Tim Hudson Opting Out?

According to Ken Rosenthal, the much-maligned free agent pitching crop is about to get a lot stronger, with Tim Hudson set to join the ranks of those available for bidding this winter. The Braves and Hudson hold a mutual $12 million option on his 2010 contract, but with a strong finish to the season and not much competition on the open market, Hudson sees an opportunity to get a better deal now rather than waiting a year.

Is it the right call?

In his late season return, he showed absolutely no effects from the injury or layoff. His fastball averaged 90.4 MPH, the same velocity he’s shown since 2005. He still had tremendous sink on the pitch as well, generating a 62.2% GB%. His command was as good as always, and his strikeout rate was higher than any season since 2001. It may have only been seven starts, but Hudson showed that he’s still every bit as good as he was before the injury, and he was one of the better pitchers in baseball at his peak.

Besides John Lackey, there aren’t any pitchers on the market who can offer a better package of stuff, command, and ability to pitch. Lackey’s going to get a big contract, but Hudson’s a pretty similar pitcher when healthy. For a team who wants to add that level of starter without paying full price, Hudson is a terrific alternative.

For Hudson, opting out is likely the right move. He probably won’t get a $12 million in annual salary again, given his age and the fact that he’s only thrown 180 innings over the last two years, but teams will still be lining up to bid for a pitcher of his quality, and rightfully so. A three or four year deal at around $10 million per season will be a steal if Hudson is able to stay healthy, and that kind of contract is certainly more valuable to him than one more season at $12 million.

If the Braves can’t convince him to stay in Atlanta, this is bad news. For the other 29 teams, however, the free agent pitching market might be about to get a big upgrade.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

20 Responses to “Tim Hudson Opting Out?”

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  1. gej says:

    Hudson has said a couple times that he’d prefer to stay in Atlanta, and that he’d resign for a discount if they’d let him. I think Rosenthal is misinterpreting his information.

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  2. Tomas says:

    Everything I’ve read before Ken Rosenthals latest had led me to believe the Braves weren’t going to pick up his option, which made sense considering he just had Tommy John surgery.

    It’s not that i think he has had some complications after surgery. It’s simply a matter of ability, and making 12 million in the current market. Even though he only had 7 starts as you mentioned, he had a ton of baserunners. It may be a question of rust and lack of control. He had a 1.46Whip, his highest total of his entire career. His second highest was in 2006 when he had a 1.44Whip to go with a 4.86ERA. A lot of lucky dp’s this year.

    But seriously you’d give Hudson more than 12 million per year…..No way. I think if you’re him, the best you could hope for is 3 yrs 27 million.

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      There’s just no reason to use WHIP to evaluate a pitcher anymore.

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      • bobo says:

        really? There is never a situation to use WHIP?

        Why throw away a tool just cause you may only use it on very few occasions?

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Well sure… when constructing a fantasy baseball roster.

        But no, there’s no reason to use it when we can see, without looking very hard at all, that absolutely anything he can control is right in line with his career rates. K/9, BB/9, GB/FB, all normal for him. Even digging deeper and looking at his plate discipline numbers shows consistency with previous seasons. What did change, however, was a large spike in BABip and a smaller spike in HR/FB, both of which would increase his WHIP but neither of which were his fault.

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        You should never use WHIP. Not very few occasions. No occasions. It’s useless.

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      • Steve says:

        i think “useless” is a little strong, but i understand where you are going. it treats a single the same as a HR, so yeah, it has very LIMITED use.

        but as a quick and dirty metric, it has some use.

        any pitcher with a WHIP close to 1 is going to be pretty good. in that respect, it’s a handy little tool, you just have to know, understand, and account for the limitations.

        yes, i know, if you wanted “quick and dirty” you probably wouldn’t come to Fangraphs….

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      • MPC says:

        Or the pitcher is just getting lucky on BABIP. WHIP really is useless.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        No, OPS+ is a quick-and-dirty stat. WHIP is far too dependent on random variation to be worth anything.

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      • joser says:

        There is one, and only one, reason to pay attention to WHIP: you’re playing fantasy in a league that uses it as a stat. In that respect it’s in the same category as charisma, dexterity, and hit points. It may help you evaluate how your level 10 Mage throw fireballs at orcs. It isn’t going to help you in the real world. And bringing it up may just get you laughed at.

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      • rolo says:

        I can only think of one reason to quote WHIP and that is when you are explaining baseball to someone that doesn’t want to learn the more complicated statistics. For example, you could explain to one of your senior management baseball advertysing types (is this even a type?) how a pitcher could be lucky. Pitcher 1 has a low ERA but a very high WHIP. Pitcher 2 could have equally low ERA but a low WHIP.

        Senior manager business type: “FPIT QUAR WAR ERA+ what are you talking about????…Oh, WHIP, yes I play fantasy baseball, I see what you mean, too many baserunners but got lucky and didn’t give up more earned runs…Why do you stat heads bother with all those other synonyms when you can just use WHIP???”

        Stathead “A sir, they are actually acronyms”

        Senior manager business type: “What did you call me?”

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    • YC says:

      While it is a really small sample size, in 42 1/3 Innings this year, Hudson has a 3.88 FIP and a 3.56 xFIP. In limited innings, Hudson has been as good as he ever was.

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    • Ewan says:

      You also need to take into account that the Braves have got 6 starters currently in Vazquez, Lowe, Jurrjens, Hanson, Kawakami and Hudson. If they keep Hudson around then they’ve either gotta trade one or stick Kawakami in the pen

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  3. Jason says:

    Of course he’s not going to get $12M/yr. on the market, but in terms of absolute dollars if he could even get $9M/yr. for 3 years (total $27M) that would still be better for him longterm. After next year, Hudson will be 35. He’d be lucky to get a one year contract with an option at that point. This is his last chance at a 3 or 4 year guaranteed contract.

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  4. John C says:

    I think the Braves would have to seriously lowball Hudson for him to move out.

    I think he’ll re-sign 2/20 with some option for the 3rd year. Just a guess, though.

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  5. Matt B. says:

    I would assume he will likely want to stay in the NL unless the $$ is too great somewhere else.

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  6. David Foy says:

    I think it seems pretty clear that he’ll opt out of the deal in search of a longer term deal (that is if he does the rational economic decision, not accounting for emotions or other factors). Does anyone think that the Mets might be a reasonable fit, as a Met fan I hope so, we could sure use him.

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  7. Temo says:

    Hudson has since refuted the story, saying he will only opt out if the Braves and his agent can’t get close on a contract extension that both sides are working on right now. He says he’ll definitely take a hometown discount to stay, but he wants the extra years.

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  8. Neil says:

    Hudson would make sense for the Nationals if he does opt out. They have cash to spend and a stated intention to add to their rotation. Rizzo has shown a preference for sinker/groundball ptuchers.

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