Sheets in the Wind and Double-D Sightings

Early this week free agent pitcher Ben Sheets held an open workout for teams interested in his health following missing a year with arm troubles. When healthy, Sheets is one of the most dominating pitchers in the game. The problem has been that pesky word “healthy”.

In his career Sheets has struggled to remain in the line-up and starting games. It was not always the case. From 2001-2004 Sheets logged inning totals of 151.1, 216.2, 220.2, and 237.0 respectively. In that time it appeared as though he would be counted among the game’s best pitchers and would live up to the hype that accompanied him in the draft.

Unfortunately injuries and bad luck started following Sheets beginning in the 2005 season. During that year he caught what was described as a “viral infection” of his inner ear missing 30 games for dizziness and altered balance. This was followed by a torn latissimus dorsi muscle in his right shoulder that would end his season.

During that off season Sheets had a microdiscectomy back surgery to fix a herniated disk in his lower back. Sheets recovered from back surgery but started the 2006 season on the disabled list due to a posterior shoulder strain. Shortly after returning he developed tendinitis in his right shoulder which kept him out of action for 72 games.

The 2007 season was not much better for Sheets. A torn tendon in his right middle finger put him on the disabled list for 40 games. When he came back a minor hamstring strain shut him down for the final eight games of the season.

Sheets became a free agent after the 2008 season and developed elbow problems requiring surgery that put him on the shelf for the entire 2009 season. Now he is trying to come back and this week’s workout was designed to let teams see what kind of shape he is in and whether he warrants a chance at a contract.

The workout was attended by twenty individuals and as many as ten teams were rumored to be in attendance. Online resources suggested the Arizona Diamondbacks were among those interested. It was reported that assistant General Manager Peter Woodfork was at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

Team officials denied they had anyone in attendance and reiterated that they are likely done making deals this off-season. It seems rather odd that the team would make an effort to deny their attendance.

Scouts and observers at the workout gave glowing accounts of Sheets health and his mechanics. The throwing session consisted of approximately 50 pitches divided into two sessions of fastballs and breaking balls.

The most interesting part of this tryout was the effect it had on the free agent market. It became clear to those in attendance that Sheets had regained strength and had perhaps solved some of his mechanics problems that some believe attributed to his injuries.

With Sheets throwing so well it became clear he would command a substantial contract to sign. The contract will most likely be incentive laden to protect the team in case of another injury but the dollars involved priced several teams out of the mix including the Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers.

Within a day of Sheets workout the Brewers moved on signing former Arizona Diamondback Doug Davis to a one year contract. Clearly Milwaukee did not feel they could afford the money Sheets would need to sign and so they brought back Davis who pitched for them from 2003-2006.
Davis had made it clear at the end of the 2009 season that he was looking for a multi-year deal rumored to be at least three years. His salary requirements immediately priced him out of the Arizona Diamondbacks budget.
Davis like many free agents this off-season found that the market was not as lucrative as they had hoped. The deal for Davis will pay him $5.25 million in 2010 and includes a mutual option for 2011 that could bring the deal to a total of $12.75 million if he reaches all of the non-award incentives included in the contract.

The salary number is substantially less than the $8.75 million he made last year or the $7.75 million he made in 2008. The Brewers will get a pitcher who can eat up innings and will keep them in the game assuming their offense can score.
The Sheets workout was also reported as a nudging for Joel Piniero signing with the Los Angeles Angels and Vicente Padilla re-signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers as teams decided the baseline price would be more expensive once Sheets lands somewhere.

Sometimes the incentive for a team to negotiate with a player comes from the most unusual places. With Spring Training less than a month away, it will be interesting to see how the market and specifically the Ben Sheets saga plays out. Now if I can just get my boss to give me a raise based on how well Sheets threw at his tryout.


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