Look back at 2006’s free agent pitching buffet
To harken back to Jeff’s post of similar title, I thought it’d be cool to look at how the 2006 signings are doing, looking at the deals they got and how they perform. I’m going to lean on xFIP (glossary!) here, because it amused me. In alphabetical order:
A.J. Burnett 5 years/$55M (2006-10)
The crown jewel of this off-season. Signed with the Blue Jays. He’s had injury issues and the team’s been cautious in pushing him back, looking at to the remaining four years on his deal. He’s barely over forty innings on the year, and while the ERA’s not so hot, the 41:8 K:BB ratio’s nice. While his ERA’s 4.25, his xFIP is but 3.29.
Kevin Millwood 5 years/$60M
Millwood was probably the general second choice of fans, including us. So far this year he’s thrown a lot more innings than Burnett, and he’s been reasonably good: in 116 innings, he’s struck out 78 and walked 25, and Texas doesn’t seem to be bothering him too much. His xFIP is 4.14,
and that’s not that much better than the average is good, since xFIP isn’t park-adjusted, as Dave notes in the comments.
So those were the two big guys on the market, and neither of them have been worth the money. Burnett may yet turn in a performance through the rest of his contract to make it worthwhile, but Millwood’s a little less likely to pull that off, since he’ll be in his late 30s at the tail end of his deal.
Esteban Loaiza 3 years/$21.375M (2006-08)
Ugh. This looked like he’d gone a little higher than market (Dave’s offseason plan had the M’s taking him for 3/$18m, for instance) but then the market for pitchers went insane, and suddenly it looked like the A’s had looked forward into the market and picked off a relative bargain.
Except Loaiza has sucked. He’s gotten into off-the-field trouble, and when he’s been on the mound for all of sixty innings, he’s been bad. 29 K, 27 walks is ugly, and that home run rate isn’t helping. His xFIP’s a whopping 5.75, and after a half-season, it looks like this deal is going to join a collection of weird, expensive deals Beane’s made that didn’t work out. It’s still a tribute to the A’s ability to construct a team that they’re able to do as well as they have when they’re fielding a team on a $60m payroll and $11m goes to Kendall and $6m goes to Loaiza right off the bat.
Loaiza’s had a weird career, and I’m not going to pretend I have any idea of how to explain it coherently. Maybe he’s done, and maybe he’s not — it’s certainly been thought before. But he has been flat horrible so far.
Matt Morris 3 years/$27M (2006-08)
Oh yeah, this guy. 72/39 K/BB ratio, 121 innings pitched, xFIP’s 4.83. At least they’re getting innings out of him, even if they’re not that great of innings.
Kenny Rogers 2 years/$16M (2006-07)
With his declining peripheral stats and age, I’d have stayed away from Rogers unless he came with a 50% discount tag or something ridiculous. But he’s been even better thais year than in the last few – he’s getting strikeouts, he’s not walking guys, and it adds up to an xFIP of 4.50. Same deal as the other guys: that’s too much money for what they’re producing.
Jarrod Washburn 4 years/$37.5M
Ah, the local boy. Not doing so well. He’s the pitcher he appeared to be in past seasons if you were paying attention, and not the superficially awesome pitcher some people saw. His K rate’s the same, more or less, his walk rate’s the same, the home runs, pretty much the whole package. As a result, his xFIP is only a little higher than what it’s been the last few seasons, while his ERA has skyrocketed from last year’s deceptive 3.20 to 4.58, which is only a hair better than 2003, and from there… yeah. Top-of-the-rotation money for mid-rotation fodder.
Jeff Weaver 1 year/$8.325M
You may expect that I’m going to hold my nose while I write about how stinky a deal this was. The problem is that in every serious way you want to measure it, Jeff Weaver has performed better than Jarrod Washburn, and that earned Weaver a trade off the team and the Angels ate a huge amount of his deal.
Meanwhile, the Mariners are happily cutting Washburn checks. Eeeeeeeeeeyup.
Halfway through the first season is too early to make final determinations, of course. They could yet get injured, or become stars, or whatever. But it certainly seems that in an irrational market, it doesn’t pay to participate.
My own opinion, ill-developed, is that pitchers are a lot like first baseman: it’s extremely hard to get your money’s worth in a free-agent contract. There will be cases where a pitcher is clearly worth the money if they’re healthy (Roger Clemens’ free agent deals, for example), and that might be as close to value as you get. In terms of making the least-worst deal in free agency, you’re much better off signing Carlos Beltran, say, over AJ Burnett.