The Houston Astros wisely designated Brandon Backe for assignment last week, eventually ending his tenure with the club. Nobody claimed Backe when he was placed on waivers, meaning that Backe could either opt to be released or accept a demotion to the minors. He declined the latter and was given his outright release, making him available to the 29 other teams in the league.
This isn’t going to be a lengthy post because it doesn’t need to be, but I am strongly advocating that teams avoid Backe. With injuries and ineffectiveness, he hasn’t been a viable major league starter since the 2005 season, and at 31 years old, there really isn’t much upside here.
If he is willing to accept a minor league deal and prove himself then the story might go a little differently, but a pitcher with a sub-2.0 K/BB ratio, thereby exhibiting poor command usually needs to have some potential to improve to sustain a job or some sort of blistering fastball. Backe has neither, and at this point would not upgrade the rotation of any contender or serve as a potential chip for any of the non-contenders.
Backe has a career 5.23 ERA and 5.33 FIP, an 88-89 mph fastball with average or below movement, and has never ventured above the 0.9 WAR mark. Full disclosure, that 0.9 win season wasn’t very good, but involved about 150 innings being logged. Simply put, Backe is a replacement level pitcher, the kind of guy a team should call up from Triple A when someone gets hurt.
Sure, he will be cheap, but teams would be better suited to try their young guys than dish out starts to a subpar pitcher. Replacement level with potential for upside always beats plain old replacement level.