Sep 18, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Bruce Chen (52) delivers a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Cleveland Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t Forget About Me!

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the title brings the Breakfast Club and the group Simple Minds to memory for those of us old enough to remember both.  This offseason, however, it could be a common thread in the starting pitcher free agent market.

Let’s look at a few names that could go under appreciated this offseason (in alphabetical order):

Scott Baker – Baker was a very solid pitcher for the Twins for a number of years in the Metrodome, which really hurts his stats.  He has missed almost two full seasons recovering from elbow injury, but he did have two very nice starts in September this year before hitting the Braves on a big hitting day.  He’s a 32 y/o righty with previous lines of 2.1 bb/9 and 7.2 k/9 in his career.

Bruce Chen – Yes, he’s 37, yes, he’s not flashy or sexy or anything like that.  That said, Chen always seems to find his way into the rotation when he’s not in the preseason plans for the rotation.  This last season he put up numbers of a 3.27 ERA (126 ERA+), 1.18 WHIP, and a 2.17 k/bb.  He is left-handed, and the best part is that he likely will come cheap, likely in the $3-5M range.

Freddy Garcia – “The Chief” is well-known in the Atlanta area for his performance in 2013 down the stretch and even in the playoffs.  I don’t expect a 1.65 ERA or 1.02 WHIP out of Garcia (I wouldn’t expect that out of anyone short of a prime Maddux!), but he showed last year that if used correctly, he could give the team a good back-end starter that won’t put the team in huge issues with walks.  He would come cheap, and he could put up a season akin to his 2011 season he had with the Yankees.

Jason Hammel – While I’m not really hoping the Braves are in on this guy, he is flying under the radar for sure.  He doesn’t seem to stay healthy, and outside of 2012, he’s not exactly been stellar, but much of that was in Colorado, so there’s hope that he could be a solid back-end guy.

James McDonald – Designated for assignment midseason, McDonald is a guy whose shown a lot of talent but struggled to harness it.  The worry would be his health as it was his shoulder that was giving him problems this season and led to him missing most of the season in 2013.

Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Niemann – Niemann has pitched seldom in the last two seasons because of shoulder issues, and those are definitely worrisome, but when healthy, Niemann has been a solid back-end guy even when pitching against the AL East as part of the Rays.  He could be worth a flyer.

Felipe Paulino – He’s only 30, and he had seemingly figured something out in Kansas City before missing most of 2012 and all of 2013 with Tommy John surgery.  Paulino is a high velocity, high movement pitcher that could slot into the bullpen well if he didn’t work as a starter as well.

Clayton Richard – Many look at his 2013 season with a 7+ ERA and scream “Run away! Run away!”  However, looking deeper, he posted league-average production and would slot as a decent lefty at the back end of a rotation.  He is only 30, but he is also coming off of a dreaded shoulder injury.

Johan Santana – Once again, the dreaded shoulder injury has plagued Santana nearly since he left Minnesota.  He was good, but not great in his 2012 before he was let go WAY too long in his no-hit bid.  There was a time he was considered a future Hall of Famer.  He could be a solid pickup with low expectation.

Kevin Slowey – His hot 2013 start gave him a look of a pitcher that he’s really not, but he’s a solid control pitcher who won’t put a ton of guys on base via walk.  He’s only 30, and his rough overall stats have a lot to do with pitching at the Metrodome to start his career.  He did post 1.8 bb/9 and 7.4 k/9.  He’s a pitch-to-contact guy, and having the Braves stellar defense behind him could really help his numbers.

Jerome Williams – It seems as if Williams has been around forever for those who have followed prospects for an extended amount of time.  Williams rocketed up the Giants system, hitting AAA at 20, but he flamed out quickly after the Giants traded him at 22.  Williams has been similar to Chen the last couple of seasons – he’s not assumed as part of the rotation to start the year, but he finds his way there.

So none of these guys is going to make headlines this offseason, but as I stated in the offseason overview, the team has a good ability to take a cheap pickup and get solid production from that player.  These guys could all fit into that category for the Braves in 2014.  Any others that you think are being undervalued this offseason?

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  • Michael Borgia

    Slowey is not the Ace variety, but could be an interesting pickup for the Braves… Although Santana has potential to give you an Ace in the hole so to speak, as the only way I offer a contract is if it’s incentive laden to protect the team.

    • Benjamin Chase

      I like a lot of the guys on that list as “interesting” pickups. Being from the upper midwest, I have a huge soft spot for Santana, and I’d love to see him make a last-ditch effort on his career with a Tomahawk across his chest.

  • fireboss

    Missing from the list is Carl Pavano who missed 2013 after rupturing his spleen shoveling snow – another reason not to do that particular thing. Pavano took a lot of heat in New York because he wasn’t worth what the Yankees paid him – not his fault – and was injured; again no this fault. He was out of favor and struggling to recover from injury in 07 and 08 but in 2009 he threw 199 1/3 innings between Cleveland and the Twins. As a Twin he threw 221 innings in 2010 (walked 37 struck out 117 ERA 3.75 WHIP 1.195) and 222 in 2011 (walking 40, striking out 107, ERA 4.30. WHIP 1.360). In 2012 he strained his anterior shoulder capsule – essentially the back of his shoulder and could be related to a neck strain he had in that area as well but not a rotator cuff issue – and threw only 63 innings. The number are meaningless as he was pitching injured from mid-May on. He did however go 6 or more innings in 7 of his 9 starts before the injury set in.
    Pavano isn’t going to miss a lot of bats – led the AL in hits allowed in 2011 – but after a year and a half off his shoulder should be as good as it is going to be and he knows how to pitch and keep his team in the game. With Simmons and hopefully a second baseman who catches the ball behind him Pavano might be okay

    If I was choosing from the list I’d probably look at Baker first then anyone without a shoulder issue.