Where Will Brandon Beachy Sign?
Over the course of Brandon Beachy’s four-year career, he's pitched 267.2 innings and started 46 games. That includes his 2011 breakout season where he pitched 141.2 innings and started 25 games, ending the year with a 3.68 ERA. In his remaining 21 starts, Beachy posted a fantastic 2.71 ERA with 106 strikeouts and 40 walks.
Here's a complete summary of Beachy’s statistics:
As you can see, Beachy’s talent has never been in question -- the concern teams have, now that Beachy is a free agent, is whether or not he can stay healthy for a full season.
Beachy’s injury woes began in June 2012, when he underwent his first Tommy John surgery. The timing could not have been worse, as Beachy was having a Cy Young-caliber season. Through 81 innings, Beachy had an ERA of exactly 2.00 and a sub-1.00 WHIP. He ended up missing the rest of the 2012 season and most of the 2013 season as a result.
When he returned to the mound in 2013, he started to shake off the rust and recorded a 4.50 ERA and 1.033 WHIP in just 30 innings. It was beginning to look like Beachy would be back to form by the start of the 2014 season, but he never made it to Opening Day last April. In September 2013, he underwent a small procedure to clean up his elbow, and during last year’s Spring Training, he only threw 6 2/3 innings before tragically needing his second Tommy John surgery.
Many pitchers have returned from multiple Tommy John surgeries, including Brian Wilson and Joakim Soria. Not to mention Jarrod Parker and Beachy’s former teammate, Kris Medlen, who are both currently rehabbing from their second procedure.
Where Will He Land?
Beachy is scheduled to return around May, which explains why he's still on the market. Signing him would be a risk for any team, but it certainly wouldn’t be expensive. To put a potential deal in perspective, according to Mike Axisa, the Kansas City Royals recently signed the aforementioned 29-year-old Kris Medlen to a two-year contract worth a guaranteed $8.5 million. I don't see Beachy signing that lucrative of a deal, however. While Beachy is a year younger than Medlen, he never put up the type of numbers Medlen did in 2012 and 2013. Medlen earned his two-year, $8.5 million deal by throwing a combined 335 innings and having a 2.47 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Because of Beachy's injury risk and overall lack of experience, any team he signs with will more than likely give him an incentive based deal that will pay him depending on how much he pitches and how well he performs.
Three weeks ago, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reported that Beachy had finally settled on a team, and that it wouldn’t be the Twins, Braves or Rangers. There's been no news since then, but it'd make sense to see Beachy sign somewhere before Spring Training.
Three teams that I would keep an eye on as potential landing spots for Beachy are the Yankees, Tigers and Reds. Last year, all three teams ended up in the bottom half of the league in terms of ERA. The Reds led the trio with a combined 3.59 ERA, the Yankees were close behind with a 3.75 ERA, and the Tigers finished with a disappointing 4.06 ERA. None of these clubs drastically improved their rotation this offseason, so let's take a look at why Beachy would be a good fit for each team.
New York Yankees
The Yankees current rotation projects to be CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and either Chris Capuano or Adam Warren (until Ivan Nova returns from Tommy John surgery). As mentioned before, Beachy won’t be ready for the start of the season, but he would make a nice insurance policy if the recently-injured Tanaka or oft-injured Sabathia go down.
Last season, the Japanese workhorse, Tanaka, tore a ligament in his elbow but opted not to have Tommy John surgery. Whenever a pitcher takes this route, there's always a chance that they re-injure themselves and ultimately need surgery anyway. This, in combination with Sabathia's age and injury history (only had eight starts in '14), as well as Pineda's injury-plagued past, put the Yankees on a very thin sheet of "starting pitchers" ice.
In terms of Warren and Capuano, both are seemingly better fits for the bullpen. In his big league career, Adam Warren has only made three big league starts and none since 2013. While Warren has starting experience in the minors -- 90 starts -- there's no guarantee he'd successfully slide back into that roll after coming out of the bullpen for two seasons. Capuano, who is going into his 11th major league season, has never had an ERA as low as Beachy's 3.68 in 2011 and has a career ERA of 4.28. Based off his age and career ERA, Capuano is not the answer the Yankees are looking for.
The Yankees used 13 different starting pitchers last year, which included 77 starts from Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps, Brandon McCarthy, and Shane Greene, all of whom are no longer with the team. It's clear that the Yankees have some holes to fill in their rotation. While the mid-season return of Ivan Nova could round out the rotation of Sabathia, Tanaka, Pineda & Eolvaldi, it's highly unlikely that those five players start every five days for the entire season. The Yankees should consider Brandon Beachy as a backup plan if and when they lose a man in their rotation.
