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Pitchng Prescription: An Oldie, But Goodie

While we await the results of the AL MVP voting, allow me to share an idea that popped into my head while looking over yesterday’s MLB transactions, specifically these two headlines:

First of all, no, Moose’s deal still isn’t final, though pending a physical today it will be done by tomorrow. And, yes, he seems to have picked up an extra half-mil along the way.

Second, in this wild offseason that has already seen the Cubs go crazy on Alfonso Soriano ($136 million/8yrs) and the Red Sox bid $51,111,111.11 just to negotiate with Japanese import Daisuke Matsuzaka, the following deals all look mighty reasonable:

  • Moises Alou: $8.5 million/1yr + $7.5/$1 mil club option for 2008
  • Frank Thomas: $18 million/2yrs + vesting 2009 option
  • Craig Biggio: $5.15 million/1yr
  • Mike Mussina: $23 million/2yrs (+ $1.5 buyout for 2007)
  • Jamie Moyer: $10.5 million/2yrs + $3.5 million in incentives
  • Orlando Hernandez: $12 million/2yrs

All relatively low-risk, short-term contracts that, despite the marquee names involved, are actually commensurate with the player’s level of production. What’s the common thread? The players involved range in age from Mike Mussina, who will be 38 in just a few weeks, to Jamie Moyer, who just turned 44.

There are two things I draw from this. First, the Yankees’ decision to take Mussina’s hometown discount rather than make an expensive long-term commitment to a younger league-average-at-best starter such as recent conversation pieces Ted Lilly or the execrable Gil Meche was not only wise, but has thus far been underappreciated. Second, Brian Cashman should follow his own example and go after the now-available Tom Glavine.

Glavine, who will be 41 in March, earned $7.5 million in 2006 with an additional $5.25 million deferred (restructured in May from an original $10.5 million). He also just picked up a cool $3 million via his buyout from the Mets. All of which suggests that he could easily be had for less than Mussina, say $18 to $20 million over two years, possibly with money deferred. Consider the pros to such a deal:

  • Glavine has played in New York for the last four years, the last two of them for one of Joe Torre’s managerial protégés. There would be no adjustment required for him to move up to the Bronx, personally or professionally. He might even be willing to offer the Yankees a hometown discount of sorts. Glavine has reportedly narrowed his options to New York and Atlanta and is simply trying to make up his mind where he wants to play. Indeed, one of the reasons these veterans are so reasonably priced is that, by time they’ve reached this late stage of their careers, location and winning are more important to them than that last couple million or the long-term security their All-Star careers has already given them.
  • With the exception of the strike-shortened seasons of 1995 and 1995, Glavine has made a minimum of 32 starts every year since 1990.
  • Glavine has had an ERA below league average just once since 1991, that coming four years ago
  • Glavine’s strike-out rate has actually trended upwards in recent years and his K/BB ratio has improved in each of the last three seasons, each of which have seen him post peripherals similar to his averages for his Hall of Fame career.
  • Glavine’s list of comparable pitchers according to Baseball-Reference and Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA cards include names such as Warren Spahn, Don Sutton, Tommy John, Jerry Koosman, David Wells, Jamie Moyer, and Kenny Rogers, all pitchers who were still league-average starters or better at the age of 41 and, in some cases, beyond.
  • Glavine is a groundball pitcher, thus unlikely to become homer prone like recent NL imports Javy Vazquez, Carl Pavano and Randy Johnson
  • The Yankees have a growing supply of young pitching prospects, some of whom should break through to the majors for good in 2007. That makes now an ideal time to have a pair of veteran pitchers’ pitchers such as Mussina and Glavine around to serve as mentors to Philip Hughes and organization’s other up-and-coming young hurlers.
  • On the business side, Glavine is ten wins short of 300. That’s a sure-fire mid-season attendance bump as he approaches that milestone.

Now, it’s very possible that Glavine doesn’t want to leave the National League, so all of the above may be moot, but it’s certainly something that Brian Cashman should be exploring.

Meanwhile, the MVP announcement should come around 2pm EST. I don’t expect we’ll be disappointed.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver