it gets a supplemental pick between rounds, but no direct compensation from the other teams. No other players require compensation. I think I got that right.

Everyone seems comfortable with tagging Uehara as the #2 in this rotation. I understand the aspect of opening the door to Japan, but Uehara was guaranteed alot of money for a guy who has been ineffective as a starter the last couple years. You have to pencil him into the rotation because of the contract, but Guthrie is the only known commodity in the rotation at this point. Looper is middle of the road at best. Sheets, when healthy, has never been ineffective. The guy has ace talent. How are the wins and past injuries any different from Burnett who got a huge contract? Sheets at 10+ mil/year is a huge bargain.

At this point I would pay 12 million just to see a pitcher in orange and black throw 7 innings without walking a batter.

I can't find it fascinating that people think Mark Hendrickson is a decent option as a starter on a Major League baseball team

Peter said, "the injury risk here is too great for a mediocre team to accept at a premium salary. Do you really disagree?"

It depends on the number, of course.

Would I sign Sheets to a Sabathia contract? No.

I'd sign Sheets to a contract whose value, when combined with the loss of a second round draft pick, was less than the compensation that the O's could get for Sheets in a trade, or was less than the assistance that Sheets would provide to a contending Orioles team in 2011, 2012, and 2013--whichever is greater.

My number? Two years at $10 million per year, guaranteed, if and only if the Orioles got club options for each of the next three years (2011-2013), which would become guaranteed a year at a time if Sheets pitched a minimum of 190 innings in the previous season, and did not finish that season on the DL.

And again, as a fan, if I had to choose between spending the $20 on Sheets, or on a new Spring Training site, better tools for the players at OP@CY, and better scouting and development, I'd probably go with the latter.

My guess, based on the Orioles' history, is that they will do neither, and keep the $20 million. (That's why I won't be at the Yard this year.)

Btw, your used car dealer friend sounds like he'd be a fun guy to have a beer with, but a terrible guy to have as a mechanic. Likewise, sabermetrics aren't hard to understand; it's just tough to break a 3500 game habit. Maybe Bill James can condense his books into patch form.

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I'm aware of most of that stuff -- and it's interesting -- but I'll leave it to others to make a lifestyle out of it.

Here's why I'd sign him:

O's should be a good defensive team which the additions of Pie and Itzuris. The outfield will be great defensively, and the only average to minus glove will be Hoff's at first, but I've always thought he did fine at the corner. I think we'll score some runs as Adam Jones should break out a bit, Markakis will do his thing and have a really good year. Pie is a question mark but his bat may come alive with everyday looks. Roberts, Hoff, Mora, should contribute solidly. Wieters gets some looks and I bet he adjusts pretty quickly....I mean the guy is the best prospect in the country by almost everyone's definition. I think we should sign Sheets and Looper. There will no doubt be a few disappoints in the rotation, whether it be a signed free agent or one of the young guys, but the lack of depth is what made this rotation a joke last year. If we don't sign a couple of decent/good free agents, we risk the same situation where we have 2-4 young guys in the rotation who have 6-7 ERA's. Sheets is relatively pricey, but I think a two-year gamble is worth it, as long as he passes a physical/doctor's exam with that forearm issue. It's not the best situation, but it's one that I think presents the O's with a chance to go .500, which needs to happen in the next couple of years. Sure, he only won 13 games last year, but the ERA is the true story. I remember being frustrated a couple of years ago when Jake Peavy had a really low ERA but the Padre's couldn't score for him, and he ended up with a win total that wasn't deserving of his year. Those things happen in baseball. It's a gamble, but it's not a huge gamble, and it's not a long-term gamble. It's not that much money for his potential upside and what his talent could do for the W column.

Sign him up.

Btw, Peter, I'm old-fashioned, too.

The guy who understood using math and predictive statistics better than anyone of his era, even before they were called sabermetrics?

Earl Weaver.

For fun, try calling him up and asking what he thinks of going for pitchers based on wins rather than ERA and WHIP. I bet you won't even be able to print his response!

Pete, don't you love "give Sheets 2 yrs/20 mil"? Everyone complains that the O's are cheap, but one of the main reasons we are where we are, is not based on being cheap, but ridiculous contracts to guys like Cordova, Lopez, Gibbons, Payton, Walker, Bradford, etc. If Sheets had 1 or 2 years where he was hurt, it changes everything with me, but this guy isn't worth the risk and it's pretty interesting that the top level teams like the Cubs, Sox, Yanks, Dodgers and Angels, aren't touching this guy, only teams that are desperate like the Rangers. Heck, the Sox took a shot with Penny when they could of had Sheets.

Pete, isn't the whole point of signing a guy like Looper, to keep guys like Patton or Albers, from having to do too much too soon? Signing an unreliable starter like Sheets, would just force the rushing of a prospect if history repeats itself (usually does).


How about this to everyone who wants Ben Sheets here: Lets start a Bring Ben Sheets to Baltimore Fund! Obvioulsy since many of you big mouth bloggers feel 15-20 million is "nothing" then I can't see why you wouldn't want to put up the money! So come on, all you big spenders, put your money where mouth is!

Jerry wrote:

"Well you left out just a few:
Baez $6,166,667
Walker $4,500,000
Hendrickson $1,500,000
Hennessey $1,600,000
Zaun $3,750,000
Freel $3,000,000
Mora $7,826,915
Roberts $6,300,000
Huff $8,000,000
Total $42,643,582 Source is ESPN.com"

You are wrong Jerry, because every name on your list is only signed through this year. I specifically said 2010, . There are options on Mora and Zaun, both of which may not be exercised.

http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/2005_01_04_mlbcontracts_archive.html

Want to tell us again about school teachers and people not listening?

We'll see who has a larger payroll in 2010, the Orioles or the Rays.

"Pete's reply: I actually think spending $20 million would not only have a financial effect on the future, it also would have a psychological effect, preventing the team from making a similar gamble when it might actually be the right thing to do."

So you think that NOT spending money is going to make us want to spend it later?

Maybe the psychological effect will take place when a free agent looks at Baltimore signing a good player like Sheets and decides to take a chance on us.

We're stuck in a cycle where we don't jump in on good free agents for one reason or another. "He's too old!" or "he's an injury risk." Then the guys who aren't too old or an injury risk are too expensive. It's a system set up to never acquire any quality players.

You're complicating things too much... who cares about "value" in this guy? When did we stop wanting to have the best players possible on our team? Sheets actually has a chance to be fun to watch, unlike whatever schlep we toss in that spot in the rotation.

No matter what we pay him it won't cripple our organization. If he can be had, we should go for it.

You've already made up your mind though... Your arguments do nothing to convince me why we should not sign him, so I figure that mine aren't going to convince you we should.


.............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I already said I'd sign him for $7 million guaranteed with an option. It always comes down to the price. If Sheets has a great year, of course it would have been a good move, but those same players who might be encouraged to sign here in that event would join the chorus of people who condemn the Orioles as a management trainwreck if he comes up sore in May. It's all risk and reward.

Here's the thing NOBODY gets: why in the world would Sheets sign with Baltimore at a discounted rate for 1-2 years? Why play for a lousy team and then enter free agency again? It would hurt his future value! If I'm Sheets and need to sign for a discount, I'd sign with a quality team.
So, to me, this is not about Sheet's value or injury history, nor is it about Angelos and McPhail being cheap and dumb. It's about a player who will NEVER come here on the cheap.
Therefore, this subject matter, although fun, is pointless.

With about 1/2 of the roster cming to spring training bieing pitchers, can they get enoughwork to (1) showcase themselves enough for the upcoming season with the Orioles?, and (2) get enough work to be ready for the long season? How do the O's give all these pitchers enough innings?


.............................................................................................
Pete's reply: They can have split-squad games and send guys to pitch at the minor league camp if necessary.

Pete,

Two things...

1 Why would I worry about whether Angelos is making a wise move with his money? He has no concern for the value of my money by making me put top dollar for a ticket to a sub par product.

2 Whoever says the word "when" when they talk about the orioles being competitive needs to have their head examined. They are in the eleventh year of a five year rebuilding program

Sign the guy and if he doesn't pitch one inning I won't shed a tear for Angeloses lost money.

Peter, you got that whip thing all wrong. It is a predictor of how many lashes with his limp noodle Jack would make us suffer through daily if we signed Sheets and he didnt perform.

I am unaware of where in Sabermetrics or Bill James various tomes CBC thinks he can predict the value of future return from trades. Don't you just love it when posters throw out as metaphysical certainty things of which they cannot possibly have any knowledge? Gee just sign Sheets now, give up a second rounder and we are guaranteed to get more value in trade for him at some undetermined point in the future. If I had their crystal ball I would be playing the market, not posting on a baseball blog. They remind me of the myrad writers who want to tell us how to invest like Warren Buffett. Invaribaly the book starts with "First, buy 200 million shares of Coca Cola, 105 million shares of Proctor and Gamble, 290 million shares of Wells Fargo, 70 million shares of Burlington Northern, 84 million shares of Conoo Phillips, 138 million shares of Kraft, 61 million shares of Johnson and Johnson, 151 million shares of Amex, 72 million shares of US Bancorp and 5 million shares of Wesco. When you have accomplished that, come back and I will explain the rest to you".

