There have been plenty rumors about the Cleveland Indians and their attempts to sign free-agent pitcher Jeremy Bonderman. I'm here to say that I'm not on board with the idea.
In all honesty, 2011 probably won't be the Tribe's year. The team is very young and still a couple of pieces away from competing. While most Indians fans will embrace hope and optimism for a while, the Tribe is still rebuilding.
This is supposed to be another year of Cleveland's youth movement. This year should be spent sifting through the many young players the Indians have, figuring out who can and can't play at the major league level.
My question is: Where does Jeremy Bonderman fit into this?
At best, Bonderman hasn't lived up to his potential. At worst, he's a bust. Bonderman, drafted in the first round of the 2001 draft, has only accumulated 5.6 wins above replacement (WAR) in his eight major league seasons.
When a team is drafting a player in the first round, their hope certainly isn't for him to be worth only 5.6 wins more than a typical AAA-level player.
Bonderman has had some decent seasons, but for the most part has struggled. One could argue that a horrible Tigers offense didn't give him adequate run support, but that doesn't tell the whole story.
Bonderman may have lost his fair share of games in Detroit, but his pitching didn't help them win many games either. His ERA+ for his career stands at 90, meaning his own personal performance has been below average.
When the Indians bring in veteran players like this, typically they have had past success. For example, Kevin Millwood led the league in WHIP in 1999 and Juan Gonzalez won two MVPs before falling on tough times and coming to Cleveland. These players then typically improve and leave Cleveland for greener (figuratively and money-wise) pastures.
Bringing in players with past successes makes sense, but why bring in Bonderman?
Bonderman's best season was 2006, when he had an ERA+ of 112 and struck out 202 batters. That season, Bonderman posted a WAR of 3.2.
While that season was decent, it hardly makes Bonderman a bounce-back candidate. In fact, that season looks more like an aberration than the norm.
Including his 2006 seminal season, Bonderman has never posted an ERA below 4.08. Once one adds in that he's a power pitcher with shoulder problems, the future doesn't look too bright for Bonderman. It takes a lot for someone used to overpowering batters to learn finesse, and I don't think the Indians should hold their breath with Bonderman.
The final nail in the coffin for me with this deal is Jeremy Bonderman's legacy with Moneyball. In the book, one of the Athletics' scouts—not Billy Beane, the Athletics GM—selected Bonderman in the draft. Enraged because Bonderman was precisely the sort of pitcher his scouts had been instructed to avoid, Beane threw a chair at the wall. After that draft, Beane went in 100 percent on Moneyball.
Bonderman doesn't fit the Moneyball/sabermetric revolution; he's a holdover from a different time. In my honest opinion, signing him is what teams that don't understand the math behind baseball do.
I sincerely hope that the Indians aren't going to be that team.
I would much rather see Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez competing for the final spot in the rotation than see it handed to Jeremy Bonderman. He hasn't really succeeded in the past; what makes the Tribe think he'll succeed now?