Think about it, there really aren’t that many quality starters left on the free agent market and those that are will be looking for long-term deals (Joel Pinero, Jon Garland, etc.). Then there are the second-tier pitchers (Vicente Padilla, etc.). That leaves the Big Enigma: Ben Sheets.
Out of baseball since 2008, we really don’t know a lot about how good Sheets is these days and how he’s recovered from his surgery for a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow. What we do know is that he’s supposedly looking for $10-12 million per year which just isn’t going to happen. His last year in the majors was 2008 when he started 31 games, going 13-9 with five complete games and 198.1 innings pitched, along with 1 3.09 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP. Not bad, right? When not hurt, he’s an innings-eater. Before the need for elbow surgery was discovered, Sheets was on track to sign a two-year deal with the Rangers before the 2009 season.
What we do know is that Ned loves a good late-season deal. Let’s look back on Orlando Hudson. At the time, there was a lot of concern about his surgically-repaired wrist and teams were hesitant to give him a multi-year contract. Ned worked him out very late in the off-season and eventually signed him on to an incentive-based contract for one year, paying him a base salary of $3.38 million plus another $4+ million in incentives. Not bad, right? At the time, this contract looked like a steal.
In the end, Hudson went on to an All-Star year, playing in 149 games (until being benched by Joe Torre in favor of Rafael Belliard), batting .282 with 62 BI, 9 HR, 8 SB and 35 doubles (a career high). In addition to being named a 2009 All-Star, he also won a Gold Glove for his defensive prowess. All of this netted him a whopping $7.99 million. I don’t have a problem with the Dodgers paying for performance, and I appreciate Ned’s business philosophy of focusing on shorter-term details that are tied to pay-for-performance models and incentives that reward the players for delivering while limiting the Club’s financial exposure when a high-degree of risk is involved.
In the end, it will come down to how well Sheets pitches on Tuesday and how much interest there is from other clubs, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Ned try to land Sheets with a Hudson-type of contract structure if he pitches halfway decently, especially given the rumored financial difficulty the Dodgers are currently facing.
Photo Credit: AP/Morry Gash