Pete,

Agree with you on pretty much all your points. Me personally, I wouldn't make much out of the lack of wins from Sheets, but I understand your point. And you can bet that if he signs a 2 year deal on goes out in May with a major injury that pretty much wipes out his time in Baltimore, many of the so-called fans on this blog will be howling about Angelos spending money foolishly on a pitcher with that kind of checkered background. Folks will also accuse Andy of catering to the whims of the owner, and abandoning his rebuild plan.

I have to admit I was one of those initially interested in going after Sheets, but after watching this market unfold, and listening to the experts, well the old adage "where there's smoke there's fire" certainly comes into play here. This guy has legitimate ace stuff, yet no one is making much of a play for him. Something doesn't look right here, and I think we can invest our money a little wiser.

And part of the biggest reason I'm now against signing him is if the injury issue becomes reality, we burn a 2nd round draft pick. And a team like the O's trying to crawl out of a mighty deep hole, can not afford to burn # 2 picks.

And Pete, you don't have to justify to some of the morons on this blog your understanding of the game. I think you understand it just fine, and add a nice journalistic touch to covering a team most of us are truly passionate about.

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Thanks, I appreciate the support.

Pete,

I cannot believe that no one has mentioned what an overinflated statistic the W-L record is in regards to pitching! Don't your readers know that there are so many other factors in regards to wins and losses besides a pitcher's ability?

And what about his history of injuries? Surely that would have raised a cautionary flag for SOMEONE by now.

Frankly, I expect better of your readers, and of you.

"V" is for disappointed

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Big Daddy, have you not read the comments section? Everybody is ripping me for putting too much emphasis on wins.

Hey Pete I enjoy the exchange but you are way off base on this one. It is actually comical to read a baseball expert tell us fans the Os should not take a chance on an All-star caliber pitcher so Angelos can save $ to spend later. First, what assurances do you have he will spend it later? If he is not willing to spend now to put a team worth watching, why are you so sure he will later? Is it his drive to win as evidenced by 11 straight years of losing?
Angelos has lots of our money we gave him in the past to spend to put an "entertaining" team on the field. now. You seem to feel he has no obligation to put a team on the field this year that makes fans show up. It's like Arena Stage saying come and spend your hard earned $ this year on a very bad show because we might have a good one a few years down the road. That is truly laughable.
You also act like it is your money arguing you would spend only this not more. Exciting ball players like Sheets and Dunn are available now at truly bargain prices representing an exceptional opportunity to capture lightning in a bottle and making this year somewhat exciting.
Plus you seem to ignore the potential it offers to make the future more secure than the hopeful wishing with minor leagures. Buy mediocrity or less for less seems to be your advice to the team. Don't offer more than an amount like $7mil that much more appealing teams will offer to Sheeets. Avoid risking $ on players that might not produce.
Where you been Schmuck ? This organization has repeatedly spent $ on below average players we all know will not produce except as innings eaters, stop gap players, etc,. Now you support more of the same on guys like Looper and oppose taking a risk on true quality because you think (without any proof) they will better use that money down the road.
No wonder fans react with disappointment and even anger to some of your blogs.

...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: So, you believe that they should do exactly what they did when they signed Tejada, Javy Lopez, Palmeiro and Sidney. Spend a whole bunch of money on a few stars and win 78 games, because you're really going to enjoy a 78-win season more than a 72-win season? And what about next year? Same thing? Sorry, been there and done that. There's only one way out of this mess, and it's not repeating this team's beleaguered history with bad signings and wasted millions. If Angelos won't spend the money next year or the year after, you've got a legitimate gripe, but he has spent plenty to no good effect already. You just haven't noticed because he poured it down a hole the same way you would by giving injured players $10 million per year salaries.

He doesn't want an incentive laced deal, which means he makes absolutley no since. I don't even think he could get us to 81 wins, which I would be thrilled about this year. Even if he won 20 games this year, we won't go .500 . We should just get the warm bodies, fill the holes, and pray the prospects develop. I wish I just knew the saved money would be spent next year or the year after...which will not happen.

Draft pick compensation is EXACTLY a reason why we should sign Sheets. As a crappy team, we lose our second rounder. If we sign Sheets to a one-year deal, offering him a solid base (maybe $6M?) plus incentives for innings to entice him, we set ourselves up to WIN draft picks. He's made the All Star team the last two years. Free agent typing is based on three years, I believe. An average Ben Sheets year in 2009 means he's a Type A again next year on the market. And a bottom 15 team (most likely us again) gets a 1st rounder plus a supplemental. See that? We stand to exchange a 2nd rounder for a 1st rounder plus a supplemental, and get a year of Ben Sheets. If he's injured, we're out the base salary but have the chance to recoup the draft pick next year anyway. Why would he do it? Chance to make more money - healthy this year and he makes a good salary from us, plus proves himself for next year's free agency run.

