The Diamondbacks signed Mark Trumbo yesterday and, well, yeah that really happened. It’s not the worst move ever but it’s certainly not something to advocate for if you’re concerned with maximizing Arizona’s win total. Apparently, the organization is more concerned with selling home runs to the fan base rather than selling a winning baseball team. Maybe they gets both out of this deal in the short term, which I doubt, but in the long run this looks ugly for Arizona. I’m not the only one saying it either, as you can read Ryan Morrison’s thoughts from yesterday to go along with Dave Cameron’s, Jeff Sullivan’s, RJ Anderson’s and a host of others.

But #Trumbombs only made up half of Kevin Towers’ shopping list heading into the Winter Meetings. If you don’t recall, he is eagerly seeking a “front line” starter to add to the rotation. Worth noticing, the dialogue around Towers’ targets have shifted from use of the word “ace” to now “front line” starter. Maybe that’s because he just traded away the assets needed to acquire an “ace,” whatever the hell that means, or it’s because he realized that there aren’t any “aces” on the market that he has a realistic shot of grabbing. And come to think of it, now that he’s reportedly more interested in free agents, maybe “front line” starter is a little strong, too. You may be asking, “Why is that?” to which I’d respond, “Have you seen who’s available?” If you answered “no” (or really even “yes”), below you’ll see the proverbial “cream of the crop” that’s either uncreamy or from a crop that’s not all that appetizing. To the pitchers!

Matt Garza, RHP, 30

Garza is likely the pick of the litter thanks to an uninspiring, likely overpaid, bunch of free agent starters. In a nutshell, he offers a relatively decent K/BB ratio and an FIP that sits right around 4.00. If that sounds pretty pedestrian, that’s because it is. Although he’s missed significant time due to injury of the last two seasons, he’s likely looking for a four or five-year deal at around $15 million per season. Garza was not given a qualifying offer and there is no draft pick compensation attached to him.

Steamer Projection for 2014: 2.3 WAR over 144 innings.

Bartolo Colon, RHP, 41

The ageless wonder might not even be a candidate at all since he took PED’s in the past and Arizona would never employ a steroid user (since all those Diamondbacks in the early 2000’s were clean). Although the Morality Police don’t seem to like him, Colon was incredible in 2013 and shows no signs of slowing down. He doesn’t strike anyone out but doesn’t walk anybody either and can get a groundball or two. He’ll likely be available on a one-year deal and offers the least risk. Colon was not given a qualifying offer and there is no draft pick compensation attached to him.

Steamer Projection for 2014: 2.8 WAR over 182 innings. 

Ervin Santana, RHP, 31

Fresh off a decent season that was preceded by a really bad one, Santana is looking to cash in on the weak crop of free agent pitchers. It seems that Santana has a pattern of ups and downs, never really stringing together a solid run and that’s probably because his true talent level just isn’t all that high. Santana’s essentially Matt Garza but a year older with less strikeouts and more groundballs. He’ll also be looking for a four or five year deal also worth around $15 million per season. Santana was extended a qualifying offer by the Royals, which he rejected, and he would cost the Diamondbacks their first round draft pick if they sign him.

Steamer Projection for 2014: 1.8 WAR over 115 innings

Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 30

Jimenez turned it around just in time for his walk year. The K’s were way up and the BB’s were back down. His ERA doesn’t match his peripherals, but he still possesses the “power arm” of the bunch. If Jimenez could ever find the zone more frequently, he might prove to be something special, though his mechanics make that a proposition I strongly doubt. He’s a nice pitcher with perhaps more upside than the others, but he’s also more risky. He’s probably looking for a four or five year deal worth $12-$14 million annually. Jimenez  declined the Indians’ qualifying offer and he would cost Arizona their first round draft pick if they were to sign him.

Steamer Projection for 2014: 2.1 WAR over 144 innings

Because Masahiro Tanaka still hasn’t been posted and no one knows if he will be, I’ve not included him. If he gets posted in the immediate future, that changes everything. As it currently stands, this is a group of okay-but-not-great arms with varying degrees of upside and risk. All will be expensive on a yearly basis when compared to their production, with the exception of Colon. The qualifying offer is a big deal here because, from what I understand, the Diamondbacks do not want to give up their first round pick if they can help it. I think this give Garza, and Tanaka if he’s posted, a leg up on the other free agent pitchers as far as Arizona is concerned.

I also think this list teaches us three lessons. One, there aren’t any “aces” for sale via free agency and, two, fifteen million dollars sure as hell doesn’t go as far as it used to. Because the Diamondbacks are operating under a pretty tight budget, most of the options above will be a stretch (but not an impossibility). The third and final lesson is that none of the pitchers above offer anything more than what Arizona already has, yet all of the pitchers above are exponentially more expensive than the bulk of the current rotation. Any member of the Arizona pitching staff can contribute 1.5 – 3 WAR next year and that’s essentially what can be expected from the four names above. Maybe the front office feels like paying $75 million dollars for that but I sure don’t.

The Mark Trumbo deal was one thing as it’ll put both baseballs and fans in the seats. I realize that the organization has to sell tickets and that’s fine. But you know what else sells tickets? A winning franchise; and if the front office commits five years and $75 million to a 2.5-win pitcher, they’re crippling the chances of building a long-term winner. Just because there aren’t any obviously compelling options on the market doesn’t mean that the organization still has to spend the money on a non-compelling one. It’s probably best to save the cash, fix the bullpen and have some flexibility at the deadline.

Spending huge dollars to bring on a pitcher you already have isn’t sound baseball strategy, but then again, this is the Diamondbacks we’re dealing with. I haven’t given up hope that the front office is smarter than this, but they’re getting close to crossing that threshold.

6 Responses to “Front Line” Free Agent Starters

  1. Bradford says:

    I agree that none of these pitchers looks particularly appetizing. I’d much rather let guys like McCarthy, Delgado and Cahill build some value for the trade deadline, or in Delgado’s case, let him develop into a solid middle rotation arm like I think he can be. If we can’t get Tanaka, none of these look good enough to go after, especially for the price tag.
    I saw on mlbtraderumors that the Dbacks are salivating over Justin Masterson. Thoughts on acquiring him in a trade? If we can still put together a package to get him, could we potentially still go after Tanaka? I feel like the front office feels the need to make a move, otherwise they come off as having not done enough. If we can get Masterson, I feel a lot better about a Corbin, Masterson, Miley, Cahill, Delgado rotation than I do with what we currently have. And we have the potential to have an awesome rotation with Tanaka, Corbin, Masterson, Miley, Cahill. And Bradley on the way? We’d have the Dodgers quaking in their boots!

    • Anonymous says:

      I intend to publish on Masterson and some crazier trade targets by late afternoon — Masterson is really the only guy whose name has been dropped since Jeff posted on trade targets late last week.

  2. […] and I have also addressed the D-backs’ pursuit of a high end pitcher.  Jeff broke down some likely free agent targets, and I’d note that from Jeff’s list, only Bartolo Colon has signed.  Jeff did not […]

  3. […] on-again, off-again news of the posting of Masahiro Tanaka has thrown the offseason market for “front line” starters into disarray.  Not only have we not seen any of the offseason’s top three (or four) […]

  4. […] addressed the free agent targets before, but our most recent discussion of trade targets came before the trade of Matt Davidson for […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.