HOWARD MEGDAL: The reports are that Pedro Martinez wants a hefty sum of money to pitch in 2010. Those who are skeptical point to the fact that he’s 38 years old, has pitched just 314 1/3 innings since 2005, and is currently inactive as a reason not to break the bank for him.
But when we discussed this among the Perpetual Post writers, I came to the conclusion that if I were a contending team one pitcher short, I’d pay $6 million for half a season. Now, I know that’s a lot. But hear me out.
Of the alternatives who are clearly better pitchers than Martinez on the market, teams can choose between Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, and possibly Dan Haren. For a large-market team, the price each one will cost in prospects is quite high, and in the first two cases, will involve a large amount of money in the years to come, or in Lee’s case, a choice between paying huge dollars for a contract that covers his age-32 through age-37 seasons, or settling for a pair of draft picks.
For small-market teams, the prospects given up would be precisely the players they’d need to rely on to balance a payroll with Lee, Oswalt or Haren on it.
The other alternative is to trade for one of the non-premium pitchers on the market. For the price of a couple of prospects, and the chance to pay them for the rest of the season, you can trade for Kevin Millwood (5.12 ERA), Jake Westbrook (4.76 ERA), or Ben Sheets (4.95 ERA). While they are younger, all have had injury issues themselves, and Martinez’s numbers in 2009 for the Phillies were far better than what the three of them are putting up. Added bonus- for the right to give up prospects for Sheets, your team can be on the hook for whatever is left of his $10 million deal for 2010!
Not only do I see Martinez as the better alternative to Sheets, he’ll cost no players whatsoever. Accordingly, one would hope his manager would use him in a reasonable way- consider that he had a 2.87 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings for the Phils before Charlie Manuel inexplicably had him throw 130 pitches- more than he’d thrown in nine years.
For the right not to be on the hook for massive amounts of money long-term, or deal prospects for mediocrities or worse, I’d heartily endorse spending $6 million for the remainder of the year, Pedro Martinez.
CHRIS PUMMER: While Martinez may be able to help lift a contender’s pitching staff down the stretch this season, a price of $6 million seems rather steep.
Last season pitching on a half-season plan, Martinez threw very well for the Phillies, and that merits some measure of financial consideration. Perhaps a prorated portion of a one-year, $6 million deal. After all, while Martinez might be useful, a team is hardly buying an ace-caliber pitcher.
In fact, Martinez probably performed at the upper level of his current abilities with the Phillies last season. More than a quarter of the balls put in play against Pedro last season were line drives, as opposed to a league average 19 percent.
Should more of those line drives fall in for hits — or go for extra bases — then Martinez looks more like a back-of-the-rotation stopgap than front-of-the-rotation types like Lee, Haren or Oswalt.
That in itself is the problem when it comes to comparing the cost of a Haren or Lee, and what a team should fork over for Martinez. Haren, Lee and Oswalt would cost much more, but that’s because they are much better pitchers at this point.
If your sights are set lower, and you just want a lift from your fourth starter spots, that doesn’t need to cost $6 million dollars.
John Smoltz, Jarrod Washburn and Braden Looper are all unemployed. Each might be willing to pitch for a contender for less than half of what Howard suggests a team should dangle in front of Martinez. And Martinez is no sure bet to outperform any of those three.
Even if a contender wanted to go the trade route instead of pouring the dregs of last winter’s free agent market through a sieve, a pitcher like Millwood, Westbrook or Sheets wouldn’t set a team back anything in the way of real prospects, or much in terms of salary. The Orioles, Indians and A’s would probably be willing to take a marginal prospect and eat most of the money owed those pitchers just to save a million dollars or two.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of options, which means it’s a buyer’s market. That means there’s no reason to grossly overpay Martinez to climb off his couch.