Injured pitchers adding up 

June, 23, 2007
The Dodgers did every bit of their due diligence on Jason Schmidt. His MRI was clean, and Dodgers trainer Stan Conte not only has the industry's highest regard but he knew Schmidt from San Francisco from when he was the Giants' trainer, and he and Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti believed that if Schmidt could throw 90-92 mph, he could and would win.

But it was one win and out for Schmidt this season.

On the other hand, Randy Wolf is the winningest free-agent pitcher in the National League, one victory behind the game's winningest free agent, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Joe Borowski and Al Reyes are the free-agent relievers with the most saves, with 20 and 16, respectively. And, in case you did not notice, since the Braves traded for Bob Wickman in July 20 and re-signed him to keep him off the market, Wickman has more saves than any reliever other than Trevor Hoffman. The Angels had to outbid several teams to sign reliever Justin Speier to a four-year, $18 million deal, and Hideki Okajima, for a third of the cost of Jamie Walker, has been the best left-handed set-up man in the American League this year.

When one looks at the potential offseason free-agent list, the first reaction is that this is a good time in the lives of Carlos Zambrano and Mark Buehrle to be going onto the market, if they do. Or, even with some physical problems and a 4.38 ERA since the 2004 World Series, Curt Schilling will find someone willing to come close to his $13 million asking price, especially if it's a one-year deal. Or that it is nearly impossible for the Indians to even think about keeping C.C. Sabathia off the market after the 2008 season.

One look at the disabled list, and there is Toronto paying more than $20 million for A.J. Burnett and B.J. Ryan. Baltimore lost Adam Loewen and Kris Benson, the Yankees Phil Hughes, the Tigers Nate Robertson and the Rangers Kevin Millwood. Oakland is just now getting back Rich Harden, who was supposed to be their co-No. 1 starter with Dan Haren, while trying to rehab closer Huston Street and Esteban Loaiza. The Mets hold their breath on the comebacks of Pedro Martinez and Duaner Sanchez, the Phillies are surviving without Brett Myers, Tom Gordon and Freddy Garcia. The Braves traded Adam LaRoche for Mike Gonzalez, who is out for the season after undergoing ligament reconstruction surgery on his left elbow a few weeks ago. Florida has lost a half-dozen pitchers, including last year's phenom Anibal Sanchez (who missed two full seasons while pitching in the Boston farm system), and the Nationals have one win from their Opening Day starting pitcher, John Patterson, as well as promising Jason Bergmann.

The Cardinals had to replace Jason Marquis and Jeff Weaver by signing Kip Wells and moving Braden Looper out of the bullpen and into the rotation; Wells hasn't worked, and Looper is on the disabled list. GM Walt Jocketty did get his team a little help by acquiring Mike Maroth from the Tigers on Friday.

One former Cy Young Award winner, Chris Carpenter, is still on the disabled list, and three others -- Roy Halladay, Randy Johnson and Bartolo Colon -- have been there, as has the winningest American League pitcher of the past two years, Chien-Ming Wang.

All of which puts up a caution sign for the Reds, Nationals, Mariners, Rangers, Royals and Devil Rays, which are hoping to score a young pitcher or three between now and the July 31 deadline: It will not be easy because the cost of acquiring pitching is so expensive.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman is trying to build a warehouse of pitchers, not only because Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina are all old enough to enter the New Hampshire primary but also to avoid another round of Carl Pavanos and Jaret Wrights. Hughes was an unfortunate loss because his ceiling is so high, but the Yankees now have pitchers Ian Kennedy, Joba Chamberlain, Alan Horne and Jeffrey Marquez knocking on the door at Double-A; Ross Ohlendorf (who could end up being an important seventh- and eighth-inning pitcher for the Yanks come September); and by this time next year will have Humberto Sanchez and Andrew Brackman back from surgery and on the road to reaching the big leagues. Cashman might trade one or two of the pitching prospects to make the playoffs this season, but Hughes will not be available in any trade, including any deals involving Mark Teixeira or Alex Rios.

Boston won't trade Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden. The Dodgers also will not move Chad Billingsley. The Indians might have needs, but they won't trade Adam Miller, and the Twins won't move Matt Garza or Kevin Slowey.

"Now, more than ever, being able to evaluate your own players -- particularly pitchers -- is more important than ever," says one NL GM. "If you don't sign and develop your own, and you don't evaluate them, then you have to pay $126 million for Barry Zito or $33 million for Vicente Padilla."