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: If the O's could get Sheets to take $6 million for one year, I'll drive the limo to pick him up. He wants two years for $20 million or so. Big difference.

Pete: I agree with you. I think Sheets would be a good gamble for a team like Boston or tthe Yankees where they can see if he works out. If he doesn;t they first have other pitchers and secondly they have the working capital to make that kind of mistake. Nothing is going to get the Os out of the mess they are in but time and a good farm system. Hopefully if they draft well in a few years we can see the fruits. They need some arms that can throw innings at this point and are not a risk of getting hurt.

I'm just saying!!!

I think using the Yankee model is a fitting reason not to go there, aka Carl Pavano, we can't afford to be that careless but they can.

I want Matt Weiters to Catch an Ace.
Asap.
You should, too.

Well nice to hear they are talking about Rich Hill also. That would be a huge help if he finds the plate again.

I see what you are saying but the fact is this rotation is, aside from Guthrie, looking like crap. Sheets would add some respectability to the rotation, I know the O's are destined for a last place finish but I think Macphail should at least consider making an offer to him.

hey pete who says the orioles will be bad? anything can happen its baseball, last years rays? 2007s rockies and dbacks? 2005 tigers? 2003 marlins? won the WS, i mean come on we know we are gonna have a good offense and bullpen, if we sign sheets that makes it sheets,guthrie two good pitchers at the top then koji which aint bad.... then if you have a few guys step up you never know!! so calling the orioles bad is kinda early,

markakis will prolly have a career year, jones will be better, Brob his usual, Huff will have another good year(last year wasnt a career year he hit like that in tampa), we have a better SS, GREAT DEFENSE in like the whole field and a power hitting DH in scott, wieters will be up init will be a good year for the orioles this year, dont call them bad yet just watch.... june and

If we are building for the long term, why give up our first draft pick, #5 overall, for a high risk option who is a Type A free agent? Wasn't Wieters a #5? What would we give to have another prospect as good as Wieters on the way? Stick with Andy, and show some patience!

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: Since the O's finished in the bottom half of the majors in winning percentage, they would lose their second round pick for signing a Type-A.

Pete,

(Pete's reply: Good question. Maybe it's "Guthrie and Uehara, and there's probably no tomorrow.)

Twist it a bit

Guthrie and Uehara, Then We Lose Tomorrow!!

Or Guthrie and Uehara, Then Blow Out Tomorrow!!

Or Guthrie and Uehara, Come Out Its Tshirt Tuesday tomorrow!!

You make a coupe of valid points, but I think there are plenty of reasons to take a gamble on Ben Sheets.

Take a look at VORP for the 2008 season. I believe Sheets ranked 12th among pitchers. By contrast, Jon Garland was 190th - almost 50 spots below Brian Moehler. Sheets was also rated higher than A.J. Burnett, who also has injury problems.

He is an investment, especially if you protect his arm and use him for a deadline deal this summer. He's certainly worth more than a second round pick if he's healthy. Of course, if his arm is still damaged, then it's irrelevant. We can't take those kinds of gambles and expect to get a payoff.

Sure, he only won 13 games - but that doesn't make him a bad pitcher. He would represent a substantial upgrade over any pitcher currently signed with us (except maybe Guthrie).

His stats indicate that he has more impact, even when his season is cut short by injury, than Braden Looper. Let me ask you something, if you're a developing team that needs arms and a chance to evaluate talent, is it necessarily a bad thing to sign an injury risk? Most of the time, I'd agree with you - but Sheets in worth more in 15 starts than a lot of pitchers are in 30.

That being said, the Orioles shouldn't do it unless they're willing to protect his arm a little bit and look at this as a short-term investment - like flipping a house. $12 million or more is a big risk, you won't get me to disagree with that. I'm just playing devil's advocate.

Peter,

I think it is interesting that you think the fan base will lambaste Angelos if the signing backfires. However, no one complains about the Albert Belle signing. He was signed for lots of money and got injured, it just happens. He was talented and at least the team took a chance. Sheets has that same kind of talent, the difference is that because he has some injury history (some of which is legit and some which is pretty random), you can get him a lot cheaper. People complain about getting Kris Benson and Danys Baez not because they were injury risks that we signed, but because they were injury risks who weren't talented that we paid a lot of money. Now, we have an opportunity to get a guy for way under market value (with regard to his talent) who has the talent. That is the chance you take. I'd actually like to see the Orioles try to sign him for more years than just two. Yes, make as many of them option years due to his injury history. People have been saying that he won't be a part of the next Baltimore pennant contenders. Well, if we sign him now, even if it is for just two years (which, I've said I'd rather sign him for more), then maybe he'd like the city and the team and the fans and actually WANT to stay. I know, throw me on the crazy bus. No one actually WANTS to be here. Well, if he thinks he is a part of something special here, which he could be, then maybe...just maybe. That's a chance I'm willing to take. Maybe that will help convince you!


