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— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Rangers - Signed Lewis
Texas Rangers - Signed P Colby Lewis to a 2-year, $5 million contract.
Terrific, terrific signing by the Rangers. I’m not generally a fan of some of the team’s moves (though there haven’t been any repeats of the infamous Eaton trade), but this shows imagination and creativity and aggression in an area that hasn’t been really been looked at by most major league clubs. Sure, teams go after Japanese talent, especially top talent, with far more gusto than they used to, but the value of using NPB as a higher-level minor-league than AAA, a place to watch players that either haven’t gotten a chance in the majors or still need time to work out things in an easier-than-MLB-but-better-than-AAA environment, has generally been overlooked at MLB teams. Now, the Japanese might not be crazy about being considered an elite MLB minor league, but I’m looking at this from the viewpoint of MLB teams.
Lewis, of course, was a disappointment in the majors for the Rangers after being a top prospect. He had serious issues with his command, but also serious issues with his shoulder, and any chance of him coming back from a miserable 2003 was dashed by a torn rotator cuff and surgery. The A’s gave him a short chance in mostly mopup duty in 2007 and it didn’t work out, but he also had his best performance ever in the minors that year.
In Japan, Lewis continued the progress he made with Sacramento. From a pitcher who had occasional problems with control, he put up sterling numbers, with a ridiculous 10/1 K/BB ratio in 2009. Is Lewis a risk? Absolutely. But pitchers are very tricky. There are always the greats that reach the majors fully formed, like Clemens and Lincecum, but there are always a lot of pitchers that shockingly turn it around later in their career and give solid seasons from a long time. When I projected Cliff Lee in the mid-4s a couple of years ago, that projection was widely considered wrong. Too optimistic. At the time of his 30th birthday, Jamie Moyer was 34-54 with an ERA+ of 86 and anybody who thought he’d have 258 career wins 15 years later is a liar.
Again, I’m not saying Lewis will be Lee or Moyer. But he’s played extremely well and no matter what a player’s past, teams should always be flexible to give chances to a player that plays well. You don’t get great bargains on sure things. $2.5 million a year is, in the big pitcher of things, a rather small sum. These are the kinds of signings that teams in a position to be less risk-averse should be making, not signing bad punchless-and-judy leftfielders that can’t play centerfield or ancient catchers that last had good seasons when John Kerry was a candidate for president.
Lewis could very easily put up a dozen bad starts and end up in mopup duty for a year and a half. But he could also be worth 8 figures in pure profit for the Rangers.
If you haven’t figured it out, good signing. No doubt the error range on the projection are tremendous.
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