Cubs Sign Scott Feldman, Land Another Bargain

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote up a comparison between Scott Feldman and Brandon McCarthy, noting that the two pitchers were probably more similar than their reputations would lead you to believe. As McCarthy noted in response, both pitchers altered their approaches to lean on the cut fastball while they were teammates in Texas, and the similarities are likely not a coincidence, given the influence that they had on each other.

In the closing of the post, I noted that Feldman “might be one of the best buys on the market.” Well, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s headed to the north side of Chicago — the Cubs are making themselves the destination for undervalued starting pitchers.

Last year, they stole Paul Maholm, signing him for just under $6 million for one year and getting a team option for a second season as well, increasing Maholm’s trade value in the event that he proved healthy and had a solid campaign. Two weeks ago, they signed Scott Baker to a one year contract for $5.5 million, and now today, they’ve given Scott Feldman a one year, $6 million deal. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot a trend here. The Cubs have figured out that they can get quality arms for $6ish million without locking themselves into long term commitments or giving up any assets to build out their rotation.

Feldman might not have the reputation of a quality starter yet, but he’s shown the skills necessary to become a perfectly acceptable middle-of-the-rotation innings eater. Last year, he ran a 3/1 K/BB ratio while maintaining an average ground ball rate, putting him in the same xFIP range as guys like Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, and Dan Haren,. He doesn’t have the same track record of success as those guys, but he’s also going to cost a fraction of the price, and offers the same low BB/average K/average GB skillset.

In a more friendly home ballpark and with better results at stranding runners, Feldman projects to be something not too far from a league average starting pitcher in 2013. And, while he’s going to be labeled a stop-gap type of signing, he doesn’t turn 30-years-old until February, so there’s no reason to think that the Cubs can’t extract longer term value from him if he pitches well in 2013. With Feldman and Baker, the Cubs have added a couple of pieces to their rotation who aren’t just pump-and-dump guys, but could be solid pieces to build future rotations around as well. This isn’t just patching a hole because the Cubs need arms for next season – these deals are investments in buying low on pitchers who could be part of the next good Cubs team, even if that team is still several years away.

Feldman isn’t likely to turn into any kind of ace, but he’s a good bet to give the Cubs 180 solid innings of work, and at $6 million with no long term commitment, this is a nifty little move for the Cubs. Don’t be too surprised if they’re announcing another contract with him at some point in 2013, rewarding him for his breakout season and keeping him on the north side beyond just this one season.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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glenstein
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glenstein
3 years 7 months ago

the one difference is neither Baker or Feldman seem to have 1 year team options attached. That was a significant part of Maholm’s trade value right?

TKDC
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TKDC
3 years 7 months ago

Yes, exactly my thoughts. I mean, it’s not like this is a bad move, but heaping praise on the Cubs for signing a back-end starter to a one-year deal seems odd to me.

Melrosepad
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Melrosepad
3 years 7 months ago

If memory serves, Scott Baker only wanted a 1 year deal and was against having an option year on it.

Kyle
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Kyle
3 years 7 months ago

Another difference is that Maholm (and Baker) are much better than Feldman with longer track records of acceptable pitching.

Steve
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Steve
3 years 7 months ago

My guess is that when Theo took the job in Chicago, his basic plan was to dump a sh*tton of money into the draft and the IFA market, buying as many prospects as he could, while selling off anything not tied down. Throw huge money at Cuban imports (this one slipped in right before the new CBA). Look toward a window about 3 years down the road to compete.

Then the new CBA came along and took a dump on that plan. Now he is looking for new ways to “buy” prospects. Sign undervalued free agents and sell at the deadline. I see both Baker and Feldman in that mold. He was probably looking at Haren in the same way before the medicals (maybe?) scared him off.

Kyle
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Kyle
3 years 7 months ago

Spending money on prospects = good

Spending MLB seasons on prospects = bad

Bad Theo! Bad!

Otter
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Otter
3 years 7 months ago

This is the Cubs. The move won’t work out. Assuming a move the Cubs make is going to work out is like saying that bringing back 493 year old Andy Pettitte won’t work out for the Yankees (of course it will some how work out, it’s the Yankees). And before anyone votes me down… we have 104 years of proof saying it won’t work.

Baltar
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Baltar
3 years 7 months ago

Yes, but that 1908 team was the greatest ever.

Aggie E
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Aggie E
3 years 7 months ago

Feldman works slow and sucks…

Loren
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Loren
3 years 29 days ago

huh?

Grand Admiral Braun
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Grand Admiral Braun
3 years 7 months ago

I am now going to re-watch ‘Kingpin’ thanks to Dave’s “pump and dump” comment.

Joel
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Joel
3 years 7 months ago

I have been thrilled with most of the moves the Cubs have made.

I do question the signing of Rob Deer as an assistant hitting coach. Rob Deer? Really?

