Saturday, July 02, 2011

Free Agent Pitchers, Next Years Freezes?

I recently answered a question on Twitter about whether or not an owner should deal Josh Collmenter as part of a dump deal. This owner is going for it this year, so all that really matters to him is whether or not he's getting enough value back in this deal in 2011.

Collmenter's fast start got me wondering what kind of future value free agent keeps generally have. In both keeper leagues I play in, you can keep free agent acquisitions at either their FAAB price or $10 the following season, whichever number is higher. I'd assume that there wouldn't be that many pitchers worth keeping as a result, and I'd be right.

Only three starting pitchers were kept who were free agent pick-ups at less than $10 in my N.L. home league in 2010: Andrew Cashner, R.A. Dickey and Travis Wood.

The Cashner freeze was a mystery to me in late March so I won't spend much time obsessing over it now. He earned $0 in 2010, had a 4.81 ERA and 1.565 WHIP, and there was nothing in the peripherals that would have indicated that the numbers didn't do him justice.

Dickey and Wood are more classic examples of free agent acquisitions that slip through the cracks of even a deep league.

In Dickey's case, the panel of expert leagues would have given this freeze a big thumbs down. Dickey went for $5 in the CBS Analysts league, $3 in LABR, and $3 in Tout Wars. His stellar numbers in 2010 were worth $17, though, so I could see why his owner kept Dickey. While Dickey's numbers are down this year, he has still been OK (4 wins, 71 strikeouts, 3.77 ERA, 1.36 WHIP). The xFIP is nearly identical to last season's, and Dickey is probably pitching closer to his level this year.

Dickey's on pace for about an $8 season using last year's formulas. While that isn't disappointing, you do want profit from your freezes. Dickey probably should have been thrown back.

Wood's a more intriguing case. He earned $11 in slightly over 100 innings in 2010, and showed flashes of brilliance in putting up a 3.51 ERA/1.081 WHIP. The experts were kind of on the fence with Wood as well. He went for $7 in CBS and Tout Wars, but $10 in LABR. Those prices suggested he was a borderline keep, but if you owned him last year I could see how the emotional investment might make you take the plunge.

This year hasn't worked out so well for Wood. After posting a 5.11 ERA in his first 16 starts, the Reds finally pulled the plug and sent him down to AAA. His xFIP suggests that he's been the victim of some bad luck, but then a 4.34 xFIP also isn't showing us a pitcher doing good work either. His fastball velocity is actually up, but there seems to be less movement on both the fastball and curve. This isn't good news for a pitcher who relies on control and not blowing hitters away.

These anecdotal examples don't make me optimistic about Collmenter. He can't simply be dismissed if you need him for this year, but you shouldn't hold out hope that he's going to turn into a dump chip for you this month either. If your competitor wants him as a throw-in in a dump deal, I'd throw him in if the return were favorable enough.

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