Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are still awaiting new contracts.Two pitchers who were expected to land big-dollar free agent deals this offseason – Ubaldo Jiménez and Ervin Santana – remain unsigned. While some have speculated that the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes held up deals for other front-end starters, there’s also the possibility that teams are simply afraid to commit significant resources to pitchers with such an inconsistent recent track record.
Both Jiménez and Santana were below replacement level within the last two seasons; in 2012, Santana was worth -1.3 WAR, and Jiménez was -0.6 WAR. Last season, Santana was worth 2.9 WAR and Jiménez was worth 2.7 WAR.
This recent track record of sub-replacement performance bodes poorly for their ability to land a lucrative free agent deal - in the history of free agency, only four starting pitchers have signed free agency deals with an average annual value of $10 million or more after posting a below-replacement level season in at least one of the two preceding seasons.
Let's run through that list:
The Lead Up: In 2005, Meche had a 5.09 ERA in 143 1/3 innings (with a ghastly 83-72 K-BB), good for -0.2 WAR while pitching for Seattle. In 2006, the season during which he’d build his case for his upcoming free agent deal, Meche posted a 4.48 ERA in 186 2/3 innings, good for a paltry 0.9 WAR.
The Contract: In December of 2006, Meche signed a shocking 5-year, $55 million contract with the pitching-starved Royals.
The Result: Meche actually contributed a combined 9.2 WAR in his first two seasons with the Royals, easily the two best seasons of his career. He logged 426 1/3 innings with a 3.82 ERA, drastically reducing his walk rate. He would go 6-15, 5.29 ERA in 190 2/3 innings over the remaining life of the contract, voluntarily retiring in January of 2011, prior to the final season of the contract.
The Lead Up: In 2006, Carlos Silva was one of the worst pitchers in baseball, as he was worth -1.0 WAR in 180 1/3 innings, thanks to a 5.94 ERA. In 2007, Silva was worth almost four wins above his 2006 season, with a 4.19 ERA in 202 innings, good for 2.6 WAR.
The Contract: In December of 2007, Silva signed a 4-year, $48 million contract with the Mariners.
The Result: Silva immediately went back to being terrible. In 2008, his first year of the four-year deal, Silva went 4-15, 6.46 ERA in 153 1/3 IP, worth -1.9 WAR, third-worst of any pitcher in baseball. Silva was below replacement again in 2009 (-0.9 WAR, 29 earned runs in 30 1/3 innings) and was traded to the Cubs for the 2010 season. He did not pitch at the major-league level after 2010.
The Lead Up: After a half-decade run as one of the best pitchers in the league, Haren fell apart in 2012, posting a 4.33 ERA in 176 2/3 innings, worth -0.4 WAR. His strong track record prior to that down season – he’d been worth an average of 4.5 WAR per season from 2005-11 – earned him another chance.
The Contract: In the winter of 2012, Haren signed a 1-year, $13 million deal with the Nationals.
The Result: Closer to 2012 than his prime. Haren labored through 169 2/3 innings, posting a 4.67 ERA. That was worth exactly replacement level.
The Contract Part II: This offseason once again brought Haren another chance. Fresh off that replacement level season, Haren signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers. If you’re looking for optimism, Haren had a 3.29 ERA from July 1 on.
The Result Part II: To be determined.
The Lead Up: In 2010, Scott Kazmir posted a 5.94 ERA in 150 innings with the Angels, a contribution that was worth -0.8 WAR. In 2011, he lasted just 1 2/3 innings, allowing 5 ER, which was worth -0.3 WAR. He wouldn’t pitch in MLB during the 2012 season. In 2013, he signed a minor league deal with the Indians, made the club, and posted a 1.1 WAR season, thanks to a 4.04 ERA in 158 innings.
The Contract: Following his renaissance season with the Indians, Kazmir signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Athletics.
The Result: To be determined.