With the exception of all the fuss over the D. Matsuzaka posting, pitching moves have somewhat taken a back seat to position player signings. The rave about power hitting free agents seems to dominate the press. Our beloved Cubs seem to be in step with the rest of the league in seeking out the big bopper, but with their glaring weakness in the rotation, I feel it's like putting the proverbial cart before the horse.
If bludgeoning opponents with a barrage of runs, couldn't deliver a World Series Title for the New York Yankees this year with a suspect and unhealthy rotation, what makes Hendry believe he can go balls out for a free agent slugger and leave the rotation to be filled with hopes and dreams? Hendry isn't alone in this miscalculation of the universal truth, that a superior rotation is building block number one. But with the uncertainty and number of holes in the rotation, his miscalculations will cost the Cubs more severely than other teams.
What Hendry must understand is that baseball is a zero sum game. Every run you don't give up is one less run you need to score to win a game. Since successful hitting is a 30% proposition, no one player can effect the outcome of a game more than a superior starter.
When you look at the two big name starters available for free agency, B. Zito and J. Schmidt, you can certainly argue the point that they will be extremely overpaid and are they really true aces anymore. So what criteria should be used to determine if the rest of the free agents starters and those that could be possibly acquired through a trade be evaluated?
I believe the HR's and BB's surrendered per inning is the most effective yardstick.
Well HR's and BB's are the only two stats which do not allow your defense to make a play to retire that hitter.
If we look at B. Zito's and J. Schmidt's HR and BB frequency then compare it to the other starters that possibly could be acquired, I think we'd have a pretty good barometer of who compares favorably. See my, PITCHING OPTIONS post of 11/15/06.
You'll see the career HR and BB ratio of Zito, Schmidt and the Cubs, Zambrano. All three considered aces. Now while ERA most certainly can't be discounted, I'm sure you understand that a pitchers ERA is more likely to be higher pitching in the AL with the designated hitter than in the NL, where the pitcher hits for himself.
We see the only free agent pitcher that compares favorably with the above three is V. Padilla. Also a move back to the NL will most certainly reduce last years ERA. He's asking for $10 million a year and who knows if someone will pay it, but it would behove Hendry to seriously consider him as the number one free agent pitcher for the money.
The Pittsburgh and Cleveland trading scenarios could land another quality arm, as the Cubs seem to have the necessary players that would interest both teams. Hendry can earn his money on this one and make an acquisition from a position of strength if he does his homework.
Pittsburgh paid J. Burnitz $6 million last year and would be willing to part with any of their three LH starting pitchers for a LH power hitting right fielder. J. Jones is due $5 million in 2007 and trading him for Z. Duke would be a master stroke for Hendry. You'd increase the Cubs salary by maybe $6 million a year by adding C. Lee to play RF and have a quality LHP in the process. Hendry most likely wouldn't be able to add another free agent starter with Z Duke's numbers, not to mention his youth, for the increase in salary paid to swap out Jones for C. Lee.
Let me ask you this, would you rather have J. Jones in RF or C. Lee?
The other interesting quality pitcher that could be had via trade is J. Westbrook from the Indians. I discussed in detail, the possible makeup of this trade. See my post, TIME TO TALK TURKEY WITH INDIANS posted on 11/18/06.
These three starters, V. Padilla, Z. Duke and J. Westbrook, are the pitching acquisitions Hendry should be targeting, will he?