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Remaining Free Agent SPs: A Quick Evaluation

League Championship Series - Milwaukee Brewers v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Four
His name is Gio and he dances on the sand....
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

If there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on it’s that the A’s will add another starting pitcher before spring training. But who? As options continue to dwindle on the free agent market, and you easily rule out the pricey Dallas Keuchel though he is still unsigned, it’s unclear on whom the A’s might want to roll the dice given their payroll restrictions and the lack of a clear good choice.

Most likely the A’s emphasis is on affordability and ideally a one-year deal, but also the chance for a surprising level of success. Here are some of the remaining free agents Oakland might, or might not, be checking in on:

Gio Gonzalez

Personally, I would rule out Gio, much as I love him, based on the likelihood that he will command too many years (2) and too much AAV (projected at $12M) to fit the A’s payroll needs. Given that Gonzalez’ velocity is on the decline it might be just as well, as there is no guarantee he will pitch effectively in his age 33 and 34 seasons. Following 8 seasons of 3+ WAR Gio provided just 2.0 in 2018 with Steamer projecting just 0.8 for 2019.

Jeremy Hellickson

This might be one of the most realistic A’s targets in that Hellickson might be open to a one year deal and Oakland is an appealing venue for a pitcher planning to re-enter the free agent market.

Hellickson throws a ton of strikes, though he is not a ground ball pitcher and as a fly ball pitcher he gives up a fair number of HRs, so in essence he profiles quite a bit like Mike Fiers, i.e., the A’s defense won’t make him look better than he is, but what he is might be ok.

Hellickson turns 32 in April, 2019 and is coming off a season with low innings (91.1 IP) but good results (3.45 ERA with the Nationals). If he winds up willing to accept a one-year deal Oakland could be among the teams in the conversation.

Edwin Jackson

“Good results, bad projections” sums up Jackson, who has had a mostly bad career other than being quite durable and whose 2018 success with Oakland had ‘mirage’ written all over it.

As a known quantity liked in the clubhouse, and the rare pitcher who seems to stay healthy, Jackson could have some appeal as an affordable one-year investment. But the A’s look at future projections a lot more than they gush over past performance, because the games that matter are all scheduled to take place in the future.

Wade Miley

Like Hellicskson, Miley profiles as a likely A’s target if his market shrinks to a one-year deal and not the 2/$12M originally predicted. Unlike Hellickson, who is a pretty good pitcher not helped by a great infield defense, Miley could be the opposite, i.e., Miley is no great pitcher but he is a ground ball machine who could be made to look better than he is by a terrific infield defense and favorable home park.

Specifically, for his career Miley has a 49% ground ball rate (Hellickson’s is just 39%) and he keeps the ball in the park (0.98 HR/9 IP for his career). Miley is coming off a solid season (2.57 ERA over just 80.2 IP) but one also fraught with ‘mirage’ concerns in that his HR rate (0.33/9 IP) was flukishly low and his K rate (5.58/9 IP) worrisome.

The argument for Miley is that the A’s lack LHPs in their rotation and Miley offers a profile likely to thrive behind Oakland’s defense. The argument against Miley is that the A’s can arguably get about the same pitching from Paul Blackburn, only from the right side at league minimum.

Drew Pomeranz

In the time it took me to write this article, Pomeranz managed to throw 3 pitches. 2 were balls.

Pomeranz has the appeal of being left-handed and probably affordable, but even when you look past the annoyance that is his glacial pace and spoiled frat boy face, there is also the problem of Pomeranz not usually being all that good. Following disappointing stints elsewhere, Pomeranz did find success with the 2017 Red Sox before bombing in 2018 (6.08 ERA, -0.3 WAR).

The main issue with Pomeranz is that while he can be a pretty solid LH reliever (LH batters are a career .224/.305/.313 against him), as a SP he tends to throw 20+ pitches/inning and wobble through 4.1 IP before needing to be rescued.

You could squint and see Pomeranz being a good choice to follow a RH ‘opener’, coming in to throw 4+ IP against a lineup with a few LH batters in it. That’s probably where his value peaks if you’re feeling creative.

Ervin Santana

Santana should come cheap and if the A’s can just convince him he is pitching against them every start, he should easily win the Cy Young award. However, all the ‘danger’ signs are there to suggest Santana’s career as an effective pitcher may be over.

Santana turned 36 earlier this month and to celebrate he probably blew out 89 candles: one for every MPH on his fastball this past season. His 89.3 MPH fastball in 2018 was a full 4 MPH down from the 93.2-93.6 MPH his fastball reliably sat at for the 5 seasons prior.

Was Santana’s diminished velocity the result of a finger injury known to be a part of his 2018 season? If so, maybe there is hidden treasure to be unearthed. Or is he now a guy trying to use smoke and mirrors to get big league hitters out, which tends to result in an 8.03 ERA and an absurd 3.28 HR/9 IP?

So there you have it. Anyone stand out positively to you from this group? Or will the A’s use the trade market to try to find perhaps a younger, and certainly cheaper, SP to fill out their rotation?

Poll

Who do you see the A’s adding before spring training?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Gio Gonzalez
    (137 votes)
  • 18%
    Jeremy Hellickson
    (296 votes)
  • 14%
    Edwin Jackson
    (241 votes)
  • 19%
    Wade Miley
    (321 votes)
  • 2%
    Drew Pomeranz
    (48 votes)
  • 5%
    Ervin Santana
    (87 votes)
  • 11%
    A different free agent SP not named here
    (182 votes)
  • 19%
    A SP acquired in a trade
    (323 votes)
1635 votes total Vote Now