Ben Sheets to The Cardinals? A Changing Perspective

Joel KochSenior Analyst IJanuary 15, 2009

I have been one of the biggest backers of Jon Garland during this entire offseason. I have read opinions throughout that Ben Sheets should be signed first and foremost, and I completely disagree.

Why? Type A status.

Sheets is a Type A free agent this offseason, so signing him would mean forfeiting the 18th overall pick in June's first year player draft to division rival Milwaukee Brewers. That isn't a good thing.

But, I'm rethinking.

If the Cardinals could sign Sheets on an incentive laden deal, with a club option tacked on, I would heavily reconsider a signing of Sheets. Here, let me show you what I'm talking about.

Here is the contract I have outlined for Sheets, based off of John Smoltz and Carl Pavano's contracts with the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, respectively:

One year, $1 million with a $1 million club option for 2010 (no buyout)
Incentives for the following (money for incentive in parenthesis):
On Active Roster on Opening day ($150 thousand)
On Active Roster on May 1 ($100 thousand)
June 1 ($100 thousand)
July 1 ($100 thousand)
August 1 ($100 thousand)
September 1 ($100 thousand)
Final Day of Season ($100 thousand)
Being traded during season ($500 thousand)
Starts 20, 22, 24 games ($125 thousand for each)
Starts 26, 28, 30 games ($175 thousand for each)
Starts 31+ games ($325 thousand)
Pitches 120, 130, 140 innings ($125 thousand for each)
Pitches 150, 160, 170 innings ($175 thousand for each)
Pitches 180, 190, 200 innings ($350 thousand for each)
Pitches 201+ innings ($425 )

If he would reach every incentive, he could make $5.5 million for the 2009 season. If he is also traded, that total increases to $6 million. Not bad for a pitcher that needs a job.

About that option. It has no buyout and is worth $1 million. For every $1 million Sheets gains in incentives, the option's salary goes up $1.5 million, plus the buyout goes up by $500 thousand. If Sheets reaches the $5.5 million salary in 2009, the option goes up an additional $3 million. So, if Sheets would hit the $5.5 million in 2009, his 2010 option would be worth $10 million with a $2 million buyout.

For a Type A pitcher that has the ability to be a front of the rotation starter, that's a great contract for both Sheets and the Cardinals. The Cardinals spend money for his performance, and if he's healthy. Sheets pitches for money (a lot of money) and if he can stay healthy, he gets money for that too. It is a win-win for each side.

This would be about the only contract I would like if the Cardinals signed Sheets (okay, the 2009 salary can be raised by $4 million at the most) because it guarantees a safety net of sorts for the Cardinals, in case Sheets is injured.

What this also does for the Cardinals is help set up a very good offseason following the 2009 season. How? Read below.

If Sheets were to reach every incentive, the Cardinals could buyout his option for $2 million. Why would this make sense? If Sheets were reach every incentive, he would be a top pitcher and KEEP his Type A status (his 2008 season was by far one of his best, so that would help his cause for Type A status after 2009). With the economy expected to be better next offseason, he could look for that huge payday he was hoping for.

Oh, did I mention that if that scenario would happen, teams would be more willing to give him that contract because he would have just had a healthy and effective season, proving that he can be healthy and effective at the same time in a full season.

Good deal.

What did I mean when I said it can "set up a very good offseason following the 2009 season" before that outlook on Sheets' 2009-10 offseason? Good question.

The Cardinals have Troy Glaus (likely a Type A), Rick Ankiel (likely a Type B), Todd Wellemeyer (likely a Type B), Ryan Franklin (Type B, could be Type A if closer in 2009), and Joel Piniero (not a Type A or B because he's trash) going to the open market after the 2009 season (Franklin has an option for 2010 that is likely to be declined).

If you add Sheets to that list, the Cardinals could be able to cash in on six draft picks (or seven if Franklin receives a Type A status) for the 2010 draft.

Oh yeah, they would also be shedding $30 million again.

So, Ben Sheets. He's a good pitcher, and if on the right contract, wouldn't be such a bad idea. I'm warming up to it, but that is almost a kiss of death. The last few times I was warming up to an idea, the Cardinals fell out of the race (i.e. Matt Holliday, Brian Fuentes, Brad Penny).

Only time will tell.