...............................................................................................
Peter's reply: The reason nobody complains about Albert is because the O's had insurance that paid most of his salary after he got hurt.

Pete, I agree that an incentive-laden one year deal with an option is the best thing to offer this guy.

But I can't believe you are insisting that you can rely on W/L and not need to look deeper.

Wins are almost entirely dependent on run support. You can pitch to a 1.00 ERA and lose every game you pitch if your team isn't hitting.

To say that the extra few wins we might get from Sheets isn't worth $12M is reasonable. But let's not dismiss the improvement to the staff out of hand.

The O's have a decent offensive team. They were good offensively last year, and they were a competitive team until the pitching let them down.

If you can have two starters with a 3.50 ERA over 60 combined starts, you have a good chance to get yourself 45 wins.

You can joke about Guthrie and Uehara and lose tomorrow, but with Sheets, you've got 3/5 of a legitimate major league rotation. Throw in Rich Hill and you've got the potential for a .500 team without straying too far from MacPhail's grand plan.

You have to at least take a shot at Sheets with an offer that compares to what the Rangers are going to offer him.


...............................................................................................
Peter's reply: I'm not insisting that W/L is better than other stats. Obviously, it is not. What I'm insisting is, those other stats don't really mean as much if you're not going to be a competitive team, and they don't outweigh the guy's injury history. The fact that he has won no more than 13 games in any season with his talent reflects both the quality of the team and his lack of durability, but that's as deep as you need to go in this particular case.

Mr. Schmuck,
You make some excellent points. As a Washington Wizards season-ticketholder, I can only liken your arguments to what I and others like me have said about seeing that team signing Gilbert Arenas to a nine-figure contract last summer, renewing our season tickets, and then watching as Gilbert has what appears to be season-canceling and possibly career-endangering surgery a couple days later. However, the difference between last year's Wiz and the current version of the Os is that last year the Wiz were in fact "on the cusp" of true playoff success. Had they had a healthy Arenas, they very likely would have beaten the Cavaliers in the first round and given everyone else fits. The Os, as you point out, aren't quite at that level. However, the Os haven't been at that level since my adult daughter was in elementary school. These have been desparate tines for the Os, and as has been said, desperate times call for desperate measures. Sheets is an elite talent, and even though he carries significant risk, I don't believe the Os have any pitcher in their system with his level of talent. Let's face it -- after Guthrie, the team has only question marks for starting pitchers at the major and minor league levels. And don't forget, his career win-loss record is more of a reflection on the quality, or lack thereof, of his teammates in Milwaukee than on the quality of his pitching. So while I appreciate the points you've made -- and of course, the style in which you've made them -- I believe signing Sheets to the terms you suggest is worth the risk for the team.

I'm confused. You can only have 26 men on a roster right. So how could the Yankees or Red Sox gamble a vital roster spot on a player who may get injured? The Orioles have 2 ligitimate major league caliber pitchers. WTF do they have to lose. Winning 72 or 68 games big deal. BTW wins by a pitcher is the most ridiculous stat in baseball. WHIP and ERA is the truth. Just ask Mike Mussina about the run support he got in the mid-90's.


...............................................................................................
Peter's reply: You can keep 25 men on the regular season roster.

Ben Sheets would give the Orioles a chance to win every 5th day (assuming he stays healthy) and that isn't something that I can say for many other pitchers on the roster. I don't want to hear about saving money...the Orioles saved plenty by not signing AJ Burnett, Chuck Finley, Brian Jordan, Jose Valentine, Vladimir Guerrero, Paul Konerko, Justin Speir, Carl Pavano, Mark Teixeira, Richie Sexson, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlos Delgado and every other free agent that we have failed to land in the past 10 years.
I understand the risk invloved with Sheets but you have to look at the reward...and if you want to play the free agent game then you have to realize that the going rate is about $1 million per win these days for a starting pitcher.

The ONLY knock on Sheets that you can legitimately make is that he's an injury risk. He was worth 4.6 value wins last season (or $20.6MM) while getting paid $12.1MM. Let's assume that he misses five starts with assorted ailments and his performance drops off a bit, say to an $18MM level before missed starts. If he misses a sixth of those starts, he's still worth $15MM while paying him around $10-11MM per year. He obviously wouldn't help the O's win a championship, but why not sign him, let him have a very good year (assuming he doesn't suffer a season-ending injury) and then trade him in the offseason to a contender for prospects? At worst, you lose $20MM if he gets hurt for the next two years (small chances) in training camp this year. At best, you get a great value of a guy to be an ace this year and possibly bring in a bunch of younger talent if you can trade him away. It makes sense for the O's to sign him, especially statistically, so please don't try to use that argument.


