Two More Reclamation Projects Hit the Free Agent Market

Last week I looked at a group of potential reclamation projects on the starting pitching market. I didn’t include players who had option years, since it wasn’t known at the time whether those options would be executed or not. Several of those decisions were made this weekend, providing two more potential reclamation projects on the open market.

The first guy who caught my attention was Brandon Morrow. The Blue Jays declined his $10 M option, making him a free agent. Morrow has outstanding stuff, with a fastball that has averaged 94 MPH in his career. He has struck out over a batter an inning in his career, but has struggled with control issues. He hasn’t had a good career ground ball rate, but something changed last year, as he had a 50.5% rate, up from his 38.3% career mark. The Pirates have had most of their success from strikeout pitchers with poor control and good ground ball rates, after fixing the control issues.

The downside with Morrow comes with his injury history. He has only pitched more than 150 innings once in his career, which was his career high 179.1 innings in 2011. He has pitched a combined 87.2 innings over the last two seasons. He missed two months in 2012 with an oblique injury, four months in 2013 with an entrapped radial nerve in his right forearm, and only pitched one month in 2014 after tearing a tendon in his right hand. The good news in all of this is that there aren’t any injuries that could derail his career, such as a shoulder injury. The downside is that Morrow isn’t a guy who could be counted on for a full season of work.

That doesn’t mean he’s not a good option. He’d be a gamble, but if he stayed healthy and the Pirates fixed him, he would be a top of the rotation guy. The fact that Toronto declined his option suggested that no one else would have paid his $10 M option (assuming Toronto would have taken any return rather than paying $1 M for his buyout). That means he should cost less than $10 M, and likely in the price of what 1-1.5 wins would cost on the open market. During his healthy years, he was a 2.5-3.6 WAR pitcher, which means there’s a lot of potential value here.

The other player who caught my attention was Brett Anderson. The Rockies declined his $12 M option, paying his $1.5 M buyout instead. Anderson is very much like Morrow. He’s dealt with a ton of injuries, but has looked good when healthy. He has averaged 91.8 MPH with his fastball, which is good for a lefty. That velocity was down in 2014, although that might have been due to his back injury, which sidelined him from August to the end of the season. His velocity was fine in the early part of the season, and dipped before he went on the DL. He also fractured his left index finger, which could have played a role in the velocity loss. His worst outings, from a velocity standpoint, were right after returning from the finger injury, and before leaving with a back injury.

Anderson is an extreme ground ball pitcher, topping 60% in each of the last two seasons. He’s got decent strikeout numbers in his career, and good walk rates. His career xFIP is 3.52, and he’s been in that range almost every year of his career, with the exception of 2012-13, when he was in the 3.06-3.26 range. Just like Morrow, the challenge here would be keeping Anderson healthy for a full season. He has pitched a combined 206.1 innings over the last four seasons, so the challenge with Anderson seems a bit higher. That said, the value should be much lower than Morrow, with Anderson possibly costing something in the $5 M range.

Morrow is the guy I like better, as there is less perceived injury risk, and more potential upside. But there could be value with either guy, as long as the Pirates could keep them healthy. I’m not sure if I like either one better than my top choice, Justin Masterson. But if their options had been declined when I wrote the article last week, they would have easily made my list, and would have been some of the top options on that list.

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  • Agree with these two.

    Morrow loves the slider. Bucs love the slider. Anderson goes two-seamer and slider. Bucs love that even more.

    It’s all about health with these two. Would love to get one on the cheap.

  • Brandon McCarthy, Brandon Morrow, Justin Masterson and Brett Anderson. With Martin, Liriano and Volquez coming off the payroll, and with Pedro and/or Ike becoming expendable (via trade or release), the Bucs should have $20 million to spend. Moreover, coming off two playoff appearances (albeit short ones), the Bucs should be able to increase their payroll a bit. Why not splurge on a few “reclamation” projects? Whom do we have after Cole at this point? Nobody particularly impressive.

  • Sign them both as well as Russell Martin. Make up the funds by dumping the three headed zombie at 1B.

    • You’d still need a player to play 1B, and itd still be really expensive to add 30-40 million in payroll and shed 10-15 to justify it. Lambo may be fan popular, but having him as the best and really only option at 1B seems like something a non-serious contender would do.

    • Martin is gone. I’d love to have him back, but if the Bucs won’t go 5/75…and they won’t (and shouldn’t)…they’re not going to be able to compete with the Dodgers or Cubs.

  • Guys who are constantly hurt can pretty much be counted on to remain constantly hurt. Pass. Focus on guys who have good downward planes…

  • Morrow would be a good gamble and signing IMO. I think his best years are still in front of him, if he can stay healthy. I would take him over Volquez or Morton.

  • Never heard of Morrow, but he sounds like a decent fit if he can give us 2/3 of a season and we can use the prospects later in the season if we can get him in the 7-8M range, but on the other hand we probably can get Volquez at that price. Who is better?

  • I wouldn’t mind directing a multiyear deal to Volquez instead of Liriano. His history of being an innings eater cannot be overlooked. In theory, we will have 2 or 3 top of the rotation guys in Cole, Taillon, possibly Kingham, in the next year or two and complementing them with a durable workhorse like EV seems like a good idea.

