Sunday, February 7, 2016

Potential Free Agent Bargains Part 3: The Madsons

Before Ryan Madson signed a three-year $22 million dollar deal with the Oakland A's, he was one of the biggest free agent bargain signings in the 2014-2015 offseason. Having not thrown a major league pitch in 4 years, the Royals took a chance at rejuvenating the career of this power reliever coming off multiple arm injuries, and it paid off, with Madson being an integral part of a dominant Kansas City bullpen, and Madson parlayed the minor league deal into the biggest contract of his career. This article will be Part 3 in our attempt to scour the free agent market for bargain players (click here for Part 1 and Part 2), breaking down talented ballplayers who, because of injuries, are several years removed from prime production.

Bobby Parnell, RHP
What a rough recovery he's had coming back from Tommy John. After going under the knife in April of 2015, the hard-throwing right hander returned in the second half of 2015, only to struggle to a 6.38 ERA and walk more batters than he struck out. At the end of August, he went through a stretch of a 14.14 ERA in 10 games, he landed back on the DL with shoulder tendonitis, although it was more of a roster move necessity than an actual injury. Back in his prime, Parnell was able to blow 95 mph+ heat past hitters to go with his knuckle-curve that generated swings and misses as well. While he was down to averaging 93 mph last summer, he should be able to regain some of that old velocity being further removed from surgery and given a long offseason to rest. Under the right rehab and coaching circumstances, it would not be impossible to see Parnell return to his prior dominance as a righty set-up man who can strike out 8 per 9 and keep the walks down to a 2 BB/9 as well. The video below is a young Bobby Parnell throwing consistently in the upper 90's while also hitting 102. It may be unreasonable for him to return to that form, but the potential in that powerful right arm should be tempting chance for any team to take.

Jeff Beliveau, LHP (video)
Before he suffered a torn labrum in 2015, Jeff Beliveau had a breakout 2014 for the Tampa Bay Rays, posting a 2.63 ERA and 2.47 FIP with a 10.5 K/9 against a 2.6 BB/9. He was absolutely dominant against lefties, holding them to a .146 batting average. His fastball doesn't wow anyone at 89-91 mph, but he commands it very well and it complements his big curveball. His fastball can cut, sink, or tail, and he mixes in a changeup once in a while as well. The Orioles, who signed him to a minor league deal, will control him through the 2021 season, so it is a low-risk investment that may pay out big in the long run. Shoulder injuries are definitely a big red flag, but if he can make a full recovery, look for him to repeat his dominance from 2014 and maybe even get better with more experience. The Orioles already have Britton and Matusz as lefty relievers, but Beliveau may still emerge as a valuable left-handed relief option in their pen.

Cliff Lee, LHP
Lee, the 37-year-old former ace, has repeatedly stated that he would only sign given a "perfect fit". That would likely mean a team that has an open rotation spot and a chance to compete for the World Series this season. Coming off of a serious elbow injury that has caused him to miss some of 2014 and all of 2015, it is doubtful that he can make a full recovery and be the ace he once was, but Lee is one of the most respected and smart pitchers in the game. Far more than just a soft-tossing lefty, Lee can masterfully command a six-pitch mix, and even though his fastball will likely top out at just 90 mph now, with his knowledge, guile, and command he should still have several productive seasons left in the tank. Look for him to latch on to a contending team that needs rotation help, either now or maybe later in the season, but don't be surprised if he has called it quits and has already thrown the last pitch of a storybook career.

Cory Luebke, LHP
Andy Hayt/San Diego Padres

After a terrific rookie season back in 2011, where the 6'4'' left-hander posted 3.29 ERA, 2.92 FIP, and 9.9 K/9, Luebke, like many before him, succumbed to the long recovery from not one, but two Tommy John surgeries. He has not pitched in the big leagues since 2012, or thrown any professional pitches until tossing 7 rehab innings in 2015 that did not amount to anything. He will turn 31 in March, so he still has some upside remaining, but it will be a long shot. We will have to wait and see if he still has that low 90's fastball and sweeping slider, and whoever picks him up will have an intriguing project in their hands.

Carlos Quentin, OF (video)
Quentin, a former perennial 20 HR force in the heart of the White Sox order, called it quits after a rough 2014 and a short AAA stint with the Mariners early in 2015. Yet the Stanford alum is making a comeback, and at just 33 years old, is out to prove that he still has plenty of pop left in him. The Twins took a chance on his power, and for some very good reasons too. He has been productive since his debut in 2006 to 2013, where he slashed .275/.363/.495 and hit 13 HRs in just 85 games. But injuries hit him hard in 2014, and knee problems have plagued him for the last two years. When he announced his retirement, it seemed as if the knee injuries were career-ending, but he is now attempting a comeback and should be fully recovered. If so, he will add to the glut of Twins DH types, but his power would be very welcome in the Minnesota lineup in 2016.

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