Rotation Options: Bonderman, Davis, Takahashi
Rob Biertempfel has an article looking at the Pirates’ search for pitching this off-season. Biertempfel highlights two pitchers who could be a fit for the Pirates: Jeremy Bonderman and Doug Davis (note: he’s not saying the Pirates are targeting these players).
Bonderman isn’t an appealing option. He’s only 28 years old, but he’s had a horrible career. His highlight was the 2006 season, when he posted a 4.08 ERA in 214 innings, along with an 8.5 K/9, a 2.7 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9. Since then he’s been plagued by injuries and poor performace. He pitched 171 innings in 2010, missing a few games with a rib injury, but otherwise healthy coming off a 2009 season where he missed 128 games with a shoulder injury.
To illustrate a point on Bonderman, here are two pitchers from the 2008-2010 seasons:
Player A: 27 years old in 2010, 5.31 ERA, 5.7 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.4 HR/9 from 2008-2010
Player B: 26 years old in 2010, 5.98 ERA, 6.1 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.1 HR/9 from 2008-2010
Player A is Bonderman. Player B is Charlie Morton in the first three years of his career (including his trainwreck in 2010, in which he posted better ratios than Bonderman 2010). Bonderman seems like a more expensive version of Charlie Morton. I’d rather the Pirates just go with Morton rather than Bonderman, as they could use the Bonderman money elsewhere. Bonderman made $12.5 M in each of the last two seasons, although that was part of an extension that he signed after his 2006 season. He wouldn’t make anywhere near that this time around.
Davis wouldn’t be a horrible option, although he’s an injury risk. He missed 51 games this season with a heart condition, due to an inflammation around his heart. He returned for about a week, then went down with an elbow injury for the remainder of the season. Prior to the 2010 season, Davis had a 4.22 ERA in 542 innings with Arizona from 2007-2009, with a 6.7 K/9, a 4.4 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9. Control is his big issue, with a career 4.1 BB/9 ratio.
Davis only cost Milwaukee $5.25 M in 2010, with $1 M of that being the buyout of his $6 M option in 2011. He might cost less than that in 2011, considering his injury filled 2010 season, most likely commanding a low guaranteed salary, with a lot of incentives. He wouldn’t be a bad flier to take on a one year, incentive heavy deal, along with an option for 2012. He’s definitely not a guy the Pirates should pin their hopes to, as he’s 35 years old, making his recent injuries all the more alarming.
Hisanori Takahashi is another option that just hit the market, having been released by the Mets last night, per terms of Takahashi’s contract since the two sides couldn’t complete a deal. Takahashi had a strong debut in the United States in 2010, with a 3.61 ERA in 122 innings with the Mets, along with an 8.4 K/9, a 3.2 BB/9, and a 1.0 HR/9. He appeared in 53 games, making 12 starts. Takahashi reportedly is seeking a three year deal, with $4-5 M per year, according to Jon Heyman of SI.
On the surface, everything looks great. That’s definitely a price the Pirates could afford, and Takahashi had great numbers in 2010. The downside is that Takahashi was more successful as a reliever than a starter. In 57.1 innings in relief, he posted a 2.04 ERA, with a 9.4 K/9, a 3.4 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9. In 64.2 innings as a starter, Takahashi put up a 5.01 ERA, with a 7.5 K/9, a 2.9 BB/9, and a 1.5 HR/9, with the home runs being the biggest issue.
He didn’t give up a single homer to opposing batters in their first plate appearance while he was starting. He ran in to problems when seeing batters the second time around, giving up seven homers in 92 at-bats, and continued those struggles in the third battle with opposing batters, giving up four homers in 62 at-bats when seeing batters for the third time in a game. Takahashi also allowed 12 of his 13 homers after his 25th pitch of the game.
The Pirates were rumored to be a destination for Takahashi last off-season, before the Japanese reliever signed a one year, $1 M deal with the Mets, which included the clause that he would become a free agent if the Mets couldn’t reach a deal with him by November 5th. He wouldn’t be a bad relief option, as he worked for the Mets as the closer from mid-August to the end of the season, with an 0.81 ERA in 22.1 innings, as well as an 8-for-8 save record.
Takahashi could also provide the occasional spot start if needed. There could be hope that he improves his home run ratio, which would make him a great starting option. Right now he’s basically been as good as Aaron Harang has been over the last few years, and Takahashi would probably be the cheaper option between the two. He wants $12-15 M over three years, but that might be too much for a guy who looks like a strong reliever and only a #5 starter/spot start option, especially when considering the Pirates already have strong late inning relievers in Joel Hanrahan and Evan Meek.