    • I’d just be shocked if they brought back Volquez. They’ve been going after guys who have underperformed their advanced metrics so long, that paying for a guy who overperformed his advanced metrics would be shocking. I like Volquez, but it would just be different.

  • Instead of reclamation projects, sign Liriano or trade for a mid level starter that does not need reclamating.

    • Considering nearly everyone agrees they need 2 SP, they could do both. Liriano is risky on a 3 year deal as is since he has very little history of consistent performance year to year.

      • I’d rather have Liriano if I had a choice. yeah there is risk there. But he’s unhittable when on, and he’s a lefty. Good ones are hard to come by. It’s not a slight to Volquez, I’d just prefer the lefty.

      • How about Aaron Harang ? He is never mentioned, but would probably be a good one year stop gap.

        • Not a bad idea to me, though he may be able to snag a two year deal somewhere thanks to a decent season.

  • Michael Alexander
    November 2, 2014 2:11 pm

    Any chance of factoring in these into the analysis for reclamation projects?

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/injury-chances-for-strike-throwers/

    http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/curve-ball-and-slider-pitchers-and-the-dl/

    I know there’s more to it than this, since the technical changes Searage makes makes a difference in injury rates, (changing a motion/pitcher’s arm slot can reduce impact, increase strike percentage, reduce stress and injury risk, etc). But for Anderson, because of his pitch selection and prior injury history, he’s at a much higher risk of injury than other reclamation projects. I also know there’s some research out there that ties in injury to decreased velocity and/or injuries within the past season.

  • I feel like you could get both of these guys for the price of Masterson. I don’t think his value dipped enough to make him a viable reclamation. 10 million or more is kind of ridiculous for someone coming off a rough season.

  • Billingsley on a minor league contract is also somewhat appealing. Is from PA

  • I think this year’s reclamation projects are pretty week. I’d prefer trying to find a 2013 Jeanmar Gomez type that could give twenty 5 innings starts. For $400k Gomez was very valuable in ’13 and didn’t cost us anything.

    We should be pretty fine by midseason it’s the first 3 months that we need some starts.

    • Scott Kliesen
      November 2, 2014 1:35 pm

      I don’t consider this class of reclamation pitchers to be weak, but considering depth of proven SP’s, it may look that way. I believe this market will make it relatively easy to acquire a couple of potential solid to excellent SP’s for relatively cheap.

      As for where Pirates will be by mid-season is anybody’s guess. SP and injuries are always a big concern no matter how much perceived depth it may appear they have.

  • Just sign both of them. Maybe they can combine for 150 innings

  • Either one or Masterson would work for me.

  • Tim: Sounds like $7 or $8 mil will get Morrow? Is that more than we can expect to pay to keep EV? Either of these guys are gambles, but if we can sign EV for 3 years for around $25 mil, it will probably be the better direction simply because he comes with a track record of being an innings eater who showed us flashes of looking like a No. 1 during 2014. On the other hand, we possibly have 3 or 4 kids working their ways into the majors in 2015/2016, so somebody short term is all we need, and Morrow could be the better because he will consider a one year contract in a pitchers ballpark in the NL rather than the band boxes in the AL East. If we sign Morrow, we are in great shape going into the Winter

  • I’ve always been a big Morrow fan for some reason. I’d be pretty happy if he came to the Pirates.

    All their FA bounceback pitcher signings really NEED to do is to bridge the gap to Taillon health and Kingham readiness. Anything else is really gravy.

    i think my offseason plan would be something like…

    Either Liriano or McCarthy for 3x 35ish.

    A bounceback pitcher for about 1×10 like Morrow, Anderson, Masterson, OR maybe trade for Bartolo Colon for… i think he has 1×11 on his deal.

    Either (Russ Martin for 4 x 60 and keep davis or pedro for 1b) OR ( (trade for Miguel Montero OR Carlos Ruiz) AND sign a 1b like (Laroche or Billy Butler)).

    • Assuming a conservative 55 million current payroll, add in 11 for Liriano/McCarthy+10 for the other SP=75-78 million before either 15 million for Martin (giving us 90 million in payroll not including arb bumps) OR before 8.5 million in Ruiz/ 12 million in Montero along with over 10 million for a 1Bmen. In these scenarios, i see no way the team doesnt enter the season at 100 million in payroll. You can argue they should do that, but itd mean they have no room to increase payroll during the year. No real way they add a Liriano priced pitcher, 10 million reclamation type AND Martin in their budget. If they did, we would go with the cheapest possible 1B and bench options.

      • ya maybe the laroche/butler portion can be ignored.

        All in all, pitching and catching are the most important. if martin goes bye bye, then i’ll settle for just stewart for a little while if it means that two pitchers were signed, one of which being a 1 yr bounceback type.

    • I like it. I’d rather see one guy at first and the money your spending on 3 invested in one. AS for Morrow or the other guy. They’re different than Volquez in that I don’t remember him being an oft injured guy. Mechanics is something that Searage has proven beyond a doubt he can fix. Injuries are out of anyone control. I don’t like guys that always come up lame. I’d stay away from them.

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