So when Teixeira comes off the disabled list after the All-Star break, whether Rangers GM Jon Daniels can find an acceptable market in the three weeks leading up to the trade deadline remains to be seen. Reds GM Wayne Krivsky would love to get pitching and youth for Adam Dunn, but the market might not be enough to justify the move. White Sox GM Ken Williams likely will get a young position player for Buehrle, but will he get pitching for Jermaine Dye? Not likely.

It's also likely that Cleveland will not be able to trade for a power set-up man and instead might have to make the stretch run with Miller and Rafael Perez (lefties are hitting .083 with a .362 OPS against him at Triple-A), who has dominated left-handed hitters, with Rafael Betancourt in front of Borowski. Tampa Bay is thinking seriously of holding on to Reyes, not only because they want to hold on to leads their young players have earned but because he has an option for 2008 for less than $2 million, depending what levels he reaches this season.

The Tigers right now appear to be one of the two or three best teams in the game, possibly headed to the World Series for the second straight year. Their best pitcher, Justin Verlander, was their own 2004 first-round draft pick. Jeremy Bonderman was acquired through good scouting and a three-way deal involving established commodities Weaver and Ted Lilly, who, by the way, are making nearly $20 million between them this season. Miller was their own 2006 first-round draft pick. And Robertson was a great trade they made with the Marlins.

And as both Verlander and Miller were signed for more than the commissioner's office mandated slot, the message is also clear that if you want to rebuild quickly, the answer is pitching, and that a college arm such as Verlander or Miller has to be signed, no matter how many times the commissioner calls your owner to threaten you about artificial prices.

It's called the market, and if you don't spend the added millions for Verlander or Miller, you might end up spending $9 million to $126 million on someone on the chart below.

Barry Zito, SFO 7-$126M 6-8, 4.83 ERA 14-11, 4.05 ERA
Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS 6-$52M 9-5, 4.01 ERA Japan
Gil Meche, KAN 5-$55M 4-6, 3.21 ERA 9-8, 4.82 ERA
Jason Schmidt, LAD 3-$48M 1-4, 6.31 ERA 14-8, 3.67 ERA
Jeff Suppan, MIL 4-$42M 8-7, 4.90 ERA 15-9, 3.95 ERA
Ted Lilly, CHC 4-$40M 5-4, 3.90 ERA 12-11, 4.52 ERA
Vicente Padilla, TEX 3-$33.75M 3-8, 6.69 ERA 10-10, 4.57 ERA
Roger Clemens, NYY 1-$28M 1-2, 4.86 ERA 13-6, 2.39 ERA
Adam Eaton, PHI 3-$24.5M 7-4, 5.33 ERA 10-8, 4.58 ERA
Jason Marquis, CHC 3-$21M 5-4, 3.38 ERA 14-12, 4.65 ERA
Andy Pettitte, NYY 1-$16M 4-5, 3.28 ERA 12-9, 3.38 ERA
Woody Williams, HOU 2-$12.5M 3-10, 5.75 ERA 11-8, 5.25 ERA
Orlando Hernandez, NYM 2-$12M 3-3, 3.08 ERA 9-7, 4.53 ERA
Greg Maddux, SDG 1-$10M 6-4, 3.84 ERA 15-13, 4.15 ERA
Jeff Weaver, SEA 1-$8.35M 1-6, 8.56 ERA 12-9, 4.57 ERA
Randy Wolf, LAD 1-$8M 8-5, 4.24 ERA 5-4, 4.58 ERA
Danys Baez, BAL 3-$19M 0-4, 6.52 ERA 5-5, 3.60 ERA
Hideki Okajima, BOS 2-$4M 2-0, 0.98 ERA Japan
Justin Speier, LAA 4-$19M 0-0, 1.69 ERA 3-3, 3.18 ERA
Jamie Walker, BAL 3-$12M 1-1, 3.29 ERA 2-3, 3.24 ERA
Scott Schoeneweis, NYM 3-$10.8M 0-1, 5.88 ERA 4-5, 4.84 ERA
Eric Gagne, TEX 1-$6M 2-0, 0.47 ERA 3-1, 2.21 ERA
Mike Stanton, CIN 2-$5.5M 1-2, 4.44 ERA 1-1, 1.93 ERA
Joe Borowski, CLE 1-$4.25M 0-3, 6.33 ERA (20 SV) 2-4, 4.65 ERA (15 SV)
Al Reyes, TAM 1-$750K 1-1, 3.26 ERA (16 SV) 1-1, 1.93 ERA