The representatives of Brandon Webb and the Texas Rangers front office managed to take some time out of their undoubtedly busy Boxing Day schedule to agree to a one-year contract. Terms of the deal have not been released as of Sunday night, but the deal is “incentive-laden,” according to Nick Piecoro. If this deal fits into the market of Rich Harden and Erik Bedard type market, we can be fairly sure that the deal will pay Webb less than $4-5 million guaranteed.
As Dave pointed out, deals like this did not pan out well last season. We can’t make any hard statistical or factual claims based on the sample size of six starters, but I’m not exactly sure I see any reason to expect big things out of this deal or any contract in the same vein. The pitchers being signed have a two-sided struggle on their hands. First, they have to make it onto the field, which Webb failed to do last year. Second, even if their bodies can return to the point where they’re able to throw 200 or even 100 innings, they have to retain MLB-quality stuff. Webb’s only outings of the years came in instructional league action, where his fastball was described as “sitting in the low-80s,” which constitutes a roughly five MPH velocity drop. One scout said, “Scary that that is all he’s got after such long rehab.”
That said, even if this deal ends up being a loss for the Rangers, its impact will be minimal. Webb’s base salary will be some negligible amount that, unless there was a major lack of foresight by GM Jon Daniels and company, would not affect any play for Adrian Beltre or another useful piece. The only way in which this move could hurt the Rangers is if the team stubbornly gives a Webb who can’t become an above-replacement pitcher a significant amount of starts. Webb will be off the team’s books after the one season. The move doesn’t break the budget this year and has an extremely limited potential for negative effects.
This move is very likely to fail, as my money would be on Webb failing to make any sort of impact this year, mostly due to his precipitous drop in fastball velocity. However, the risk is so low and the chance for reward existent enough that I can’t criticize Daniels and his staff for going after Webb. All it would take is for 5 or 10 productive starts for Webb’s contribution to the Rangers to justify his contract. Webb is two years removed from a stretch of three straight 6.0+ WAR seasons. Although the odds are against it, far crazier things have happened.