Perez stays with Mets; O's get Wigginton
In 2007, Perez won 15 of his 29 starts, fanned 174 hitters and delivered a strong 3.56 ERA to go with a more-than-palatable 1.311 WHIP. Nobody could have complained about that season, though how many of us actually believed it? This is, after all, a pitcher who had an ERA well over 6 in 42 starts in 2005 and 2006, coming off his impressive 2004 with the Pirates. Perez did regress a bit to the mean this past season, topping the 100-walk mark for the first time and posting a WHIP on the wrong side of 1.40, but because of the 180 strikeouts, a lot of people probably didn't notice.
The walks don't make Perez unusable, of course. We still don't know for sure how the new Mets ballpark will play out, though I do think the pitching rubber will be the same distance from Ramon Castro as it was at Shea Stadium. Whether Perez can lower his abominable walk rate is problematic, but expect something in between his past two seasons. He is durable, and even while issuing free passes, he makes hitters look silly quite a bit. If he wins 12 games, fans more than eight hitters per nine innings, sports an ERA in the high-3s and a still-worthwhile WHIP around 1.37, he can be a top-50 pitcher and should be drafted accordingly.
The Mets had to get a starting pitcher to slot in after Johan Santana, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey so that the exciting Tim Redding/Freddy Garcia/Jonathan Niese competition would actually be a competition, instead of two of those pitchers winning rotation spots. The Mets could have done worse than Perez as a fourth starter, and that's the same in fantasy. You could do worse.
It's ironic to me that while I write about a player I will likely never own in Perez, I get to follow it up with one of my favorites finding work. Long live the underrated Ty Wigginton! Let's all get Wiggy, shall we? I didn't expect the rebuilding Orioles to take the plunge with Wigginton, because they have third baseman Melvin Mora coming off of a 104-RBI campaign, they're well-set at second base with Brian Roberts, they have Aubrey Huff and his top-15 OPS season at first base, and the outfield is presumably set with building block Nick Markakis and a pair of youngsters playing top defense in Adam Jones and Felix Pie. Luke Scott was supposed to be the main designated hitter. But the Orioles did it anyway. Where does Wigginton fit in?
Wigginton is a top-20 third baseman with his power numbers, and a top-50 outfielder as well. That's draft-worthy in 12-team mixed leagues. I'd rather get Wiggy than Ollie, but I guess it's apples and oranges, no?
What else happened recently? The Rangers signed Eddie Guardado to a minor league deal, which could be nothing in fantasy, or could result in the veteran lefty saving games. I think Frank Francisco earned the job with his fine work in the second half of the season, but Guardado does have that experience and probably moves up to next in line.
The Orioles didn't only get a bargain in Wigginton, but former emerging southpaw Rich Hill was picked up on the cheap as well, as the Cubs gave up on him for a player to be named later. Hill was a huge bust in 2008, losing his command in the spring and never finding it again. In 2007, Hill was terrific, fanning 183 hitters and providing a 1.19 WHIP, with 11 wins. Many expected him to take more steps forward in 2008. Instead, Hill couldn't throw strikes, walking 18 hitters in 19 2/3 major league innings, with only 15 strikeouts. Things didn't get better in the minors, either, or in this winter's Venezuelan League.
I don't consider Hill mixed-league worthy at this time, but if he's throwing strikes in the spring, he's a definite AL-only sleeper. The Orioles should give him a rotation spot and see what happens. I wouldn't expect 2007 again, and maybe he was hiding an injury all of last season, but you never totally give up on someone with a curveball like his.
Eric Karabell is a senior writer for ESPN.com who covers fantasy baseball, football and basketball. He has twice been honored as fantasy sports writer of the year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. His new book, "The Best Philadelphia Sports Arguments," was published by Source Books and is available in bookstores. Contact Eric by e-mailing him here.