On Tuesday, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports published a short column suggesting Wei-Yin Chen could be among the first free agent pitchers to sign. The column also included that agent Scott Boras is prepared to make the case that Chen is worth a higher AAV than what Rick Porcello earned last offseason, putting his yearly price tag north of $20 million.
When Morosi sent out a tweet that read “Is Wei-Yin Chen a $20 million-per-year pitcher? Or more? My column:” it was met with a frenzied response from The People of the Internet. Now, $20 million annually does seem a bit aggressive. But our crowdsourcing project pegged him for $13 million AAV, Dave Cameron thinks it will be closer to $16 million, and Cameron also named Chen as one of the five bargain buys of the offseason at that price. All it takes is a few teams to agree with Cameron’s assessment, and Chen’s price tag could be driven up near Boras’ demands.
The response to Morosi’s column shouldn’t be too surprising, for several reasons. For one, you should know that The People of the Internet are notoriously reactionary and easily agitated. Two, people almost always think players should earn less than what they actually end up making. And three, Wei-Yin Chen is probably better than most people think. He doesn’t blow people away, so he’s not a sexy pitcher, but he’s ran 3.44 ERA over the last couple years, and he’s done so in a hitter’s park in the AL East. His ERA- over that time is one point better than Chris Archer‘s, the same as Stephen Strasburg‘s, and one point worse than Madison Bumgarner‘s.
I’m certainly not suggesting Chen is on, or even near, the level of an Archer, Strasburg, or Bumgarner, but he’s been about as durable as they come the last couple years with the results to boot. I’m not here to put a price tag on Wei-Yin Chen — I’ll let the market decide that — but Morosi’s column got me thinking about Chen, and thinking about Chen got me thinking about something else.
You’ll notice a couple paragraphs above that I only used ERA to evaluate Chen. Usually, we like to look at both ERA and FIP, and more information is always better, but Chen’s one of those tricky guys who seems to have proven himself as a FIP-beater, having outperformed his fielding independent numbers by nearly half a run since entering the league. Oftentimes, these FIP-beaters are guys who can consistently generate soft contact, and those kind of guys are among my favorite in baseball to think about right now.
On a related note, I explored how Dallas Keuchel goes about getting his soft contact last week. There’s plenty of ways to go about doing it, which makes it so fun to investigate. One of Keuchel’s methods is repeatedly pounding the first-base edge of the plate with two-seamers and changeups that tail away from the strike zone, hitting off the end of the bat against righties and jamming lefties.
That’s Keuchel’s method. Chen ranked sixth in the league in soft contact percentage this season, just three spots behind Keuchel. Chen’s got a method too.
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