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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Cubs 2014 Plan B (Pitching): If at first you don't succeed, you try to convince again!

Free Agency Moves on the Pitching Side

I felt it necessary to revise my offseason for the Cubs, focused on Free Agents that are affordable, and less on trade pieces. For one, the best mechanism I can predict is the free agent market. Trades, its a matter of the two teams agreeing on much more than can be predicted via the outside eye. As such here are the targets, their positives and negatives, and projected contract offers.

Scott Kazmir

Rebound pitcher with ace-like stuff. Represented by the The Legacy Agency, the same agency that Edwin Jackson used to get a 4yr/52M deal. Francisco Liriano is also represented by Legacy. So to Kazmir. At 30 in 2014, Kazmir showed increasing velocity in 2013, which Fan Graphs notes a down tick at the end, Brooks Pitch F/X is more accurate, as they do adjustments, game to game, park to park.

 
Late Season Games                                     4Seam Sinker Change Slider


ANA@CLE (8/9/13) 93.97      90.65     81.29                 85.60

CLE@OAK (8/18/13) 93.32 90.25 80.34 83.88

MIN@CLE (8/25/13) 94.37 93.82 80.51 86.25

CLE@DET (8/31/13) 94.14 91.20 80.75 83.36

NYN@CLE (9/6/13) 94.28 94.11 80.75 85.03

KCA@CLE (9/11/13) 95.62 93.79 80.78 83.69

CLE@KCA (9/16/13) 94.51 92.52 81.04 83.87

HOU@CLE (9/21/13) 93.66 92.85 80.27 84.04

CLE@MIN (9/28/13) 92.85 92.64 78.83 83.27





Moreover, his 9.2K/9IP, 2.7BB/9IP in 158 IP is impressive also.
His RH/LH splits bode well also: RH hitters were .342 BABIP. This happened on all pitches but his cutter and curve, where those averages where decidedly better, .273 and .286. LH hitters had a pedestrian BABIP, and Kazmir exploited a 7.1K/BB ratio. Amazingly good.

So the downside? Injury risk. He's never crack 175IP since 2007, his sole 200+IP season. So that's the concern.


Kazmir's potential contract:
Year 1: 5M base, 3M incentive for 150IP
Year 2: 5M base, 6M incentive for 160IP
Year 3: 8M base on a vesting option of 300IP in Year 1 and 2, incentive of 4M. Player opt out clause.

Kazmir might be a break the pattern type. And 2-3 seasons of stability could be what he needs. 

Erik Bedard

Another buy low candidate. Erik Bedard is older, slightly less impressive version of Scott Kazmir, afflicted by injuries, and lost velocity. Represented by SFX, who has Cubs players Daniel Bard, Welington Castillo, Carlos Villanueva, and minor leaguers Tony Zych and Dan Vogelbach in the fold.
Bedard's 2013 season was decent enough for 26 starts in 151IP. He struck out 8.2 batters per 9IP. Walk a bit more than one would tend to like. However, he's at the age when he should be losing velocity, yet that did not happen in 2013 as this chart indicates:

The slight uptick in velocity bodes well for a potential 2-year deal at 4.5M plus 2M for staying off the DL for consecutive days, or over 135IP in year 1, then 150IP in year 2.  Bedard pitches better with more rest (6 days), as his BABIP is .025 below his 4/5 day totals.
His pitch selection has changed to Fastball (50%), Cutter (17.5%), Change (13%) and Curve (19%) according to Fangraphs.

Mostly, he's a safety valve sign. Both these guys are sign-worthy because you can never have too much pitching, ask: the 2013 LA Dodgers, the 2004-2006 Chicago Cubs. Dodgers had Billingsley and Beckett on the DL. Cubs, as we know, were Prior and Wood.

Other Contenders: Johan Santana (health proven first) is also represented by The Legacy Agency.

Grant total potentially for 3 years of Kazmir and 2 years of Bedard: $39.5M.

The point is to buy low, diversify the portfolio of pitching. The Cubs never have enough lefty starters. As it stands, over the last 16 seasons, getting on base in Wrigley as a lefty has been a better proposition than as a righty. Righties still have the slugging average won. But, as we know, OBP leads to runs. So we should want guys that can stop this. Kazmir is a definite lefty split option. Bedard, not as good, but cheap.

Analysis of Wrigley Field OBP for all RH and LH Cubs Batting

 

 In the late 1990s, lefties loved getting on base in Wrigley: Mark Grace, Mickey Morandini, Brant Brown, Henry Rodriguez are some of them.

So, I am reasonable to think having good lefties can counteract teams that can hit in Wrigley. Plus, it never hurts to have 2-3 lefty starters. Right now, Travis Wood is the lone southpaw. And his stuff is not dominating as a .248 and .244 BABIP has assisted him greatly in 2012/2013. In short, adding two lefties, or at least, 1 LHP is a must.

Tomorrow will discuss offensive adds: David Murphy, Franklin Gutierrez, Kevin Youkilis, and others.

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