Webb, Jeff Francis & Chris Young attracting interest as comeback bets on 1-yr deals. Webb a potential fallback for Twins if Pavano leavesIf Crasnick has his sources straight, then this appears to be one of those decreasingly rare instances in which I find myself on the same wavelength as the Twins brass. Webb is shaping up to be a guy worth taking a flier on, but only under the right circumstances.
Back in January of 2009, the Indians signed free agent Carl Pavano, who had pitched only 45 innings over the prior three seasons combined, to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million plus incentives. I loved the move from afar, opining that it was "what a low-risk veteran signing should look like." Pavano, once considered an elite starter, had been an epic free agent bust with the Yankees and needed to rectify his image. The Indians had a million and a half bucks to gamble on him.
As it turned out, the deal worked out well for both sides. Pavano scooted past his incentive milestones, tacking onto his salary significantly while setting himself up to earn far more in the ensuing years. The Indians and Twins, meanwhile, got 200 innings of solid veteran performance.
Webb is not so far removed from his prime years, and during them he was a better pitcher than Pavano ever has been. In 2006, Webb captured the NL Cy Young by going 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA over 235 innings for the Diamondbacks. He finished second in the Cy Young voting in both 2007 and 2008.
On Opening Day of the 2009 season, Webb left after four innings due to soreness in his right shoulder. A few months later, he'd go under the knife, costing him the rest of his '09 season and all of 2010. Now, Webb is set to become a free agent and he's a major wild card. The right-hander reported that his fastball was only touching 81-83 mph in early October, but that's a long way from spring training and Webb was never a fireballer (during his best years, his heater only averaged 88 mph).
On a Pavano-type deal, Webb would almost certainly be a worthwhile investment. However, it's possible that the former Diamondback will have higher demands. He and his agent could seek a deal more similar to the one Ben Sheets inked with the A's last offseason. Sheets, who'd not pitched since 2008 due to his own shoulder issues, signed a one-year contract that guaranteed $10 million and contained $2 million in incentives.
That deal busted, as Sheets was thoroughly mediocre over 20 starts before suffering another major shoulder injury that will probably signify the end of his career. With this example fresh in mind, it's unlikely that any general manager will throw eight figures at Webb, but he could seek a one-year deal similar to the ones fellow injury concerns Rich Harden ($6.5 million plus incentives) and Brad Penny ($7.5 million plus incentives) signed prior to this season.
The nice thing for the Twins is that they have enough depth to take a gamble on Webb. They already have five potentially capable starters in Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing. Beyond that stable, they've got top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson waiting in the wings at Triple-A.
If Webb fizzles, the Twins can probably sustain it from a competitive standpoint. The question is how much it would hurt them financially. He is still only 31 years old and prior to his injury he was one of baseball's premier workhorses, but no one can know what to expect in his first season back. I don't know exactly how much the Twins' payroll is going to increase this year and maybe they can afford to gamble at high stakes on Webb, but if he's demanding an amount that would severely restrict their other offseason moves, they'd have to be very confident his shoulder is good to go.