Brandon Webb Could Be a Pleasant Surprise in '11

Andrew PapileContributor IIDecember 23, 2010

PHOENIX - APRIL 06:  Starting pitcher Brandon Webb #17 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches against the Colorado Rockies during the MLB openning day game at Chase Field on April 6, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Diamondbacks defeated the Rockies 9-8. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Former Cy Young Award winner and National League All-Star Game regular Brandon Webb is still looking for a new home this offseason.

Despite making only one start over the past two years due to devastating shoulder injuries, the 6'3" right-hander could prove to be quite a sleeper in the 2011 season and be one of the league's more pleasant surprises.

Before his unfortunate run of injuries, Webb was one of the league's most dominant starters.

He won the Cy Young Award in 2006, when he went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA along with 178 K's in 235 innings. The next season, in 2007, he went 18-10 with a 3.01 ERA with 194 K's in 236.1 innings, a better all-around season than his Cy Young Award-winning year.

In his last complete season, 2008, Webb's record finished at 22-7 to go along with a 3.30 ERA and 183 K's in a span of 226.2 innings.

While he was only able to make a total of one start over the past two seasons, it is a bit surprising that only the Rangers, Cubs and Nationals have been reported as having interest in Webb. If Webb is able to make any sort of return to form for his new team in 2011, he could end up being one of the better bargains had this offseason.

That being said it is understandable why teams are approaching Webb with much caution. However, Webb does offer a tremendous high risk, even higher reward option for a team that needs to fill a void in its rotation.

But how great of a risk is signing Brandon Webb, really? All of the teams mentioned as having interest in him can certainly afford it.

The Rangers, under ownership of Nolan Ryan, have already shown that they won't necessarily be stingy when it comes to the open market. The Cubs, up until recently, have been near the top of the majors in total salary, and the Nationals have also shown that they have plenty of money to spend to bring in who they want.

It seems that both Webb and his agent understand the drop in value that Webb has undergone since his rash of injuries, but they also know what Webb is capable of if healthy. Quoted recently, Webb's agent Jonathan Maurer stated to that Webb "is hungry, excited, and ready to start 30 plus times in 2011."

The fact is that a healthy Webb has averaged over 233 innings pitched per season between 2006 and 2008, along with peripherals of 7.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 over that same span. It's not all that out of the question that Webb could make those 30-plus starts this year that his agent mentioned. By all accounts his shoulder is healthy, and he's been rehabbing for a while now.

If one of the three aforementioned teams is able to bring Webb in on a short-term deal that is cost-effective and incentive-laden, what's to lose? The prospect of a healthy Brandon Webb in the rotation is certainly more enticing than some of the starters left on the market currently. Webb's upside outweighs the prospect of another injury. 

Bringing Webb in on a one- to two-year deal makes a lot of sense for each of the Rangers, Nationals and Cubs, who do all need rotation help badly. The Rangers most recently lost out on Cliff Lee, and the Nationals lost out on Zack Greinke, while also being reported as having interest in Lee.

While there were talks of acquiring Matt Garza from Tampa, nothing new has developed on that front for Chicago. Carlos Zambrano is also likely to be moved somewhere in the near future.

Why not go out and grab Webb? The possible reward he offers could make him one of the league's more surprising pitchers in 2011 and put him right into the race to be the Comeback Player of the Year.