Should We Bid Aggressively for Sheets?

My little win calculation below revealed an important flaw in the current defensive scheme that we're supposed to be riding to cover for a weak offense.  Our rotation is scary with a lot of potential for sucking chest wounds below SP3 despite a lot of star power at the top.  If the "big rotation - 4 releivers - superb defense" game plan is to win us the west, we need a better 4th starter and probably a better third starter.  Not only would acquiring another plus arm push Doug Fister and his average-at-best projection into the replacement level substitute bin either as a spot starter or as a middle reliever...but it would take Luke French completely off the roster, and slide RRS and his average-solid likely outcome down a notch.  I other words, adding a big arm would do more than just upgrade us from (say) Fister to the new would upgrade the bullpen, the back of the rotation, and the replacement level pitchers used in the likely event of injuries in the rotation.  This continues the discussion we have been having in the previous thread regarding the hidden value of improving your replacement players.

I would say we are exactly one more arm away form a world series caliber rotation.

Is Ben Sheets the kind of guy you want to play aggressively to get?  I think we need a Dr. D POTD on the man...but for now, I'll run a quick exec summary on Sheets.

  • 31 years old in 2010
  • Missed all of 2009 after elbow surgery (not Tommy John, and not a continuation of his previous injury history, which mostly consisted of shoulder soreness, though I don't recall off the top of my head his shoulder ever actually being torn)
  • Threw 22, 17, 24 and 31 starts 2005-2008 - the injuries have been a CONSTANT battle in the most recent years - perhaps due to overuse in his younger years
  • Through all of the injuries, he's maintained (when pitching) +++++++++++++ command (consistently around 4 K/BB), though in the most recent seasons, his K rate has dropped - some speculation here as to the root cause of the lower K rate, though my money would be on a slightly less crisp breaking ball
  • Velocity, believe it or not, has not really been down in any of his most recent seasons (consistently pecking away at 92.5 mph with the capacity to dial it up to 96 when he needs it)
  • Velocity is still there even now.  Throwing at 90% for team scouts this past Tuesday, he was reporting free and easy and pounding away at 92.
  • Classic two-pitch pitcher.  Fastball effortlessly thrown into a teacup pitch after blinkin' pitch, curveball with nasty late break thrown very hard (85 mph is hard for a curve)
  • Again...while throwing Tuesday, Sheets showed off the curve and one Mariner scout called him "the same old Sheets" and said the club was very interested indeed.
  • In all of those partial seasons, Sheets piled up 12.7, 14.7, 9.0 and 20.0 million dollars in value by fangraphs.
  • Mechanically, he doesn't suffer from the inverted W, there's no sign of falwed footwork or a bad plant leg (there couldn't be with his outstanding command), and his delivery LOOKS smooth and easy.  I don't understand wy he's always hurt.

So I'll put forward the question to Doc and the rest of the readership here.  Does it make sense to splurge on a guy who you think you can bank for ace caiber performances when he's healthy and who you aren't counting on for more than 20 starts?  The team obviously thought it was worth a lot of money to get Harden (and got outbid by the Rangers offering a second year option), and Sheets is a pretty similar (but slightly less exciting template) kind of gamble.

What do you make of his injury history?  Does he have any chance to stay healthy all year?  Can he sustain his stuff over a full season?

With rumors flying that the bidding has narrowed to the Mariners, the desperate Mets and maaaaybe the Rangers...what do we all think?


shields's picture

Not shoulder surgery, but has a lot of shoulder problems in the past, which is more concerning long term than the elbow problems in my opinion.

Mariner Optimist's picture

Pleeeeeaassssseee!  That would be so awesome to have a Big Three of Felix/Lee/Sheets  !!!
Sheets is a monster when healthy, and as a bonus is a blast to watch.  And he doesn't come with the smell of the previous administration's failures like Bedard does.  Fresh Sheets!  Think of all the fun we could have in game threads!
2 yr/$20-25M with club option for 3rd year?  We get reward of 3rd year if risky 2-year contract pays off? 
Here's an article on his throwing session:
“I was impressed,” said Seattle Mariners scout and former Major League catcher John Stearns, following Sheets’ outing. “Ben was free and easy, throwing the ball really well with not too much effort. He had good velocity. I was especially impressed with his curve ball. He’s got a plus Major League curve ball with a lot of depth to it.
“It looked to me like he was healthy, and health is the key issue here. I’m going to give him a strong recommendation to our organization.”