Baltar
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Baltar
3 years 7 months ago

Perhaps the Cubs want their players to hit home runs only.

chuckb
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chuckb
3 years 7 months ago

when they’re not striking out.

I wonder what “3 true outcomes” Rob Deer will preach to the Cubs’ hitters.

Cidron
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Cidron
3 years 7 months ago

they arent meant to be “thrilling” moves, merely efficient, non costly moves. And, as such, they are perfectly acceptable, at least the pitcher ones mentioned. Rob Deer at hitting coach… boggles the imagination. But, did we really see McGwire succeeding as he has lately in the same role?

JamesDaBear
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

My only concern with Feldman is how his numbers were actually better at home while with Texas. I’m glad they’re not giving him much, because I’m not expecting much.

LK
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LK
3 years 7 months ago

Can you elaborate on why this is a concern?

Anon
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Anon
3 years 7 months ago

Good move for thet Cubs. Low risk, moderate reward.

Jack
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Jack
3 years 7 months ago

What are the circumstances that explain Feldman’s working out of the bullpen in parts of the past few years? Without digging too deep, it would appear that he’s had some injury issues in the past, but I’m wondering if that’s the only reason he hasn’t been used exclusively as a starter.

Detroit Michael
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Detroit Michael
3 years 7 months ago

The Rangers have had a very deep pitching staff. They had Ogando back in the bullpen too last year.

Jack
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Jack
3 years 7 months ago

RIght, see I thought I’d hear something like that, but I was wondering if any big Ranger fans can recall specific instances where he was replaced in the rotation, and by whom.

Aggie E
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Aggie E
3 years 7 months ago

Because he had one decent starting season in 2009 and whined for the last 2 years that he should start and when given the chance he was pretty bad. Although the fact that he works so slow may have caused the defense to be somewhat poor behind him…

Baltar
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Baltar
3 years 7 months ago

All-in-all a good analysis, Dave, but I don’t follow the reasoning in the penultimate paragraph about how this well help in a few years when the Cubs might be competitive.

Marty
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Marty
3 years 7 months ago

A guy who hasn’t thrown 180 innings since 2009 is “a good bet” to do it this year? I’d put the over/under at 140.

Jack
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Jack
3 years 7 months ago

Also my initial reaction to that part of the post, which is why I’m wondering what the biggest reason is for him pitching out of the bullpen in parts of recent seasons.

Blockhead
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Blockhead
3 years 7 months ago

He pitched out of the bullpen because he sucked.

jumbo
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jumbo
3 years 7 months ago

I think the good bet is that he’ll have the opportunity to start (presuming health and some level of competence) with the Cubs while he did not previously with the Rangers. I don’t know much about Feldman with respect to injury risk, but this is why pitchers will actually sign with the Cubs – there’s no one blocking them and relegating them to the pen.

Ivan Grushenko
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Ivan Grushenko
3 years 7 months ago

How does signing Feldman and Baker to 1 year deals make them candidates to be part of the next good Cub team 3 years from now any more than if somebody else had signed them? How is a one year contract not a stopgap?

Jack
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Jack
3 years 7 months ago

Because both of them are good enough and young enough that for any team that signs them to a short-term deal could be rewarded with the inside track in resigning them because they prove to have been worth the initial investment.

Antonio Bananas
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Antonio Bananas
3 years 7 months ago

I don’t like Feldman. 25% line drive rate? Looks like his H/9 wasn’t just a result of bad luck. The guy has a lot more innings logged as a bad pitcher than a good one and 29 isn’t exactly an age where guys typically get better. “TEH CLIFF LEEZ!!!!” Outlier. Glad I got that out of the way.

I really don’t see it. His FIP wasn’t bad and sure the ballpark probably hurt his HR/FB, and moving to the NL will help. I just don’t see as much value. Maholm had value. Baker has value. Feldman just seems like cheap filler.

Loren
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Loren
3 years 29 days ago

what does he see like now

whetstone
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whetstone
3 years 7 months ago

Here’s an oddity. In 2012 and 2010, Feldman’s ERA was *much* higher on the road (.75-1). But most of his his other stats on the road (K%, OBP, SLG, etc) were better, as you’d expect when he’s out of Arlington.

The difference? In 2012 he gave up one unearned run on the road, and eight at home. In 2010, he gave up one unearned run on the road, and 11 at home. He gave up similar numbers of runs per innings pitched, but the unearned/earned runs were way different.

Not_Sure
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Not_Sure
3 years 7 months ago

A pitcher with high injury risk is never a “bargain”. Their price reflects the risk.

Tom
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Tom
3 years 7 months ago

Feldmen’s career FIP and xFIP are both around 4.5,,,, doesn’t strike me as league average or close to it.

These articles more and more are like ESPN type articles where the statistical analysis is eschewed and a bunch of handwaving is done to support a conclusion. Why not just look at actual advanced stats then resorting to park effects and stranding runners.

(I guess that would paint a different picture and not fit the Hoyer/Theo… it must be a good move conckusiion

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