In the past two days, the Braves made moves to keep two veterans on the roster for 2007. On Wednesday, the Braves announced the signing of Bob Wickman for $6.5 million. On Thursday, the Braves picked up Smoltz’s option that will pay him $8 million. Both moves have been hailed by the media and fans as great moves. The funny thing is, all this praise comes without the discussion of compensation. Though both of these pitchers have been excellent for the Braves, one of these deals is bad, the other good.
Bob Wickman is not worth $6.5 million, especially on a team that complains its budget is stretched. First, Wickman’s time in Atlanta is probably a poor indicator of how he’s going to pitch next year. So far, he’s thrown a grand total of 23 innings, all excellent. He should be commended for that, but his career performance indicates he’s not that good. In 2004 and 2005 he posted FIP ERAs of 4.37 and 4.53—that’s average— compared to his excellent 2.9 in 2006. What’s the big difference? Home runs—the least stable of the DIPS triumvirate—surrendering 1.28 per 9 innings in the previous two seasons compared to 0.34 in 2006. Both his strikeouts and walks are up, too. I’m scared.
Second, he’s neither young or in shape. Thank goodness the Braves only signed him for one year.
Third, I estimate that Roger Clemens is worth about $70,000 per inning pitched. If he pitched Wickman’s 2005 62 innings he’d have generated about $4.3 million for his team. Wickman isn’t as good as Roger, either. Of course, this may all change given the increased revenue flowing to owners. Once the free agents signings start, we may find out that these guys are worth a lot more money. In any event, I don’t think Schuerholz got a deal by signing him early.
Yeah, I understand that the Braves need a reliable reliever, but they need a lot of other things too. I don’t think this is the most efficient way to increase the teams difference in runs scored and runs allowed. So, once again I’ll be the dissenting Braves fan who doesn’t like the move. What do I know? I guess I’m just a stat-geek with a pocket protector.
Smoltz, on the other hand is a bargain. He’s getting older and will fall off some, but 200 innings of Smoltz-quality pitching is worth way more than $8 million—heck, that’s only $1.5 million more than Wickman. I value Smoltz at close to $14 million. It was certainly a no-brainer for the team to pick up the option. I suspect Smoltz knew that when he complained, but I think it’s more frustration with the management. There’s a lot of tension in that clubhouse, which isn’t surprising with a losing team.