There are some pretty big qualifiers in a pretty small passage in the latest from Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail, as he looks at the developing off-season market in the wake of the Fielder-Kinsler bloickbuster, but this is still pretty interesting:
Every team needs starting pitching, but few teams can point to that commodity as 90 per cent of the reason they finished in last place – except for the Blue Jays. In Anthopoulos’s perfect world, he’d be able to trade for a front of the rotation starter, sign another through free agency, and go into spring training with R.A. Dickey and Mark Buerhle while keeping his fingers crossed that Brandon Morrow comes back healthy. There remains a chance, industry sources believe, that Buehrle might be moved if the pitching market really heats up although that would seem to be dependent on Anthopoulos making hay in the free agency.
Yes, those are some pretty gigantic ifs, and I’m not sure how much sense it would make for the Jays to fix their starting pitching issues, only to immediately go and create another large, stunningly-dependable hole in the rotation. But there are certainly elements of the idea that could make sense.
Uh… I think.
Moving Buehrle’s money (he’s owed $18-million this year and $19-million next) would return to Alex Anthopoulos some financial flexibility lost by his “making hay” on the free agent market, and might actually net him something decent in return– especially if he’s willing to kick in some extra dollars.
Or maybe even if not! In total the remainder of Buehrle’s deal is only $2-million richer than the one Tim Lincecum signed with the Giants in October, and Buehrle actually has a bunch more value– especially if you go by the Baseball Reference version of WAR (which you may want to in his case, since he has fairly routinely had his ERA outperform his FIP over the course of his career). By rWAR Buehrle has been worth +5.6 wins over the last two seasons, while Lincecum has been worth -2.3. Even by the FanGraphs version of the metric Buehrle (+4.4) has been nearly two full wins better than Timmy (+2.5) over that span.
Of course, the Lincecum contract is a clear overpay, and not a particularly good benchmark. But the market could catch up to it, in which case Buehrle would start looking pretty good to clubs not willing to make the kinds of commitments it will take to land Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Ervin Santana– none of whom, it should be noted, produced more total rWAR or fWAR than Buehrle over the last two seasons.
Hang on, that can’t be right, can it?
Buehrle was +5.6 over two years by Baseball Reference, and +4.4 by FanGraphs. Garza was +2.6 and +3.3. Santana was +1.5 and +2.0. And Ubaldo was +2.1 and +3.3.
Motherfucker! Should I have realized that before now???
Anyway, so… yeah. Buehrle would definitely have value. It’s just, by the looks of it he has a shit-tonne of value to the Jays, given the alternatives. I mean, I wouldn’t bet on him continuing to be better than those guys, and clearly the arbitrary endpoints I’ve selected make him look a bit better and the others look worse. It’s… I… uh… man. Kinda lost my train of thought here.
I guess… I don’t know. Maybe Alex Anthopoulos secretly thinks that he can go a lot farther on some of his young arms than he’s leading on, but I doubt it. It would be an interesting, risky route to take, and would present a whole different vision of the off-season than the one we’ve been led to believe so far. This year’s versions of the Cardinals, A’s, and Rays definitely found a lot of success taking that route. And shit, if Alex has more job security than we think, or hadn’t pursued the exact opposite strategy last year, or didn’t seem to need to maintain whatever scraps of rotation dependability he can, rather than lose it, uh… maybe?
But I don’t really see how that would actually make any sense at all, to be honest. Signing a free agent to help the rotation, then flipping Buehrle for (presumably) a bit of youth, or to fill a positional need, and then going with young arms at the back of the rotation anyway? I mean, if you’re going to do that, why not just keep the guy with the shorter, cheaper commitment who has provided more value in the last two years than whichever of the top guys you’re looking at anyway, right? And just use that free agent money to fix your positional needs that way. Right???
Ah, who knows? I sure as hell don’t!
So… there’s that.