...............................................................................................
Peter's reply: I bet those stats wouldn't mean as much to you if it was your $20 million. If you could guarantee me he'll miss only five starts the next two years, I might think a bit differently.

Three words why not: bone on bone. I hear Sheet's arm problems are that serious. Unfortunately for Ben, his career may likely go the way of Mark Prior's.

Three words why yes: One million dollars. Sign him cheap. If he produces, give him incentives. However, in Sheet's interest, I sincerely hope he takes this season off, gets the surgery/rehab he needs, and tries again next year. There's absolutely no reason why he should be trying to prove his health for peanuts on a non-contender.

Pete-

I didn't read all the comments. Far too many of them for that.

Would an incentive laden contract similar to the one Pettite signed be an option? Something where the guaranteed money is the same, but then value of the incentives climbs? For example:

Yr 1) $6 guaranteed $4 incentives
Yr 2) $6 guaranteed $5 incentives
Yr 3) $6 guaranteed $6 incentives

something like that. I don't know if thats something the MLBPA would allow, or even if it's something Sheets would agree too, but it seems like a reasonable way to settle the risk/reward issue.

If he gets hurt, the O's would only be out $18 million over 3 years, and if he stays healthy, they've got themselves a lights out pitcher for $11 a year for 3 years, assuming he pitches the same in the AL. Does this make sense or is it just too easy?


...............................................................................................
Pete's reply: It's doable, but he's not coming here for $6 million per year guaranteed.

People said the same thing about Magglio Ordonez...

seth-

You've pretty much picked the exception, not the rule.

peter-

yeah, I figured he wouldn't come for $6, but I was just trying to get an idea of whether that structure would work or not.

If he was the missing piece for this team, I'd say take the risk at 2 years/$20 mil. But as we'll probably have the same record and finish in the same place in the standings with or without him, there's no sense in signing him...

Pete,

Talk about opening pandora's box.....Now about that Wins vs. ERA/WHIP subject.....Just kidding. Like anything in sports regarding a draft, Free agents on new teams, whatever. You are always taking a chance so I say go ahead and sign him...At least to provide some more hope. If he's a rock star then Hooray! if not, we have 3 more years to get to where we want to be while the young arms develop.

Hi Peter:

The reason why the Orioles haven't had a winning record since 1997 is that the organization just can't stick to a plan. Some years they pump money into the farm system and our young players, then when the fans get frustrated - the organization blows money on risky pitchers like Sheets.

It's like waiting for Gilbert Arenas to return healthy and back to form - I think most fans are tired of handing over big money to the Jay Paytons of the world. Let's continue with investing in prospects and if we get competitive - then consider a pitcher like Sheets.

I've enjoyed your responses to those who want Angelos to spend big money then blame him when the free agent turns out to be a bust.

Pete,

Not even going to try, your too hard headed. But it will be a long year and I will remind you everytime Hendrickson, the Asian Import, Liz, and Penn get lit up. Your mind may not change right now but IT WILL! 162 games is a long season and Guthrie can only go every 5th game. Then again, maybe with our staff a 4 man rotation would be worth considering, then we would only need 3 quality starters!

As an Oriole fan living in Wisconsin, I can offer a unique perspective of Ben Sheets. Brewers fans really got down on Sheets this year when he came down with yet another injury. At this point in his career he cannot be depended on to anchor the top spot in a rotation; he's the guy that'll give you a few good starts from the four or five spot, struggle in couple games, and end up making only twenty or so starts. Think about the choice the Brewers made last year: it was a better risk to give up a premium prospect for CC Sabathia in the slim hopes of retaining him as their ace in 2009 than resign Ben Sheets and hope he could last a full season. They didn't want turn Ben Sheets into the next Teddy Higuera.

Mr McPhail: I think it is best to avoid signing Ben Sheets unless the asking price fits the huge injury risk.

This is exactly the kind of gamble a team like the O's needs to take. If they want to contend, they're going to have to take some risks. Every contender does (Tigers: Magglio Ordonez, Rays: Carlos Guillen Sox: Matsuzaka). If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. I'd give him a deal for 4 years at 7 mil and give him easily reachable incentives that could take him to 10 mil. Like 170 innings or 28 starts. Something just to insure that he's not hurt the whole time. Just last year, the going rate for average free agent pitchers was 10-12 million. This is a rare opportunity and the O's should jump on it.


..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: If it's such a rare opportunity, why haven't 29 other teams jumped on it?

Pete,

We gotta sign some "body" soon. Sheets will have to pass a physical anyway. If he passes, sign him. If he fails, no harm no foul.

Any pitcher on any given day can blow out his elbow, shoulder, back or the ever popular pulled oblique muscle.

Sign him, what the heck.