Sorry...I'll fix that Jon...thanks for the correction.
Yeah...the 2009 injury isn't actually all that scary.  THe shoulder problems...I don't understand where they come from...his mechanics look so good!

M's Watcher's picture

that in spite of picking up Lee, the rotation has considerable downside.  Between first half Bedard and second half Hyphen we had a whole solid pitcher out of them last year.  We have also lost Wash, and our overestimation of Morrow being a future ace has come crashing to earth.  Can RRS pitch a whole season, let alone well for a whole season?  Who knows?  Can the other guys pitch better than batting practice?
Whether we sign Sheets or Wash, either would be a big upgrade.  Maybe the team should consider skipping the #5 if it has been four days rest for the King.  There are a bunch of bad innings out there to avoid.


But I don't think we'd have to in order to land Sheets.
I would be willig to offer extremely lucrative IP based incentives though.  You don't want to go too crazy with IP incentives or Sheets will pretend he's not hurt when he really is, etc.  But I'd like to see the team offer 8 million base with incentives up to 12 million and a club option for 12 million with a generous buyout.

M-Pops's picture

Great write-up, Matt.
a) Sheets @ 7.5/1  b) Harang @ 7.5 + C 'spect  c) Lopez++ for Liriano  d) Lopez++ for Lilly and Tom Gorzelanny  e) Washburn @ 1/3.5 
That would be my order.  I personally think Omar will guarentee 8-9 mill. on the off chance that he is able to save his job with a great performance by Sheets, just as Bavasi gambled on Bedard,  I don't think Z is going to guarentee more than Harden was offered (7-ish/1, presumably).
The move for the last #3 SP should be an intersting one, as I think Z has cultivated many options for himself. 

Mariner Optimist's picture

It sounded like 1/7.5 wouldn't be sufficient to get it done (according to articles on Rangers pursuit, and comparing it to Harden).
MLB Trade Rumors had... Ben Sheets will seek "at least $10 million, plus lots of incentives, and a second-year, player-controlled option."
My thought would be to guarantee more money, and then get option for us on a 3rd year.  Its a calculated gamble, obviously, but 2/20 (with 3rd year option at say $12-15M) seems like a potential good deal and with a lot more upside than a 1/8-12M and then Sheets is healthy and walks contract.
So, I guess my answer is, yes, we should bid aggressively for Sheets.


Yeah, thanks Matt.
Can you (or anyone) point me to a link that explains the "inverted W" problem?  I hear that term used a lot, but can't picture what it means.


From Marshall's pitching mechanics school:
If you click the Ben Sheets link, this analyst goes into detail about what he thinks is Sheets' problem...his pitching hand is too far behind his body and his pitching elbow is too high at point of release, according to this analyst (and he makes a convincing comparison with Nolan Ryan).
The inverted W refers to a pitcher's pitching-side elbow being above his pitching-side shoulder at the moment when he is about to throw the ball, creating an M-like shape if drawn from non-pitching hand to non-pitching elbow to back mid-line to pitching elbow to pitching hand.

Anonymous's picture

It would be fair to assume that Sheets could go for around $10 mil. The market is fairly deep in back end starters. I'd rather have three Washburns than 1 Sheets. Less risk equal production


I'd rather have half a year of Sheets and half a year of scrubs (taking up one rotation spot) than two or three Washburn's plugging the bottom of my rotation and removing any chance for upside or roster flexibility.  Washburn isn't risk free player is completely risk free.

IcebreakerX's picture

You've loaded the front with reliable starters that make or break your season already.
You might as well go risky/explosive than reliable/mediocre for the back.

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