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Lesser Alternatives

It’s time to play everyone’s favorite statistical game, Hidden Identities! Below are the projected stat-lines in 2009 for two different pitchers, averaged together from a few different projection systems. As you may have gathered from previous examples of this game, the two pitchers are not as close in reputation as they are in projected performance.

Pitcher A: 170 IP, 4.58 FIP, +1.7 WAR
Pitcher B: 150 IP, 4.65 FIP, +1.4 WAR

Both of these pitchers seem pretty darn close in terms of their true talent levels. Pitcher A may be a bit more durable and effective, and overall a better pitcher, but the performance discrepancies are not nearly vast enough to deem A a #3-type starter and B lucky to be considered a #5 on a decent team. Before divulging their true identities, the point here is to show that there are usually alternatives to be had when filling out the back of your rotation, players whose performances won’t light the world on fire but will have some value over the replacement level while costing next to nothing.

Player A is Oliver Perez, the Boras client currently being compared to Sandy Koufax. Player B is Odalis Perez, member of the 2008 Washington Nationals who was all but forgotten a few years back. Oliver is seeking a very lucrative deal, likely similar in value and years to the contract recently signed by Ryan Dempster. Odalis is seeking… well… a job next season. In fair market value terms, this is a difference of $8.5 mil for Oliver and $7 mil for Odalis, not that substantial.

Odalis isn’t the only such player, either. Granted, it is very difficult to find someone worth over one win that can be had on the cheap, but a few other pitchers are currently available for small stipends that have value above replacement level. The three pitchers I have in mind are Josh Fogg, Kip Wells, and Jon Lieber. At this stage in their careers, none are bound to make the all star team or anything of that variety, but package projections calling for positive win production at under $4 mil.

Fogg and Wells are coming off of very poor ERA-seasons, which deflates their overall value even though their controllable skills are a half-win or more above replacement. Lieber is old and coming off of a season in which he made under 30 relief appearances.

Fogg’s projections call for around 120 innings at a 5.07 FIP. This puts him at +5 runs, and worth $2.5 mil on the open market. Coming off of a poor 2008 season in which he made just $1 mil, he could likely be had for a similar fee under his fair market value.

Wells split time between the Rockies and Royals, primarily pitching out of the bullpen. His projection calls for a 4.75 FIP in 80 innings of work, which would bump up to around 5.00, as a starter. This would make Wells a +5 run, +0.5 win pitcher. Last season, he made $3.1 mil, and based on his poor ERA as well as the decreased salaries being given to relievers this offseason, probably will not earn more than his $2.5 mil fair market value.

Lieber is older than Fogg and Wells, but has a projection calling for similar production. If a team has a solid prospect waiting in the wings, the production of these three could be replicated for the league minimum of $400k. However, the aforementioned three are available for what should be small fees.

At prices higher than their fair market values, stay away, but if you can sign Kip Wells or Lieber or Fogg to a 1-yr/$1-2 mil deal, it is something to seriously consider. These pitchers will not bump a team up from 86 wins to 89 or anything along those lines, but a deal like this would carry with it so little commitment or monetary risk.