Here's a Thought: Analyzing The Oakland Athletics' Signing of Ben Sheets

Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IJanuary 28, 2010

MILWAUKEE - MAY 15: Ben Sheets #15 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers the ball against the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 15, 2008 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Dodgers defeated the Brewers 7-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The A's, as you've probably heard by now, made their biggest signing of the offseason two days ago, inking former Brewers RHP Ben Sheets to a 1-year-, $10 million deal.

Now that I've had some time to think about it, I'll break down the positives and negatives...


Sheets has a career 3.55 xFIP, based on an excellent career K/BB ratio of 3.85.

In 2006, he had a whopping 116/11 K/BB ratio in 106 innings; that's about as good as it gets.

Sheets' two pitches, a fastball and a 12-6 curve, both have ranked well above average most of his career, and his fastball has improved with time, posting its two best values (according to Pitch Type Linear Weights) in his last two years on the hill.

Without listing any other stats, I'll just leave it at "Ben Sheets can freaking pitch."

With Sheets, the A's rotation looks like this:

Brett Anderson
Justin Duchscherer
Gio Gonzalez
Dallas Braden

This means that Trevor Cahill and Vince Mazzaro, who both struggled in 2009, will get time in the minors in 2010, which is important for their development and also keeps their service time down. Cahill and Mazzaro should be ready to be solid MLB starters in 2011, after Sheets' and Duchscherer's contracts expire.

So Sheets not only improves the 2010 rotation; his presence could improve the rotation beyond 2010. 

A big negative people have brought up is Sheets' high salary, and I understand that, but the A's clearly had money to spend in the offseason, pursuing Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro, and Aroldis Chapman.

Could they have just saved the money? I guess, but from what I understand, that wouldn't carry over to add to future years' budgets. If it's true that this money either a) gets spent on SOMEONE in 2010 or b) gets pocketed by the ownership, never to be seen again, I'll take Option A anytime.

If those are the options, that means that Sheets and Erik Bedard, the other high-upside pitcher on the market, would be the A's best targets. Given Bedard's clubhouse issues and left-handedness (the A's already have three lefties in the rotation), Sheets probably makes more sense for this young team.

Finally, if the A's aren't in contention come July and Sheets is healthy, the A's can "pull a Matt Holliday" and get something for him in a deadline trade.



Sheets missed all of 2009 and parts of 2005, 2006, and 2007 with injuries, most of them arm-related. 

That leaves two big questions about him.

First, will he be the Sheets of old after a year away? He could be rusty, and may not round into form until midseason, if at all.

Second, he could easily get hurt again, given that history.

With those question marks, $10 million for one year seems like an awful lot, doesn't it?



Is there risk with this signing?

Of course there's risk. But there's risk with anyone, and while Sheets carries more risk than most players, he also has more upside than the DeRosa/Huff types being brought in across the Bay.

Particularly since the A's had the money to spend, I like this move. I understand that it has some very easy-to-see collapse potential, but it does have several possible benefits, and I think that it's ultimately a risk worth taking.