I agree with your reasoning - completely. The argument that that signing Sheets will result in the forfeitire of young talent by the way of compensatory draft picks is compelling.

The reality is that we need to be planning for 2010 and beyond - it is very clear that finishing better than 4th this year will be tough. So, a strain on the 2009 budget and losing draft picks, ALL FOR A VERY WELL DOCUMENTED INJURY RISK, is not a good baseball decision. For this reason, going after Hill and Looper makes perfect sense. Hill is very compelling - less than 12 months ago, he was a huge deal, and the optimistic view is that the 2008 major/minor/winter results were largely from physical injury (mlb, minors), and the ensuing loss in confidence that showed up in winter ball.

I think Sheets would make perfect sense if we were a 90 win team last year looking to crank it up a notch. In that case, you roll the dice.

In thinking about 2010 and beyond, I am jazzed by the young nucleus that we are putting together (Pie, Jones, Nick, Wieters), and the prospect of strong drafts in 2008 (Matusz), 2009 (a top 5 pick?), and 2010 (we should be picking top 8 is my guess). Gibbons and some of the Flanagan/Duquette "reliever FA class" salaries burns off the next few years, and after that, our organization will have more dollars efficiently allocated.

One of the lesser talked about ingredients in this plan is that organic growth from stockpiling young talent will cause the team to incrementally improve, and when that happens, better free agents will want to come our way, which will finally give us a legitamate chance to compete with the titans of the AL East.

NOW, if Sheets would not cost us picks, and we could sign him for a discount to his 2008 salary, I would be tempted. But that is not reality...

Appreciate your response to my posting. You are right Angelos has authorized spending $ in the past albeit erratically. Your argument against not spending now because it will not produce enough wins to get us into post season did not stop you from supporting the Uehara deal when he is gauranteed more money than I predict Sheets will be guaranteed. With Uehara we do not even know whether he currently has the talent to pitch at MLB level versus the known all star talent of Sheets. Yes both pitchers are risks but you support the one that expends more $ and has less upside.
Just from the number of postings you can tell the exitement Sheets represents to Os' fans. I still say the Os like any team that wants entertainment $ needs to put at least a somewhat exciting team on the field now. Uehara will not make enough difference to get us into post season. Texiera would not have either yet you (although you expressed reservations)supported it. Dunn will sign for a small fraction of what the Os were prepared to commit to Tex while according to the "experts", the difference in wins between the two would be modest. And Dunn has a good shot at 40+ home runs that means the excitement that even when losing he could be a game changer.
Most years some team the experts predicted would compete for the "title", doesn't even come close. And occassionally some team those same experts project to be near bottom dwellers gets into the playoffs. At least with ball players like Sheets and Dunn we could dream maybe we just might surprise the guys who think they can accurately predict what # wins a ballplayer will add. And have some fun in hoping and watching.


..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: I don't think Uehara will end up with more than Sheets, unless Sheets goes for a one-year deal, which I said I would be fine with. The difference with Uehara is, the signing also gives the O's a big foot in the door in Japan, where he and the team will get tons of publicity this year. Maybe $10 mllion worth.

I'm with you Pete. We have a better chance of winning Lotto than getting a full, productive season out of Sheets. With his health issues, we are not likely to get any more quality starts from Sheets than we are from many of the younger, less proven options we have. Plus, Sheets costs us a 2nd round draft pick. He's just not worth it for us. Pass on Sheets and give one of the kids who is out of options the opportunity.

Pete, "The difference with Uehara is, the signing also gives the O's a big foot in the door in Japan" this is the Orioles we are talking about, BIG, that would mean we would be willing to pay like the Red Sox and Mariners did to get the really good Japanese players. We signed the one who was taken out of the roation because he couldn't go 5 innings every six days and wanted the least money for the shortest period. Their really GOOD players require the US team to buy them out of their contracts, FAT CHANCE of that!

..............................................................................................
Pete's reply: If the guy is so bad, why were there more Japanese media at his news conference than Orioles media. He may not pan out, but I do think the exposure over there is worth quite a bit if the O's are going to be serious about signing top Japanese players when (and if) they get more competitive. The Yankees and Red Sox can't sign everybody.

Pete,

I have to side with you.

Everyone posting, including yourself, sit in the stands, pressbox, or watch the game on TV. I want to see someone shell out 20-22 million for a guy with a proven injury history.

It should be a huge sign to anyone following baseball. The Brewers have not made a single move on him and simply want the draft picks. They do not even think he is worth the price at the moment.

He has to want to become an Oriole and pitch in the AL East. He might take the cheap one year deal for St. Louis or the Dodgers, but Baltimore? He will want the security to pitch in Balitmore and no way he would settle on a one year deal.

If the team were one player away, maybe. This team is at the moment is still more than one starting pitcher away, plus many bigger holes.