With the losses of Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, as well as the decline of Justin Verlander, the Tigers cannot afford to rely on the fluky Alfredo Simon and unproven Shane Greene to hold down the back of their rotation.
Taking a chance on Beachy here as a number-four or -five starter with number-three starter upside seems to make sense for the Tigers, especially if the 33-year-old Simon pitches to the tune of his 2014 4.33 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) again in 2015. Simon's respectable 2014 ERA of 3.44 is heavily skewed by his luck-induced first half of the season, where he went 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA and a .234 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). To put that in perspective, the league average BABIP was .298.
In the second half of the season, Simon's luck started to run out, as he only won three games and produced an ERA of 4.52 and a BABIP of .313. I fully expect Simon's trip back to earth to continue in 2015 as he continues to pitch closer to his FIP and now has to pitch to a DH instead of an opposing pitcher.
Potential number-five starter and former Yankee, Shane Greene, lacks the big league experience that Beachy has, as Greene has only made 14 starts in the majors. Not to mention Green's lackluster minor league career where he put up a 4.39 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP in 562 innings. In comparison, Beachy had a 2.60 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP, albeit in only 253 innings in the minors.
While the number-one and -two spots in the rotation are seemingly locked down by impending free agent David Price and 34-year-old Anibal Sanchez, the rest of the rotation is a huge question mark. The Tigers need to ask themselves if they feel comfortable riding on the shoulders of the shell of Justin Verlander, the luck of Alfredo Simon and the inexperience of Shane Greene. Beachy gives them an inexpensive security blanket that could become a long-term solution if David Price walks next winter.
The Cincinnati Reds, like the Tigers and Yankees, also have a hole to fill in their rotation this season after losing Mat Latos to the dream-big Miami Marlins. While the Reds do have a top-10 starter in Johnny Cueto and a potential top-20 starter in Homer Bailey, they lack the back-end depth needed to make the post season. Mike Leake has been consistent, yet underwhelming in his career, and Tony Cingrani took a large step back in 2014. At this moment, the fifth spot in their rotation is wide open and while that position will be filled in Spring Training, it is very possible that it could be open again by June.
After breaking out his rookie season in 2013, Tony Cingrani fell victim of the sophomore slump...hard. In 2013, Cingrani started 18 games and had an ERA of 2.92 and a WHIP of 1.10. While his 3.78 FIP indicated that he would regress in 2014, no one could have expected that he would regress as far as he did. Last year, in only 11 starts, Cingrani went 2-8 with a 4.55 ERA and a gaudy 1.53 WHIP. Where he was semi-lucky in 2013, in regards to his FIP, in 2014 it was just the opposite as his FIP was 5.37. The biggest problem Cingrani seemed to have was that he was walking five batters per nine innings, which was almost two walks above his 2013 average. Cingrani's disappointing year could have been caused by a shoulder injury, but nonetheless, he enters the 2015 season as a huge wildcard for the Reds.
In an already shallow rotation, the Reds need more depth if they want to compete in the tough NL Central. If they happen to fall out of the race early in the season, we could see a blockbuster trade including their ace Johnny Cueto, who is in the last year of his contract. If the Reds become sellers instead of buyers, the Indiana-born Beachy becomes an ideal fit as an inexpensive reclamation project, similar to the Royals-Medlen situation.
A Chance Worth Taking
Brandon Beachy is only 28 years old and won’t turn 29 until September. While his once promising career has been derailed by injuries, he's still young enough to bounce back and regain some of his career 3.23 ERA capability. A good comparison to Beachy and his situation is that of Scott Kazmir's, who was a highly effective pitcher before injuries caused him to decline and forced him out of baseball. After being out of the majors for almost two seasons, Kazmir earned a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians. The seemingly washed up Kazmir went on to have an ERA of 4.04, FIP of 3.51 and even struck out more than a batter an inning.
This expectation-surpassing performance led to a contract with the A's for 2014, where Kazmir pitched his way to a 3.55 ERA and a 3.15 FIP, as well as earning a trip to the All-Star Game. When Kazmir signed that deal, he was 29 years old, which is one year older than Beachy's current age. For a couple of million dollars, the risk is well worth the reward of a potential number three starter and the next Scott Kazmir.