October 26, 2014

Is Ben Sheets the Next Orlando Hudson for the Dodgers?

So I’ve written about this before (way back on April 2, 2009), but the closer we get to Spring Training, the more I think Ben Sheets is secretly Ned Colletti’s #1 choice for the #4 starter slot in the rotation.

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