I am tired of the "jaded" Baltimore fanbase. It sickens me every time anything comes out; It is always the Orioles fault or Peter's fault. Last time I checked the Orioles removed Ramon off the books with Freel in return. Simply for this move, a decent off season. They signed a player from Asia and made the commitment to the building block. What do these fans want them to do, deliver the kitchen sink as well.

This time last season, everyone was on the "be patient train...until 2010". I think these "jaded" fans should remember it....

Pete,

You wrote, what if they "sign Sheets and he undergoes elbow surgery in May and is lost for 1 1/2 of those two seasons." What if he wins 20 games in baltimore and is the teams first real ace since Mussina? Thats why they call it a risk. If it doenst work, it won't be the first time they O's threw away money.

I agree with you on sheets, i wouldnt mind signing a guy like this if the price is right. I would give him a 2yr 12 mil contract with an option for a 3rd year at 10 mill if he does decent. We just need starters right now, but neither of the guys that are out there now are worth overpaying for. Looks like Hill from the cubs may be coming over, if the player to be named later isnt a big name this could be really good for us.

wouldnt some sort of incentive laden contract a little more than we should pay for 2 years (the rebuilding years) help them out keeping someone IF they turn out better than expected. If they want crap they should have kept Cabrera he ate innings and has a possibility of not being crap.

There are far too many comments to read them all, so I hope you'll forgive me if I repeat some points that have already been made here. That said, I disagree with your assertion that the O's should pass on Ben Sheets.

C'mon Pete, we're talking about a legit ace arm here; one who likely has three or four more strong seasons left in his arm. Sure, he's an injury risk, and yes, the probability is greater in his case than it might be for other pitchers out there, but as you've established, it's a risk/reward situation. You know as well as I do, how frustrated we O's fans have gotten over the past decade-plus of losing. A Sheets signing, with certain caveats, would go a long way toward changing the perception among fans that Angelos just won't pay for talent (and that McPhail won't take a risk of any true magnitude). Perception- for better or worse- is important! It can mean the difference between a full stadium on a Wednesday night and a half-empty one and that, in turn, can mean the difference between having the bank to sign top FAs (like the Yanks this off-season). The dominoes keep falling.

I understand that you mentioned you'd be for a Sheets signing IF the O's could get him for one year on the (relative) cheap, however, there's no reason to believe he'd come to Baltimore if we're not offering something better than the next guy. Look at the Wigginton signing. 2 years, guaranteed, at a cut rate...? Sheets would have to be tempted, no? Its a give and take process. We have to be willing to pay over market, but he has to be willing to prove he's healthy- I'm talking about an EXTENSIVE medical check. Incentive-laden? Great. But incentives go both ways and if the Orioles expect a still fairly desirable pitcher to eschew the chance to win now, they've got to be willing to be flexible, themselves.

If Sheets' arm looks alright after the docs give him the twice-over, then it's absolutely worth the risk. It isn't every day you get a legit ace for sub-Silva costs! (or thereabouts). The length of the deal needn't be more than two years. We've certainly got a hole to fill! No, we're not going to win next year, but can we continue to use that as an excuse? Winning is a process...and one that often chooses its own course. NO ONE thought the Rays were going to compete last year. They were at least a year away from actually putting it together. Except that they made the World Series. I'm not saying the O's are likely to follow suit, but to simply ignore a player of Sheets' caliber as a cost-saving measure is to fold before you've seen your cards. Beside that, Sheets could prove a tremendous presence and mentor for the highly touted youngsters coming up. And what effect might he have on the mentality of the club. Though intangible, its generally accepted that chemistry and mindset are a huge part of success. You have to believe you can win before you actually do so. Its a question of confidence; once Sheets could help to answer. Every piece of the puzzle has an effect on the others.

Looking above, all of your concerns, Mr. Schmuck, revolve around Sheets' health vs. the money to be paid. There's no question that signing the former Brewers No.1 would be a risk, but I contend that the rewards far outweigh the worst-case scenario...at least for THIS ball-club (which is not exactly cash-strapped). This is the AL East; if we don't take the occasional SMART gamble (like, say, 2 years under-market for a guy who, when healthy, is among the best in baseball), we're going to be doomed to mediocrity or worse.

And we've already seen where that road leads.

Post a comment

Please enter the letter "p" in the field below:
About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

Schmuck column archive

Upload a photo of yourself or a friend wearing the new Peter Schmuck T-shirt, which is on sale at gotschmuck.com
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Most Recent Comments
Photo galleries

Search our new database for every home run hit hit by the O's and the opposition — home and away — since 1992.

Buy Sports Tickets from the Baltimore Sun Store

Sign up for FREE Orioles alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for Orioles text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Blog updates
Recent updates to baltimoresun.com sports blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Stay connected