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Why the A's should sign Ben Sheets

So, an interesting name has been getting thrown around AN...this guy by the name of Ben Sheets. I think the absolute highest he gets in this market is 2/30, and I could see him getting 2/20 or a 1/15 type deal (which is why he should have accepted arbitration). For the sake of proving points, I'll stick to the high estimate and say 2/30. Now that the retirement home across the Bay has signed Randy Johnson, who would've been my number 1 FA starter choice, let's go to Sheets, shall we?

1. Interest in the pitcher has been tepid, at best. Which means, he is likely to come at a major bargain price.

When interest is tepid, we all know what happens. Kyle Lohse 2008 happens (even though Sheets is eons of a better pitcher than Lohse). Demands come down. Players become bargains.  Two teams have stuck out as potential contenders for Sheets: the Rangers and the Braves. One could also see the Brewers resigning Sheets, but

However, I could see the Rangers also waiting until they have the albatrosses known as Vicente Padilla and Kevin Millwood off the books in 2010 to pursue a free agent starter. And, if I've heard correctly, the Rangers are not raising payroll, which would bar a major FA signing like Sheets. They also do not have an offer out to Sheets yet, although they are rumored to be the frontrunners for the pitcher.

And then, there are the Braves. First of all, why haven't we heard more about the Braves' interest in Sheets. If the injury risk truly is scaring them away, then why were they making offers to another injury prone player, who I will not name in this post. I'm confused myself as to why they're not in on Sheets. Has Mike Hampton really scared them off that much?

 

2. He doesn't have to be healthy for the entire duration of his contract to be worth the bucks.

He is a 4.5-5 win player per season if he pitches 200 innings. Here's a chart.  We're going to use the very generous contract estimation of 2/30, when, if the market for Sheets is really as dry as it looks, he'll probably be landable on less.

Now, pretend his contract is for 2/30, which is a high estimate looking at the market. There might be an option involved, but that will be contingent on performance. Let's say that the market rate for one WAR is about 5MM (it was 4.5MM in '08, and is probably bound to increase. If it does not increase as much, then the value goes down, but the contract will still benefit the A's.). That means, that at 5MM/win, he would have to accumulate 6 WAR to be worth the money. And that, my friends, is pretty damn likely.

Assuming he maintains his 2008 FIP of 3.34 (tRA = 3.45), that is. At that level, he would have to pitch about 267 innings total (133.5 IP per season average) assuming 4.5 WAR per season. At 4 WAR, he'd have to pitch 300 innings over the duration of his contract (150 IP/season) to accumulate the 6 WAR paid for.

And, he's a safe bet to hit 140-150 IP per season, as he has hit 150 in all but 2 years of his career (and just barely missed in one year, throwing 141.1 IP).  Chart!

year IP
2001 151.1
2002 216.2
2003 220.2
2004 237
2005 156.2
2006 106
2007 141.1
2008 198.1

 

I love draft picks like none other, but if a player has the upside of representing a 3-4 win upgrade for your team (and is likely to reach that upside). And, the A's keep their first rounder, and have the potential to gain two first rounders (Holliday + Sheets) and two supplemental picks from them leaving in the next two years. Although that is an ideal situation, as what happened with CC/Burnett could happen or a crappy team signs one of the two, etc. Although if Sheets keeps up his innings totals, he'll be a near lock for Type A. One can assume fairly around  replacement level production from the 5th starter spot (I don't think Gio is ready for MLB yet, which means rotation as of now is Duke-Gallagher-Eveland-Braden-Outman. Unless you see massive breakouts from Outman, Braden, and Eveland, one will probably be worth one win or less, or two wins at the most). He'd be a bigger upgrade than putting an all-bat, no glove guy at 1B, etc IMO. 

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