Free Agent Frenzy: Profiling the Pitchers
Percival's 316 Saves Rank 12th All Time (Getty)
Percival's 316 Saves Rank 12th All Time (Getty)

Posted Nov 6, 2004


InsidethePark.com's next installment of profiling the free agents. In part three, Ian Levin takes a look at the pitching options the M's might see fit.



STARTERS

Pedro Martinez
Age on Opening Day 2005: 33
2004: 16-9, 3.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .238 BAA
Career: 182-76, 2.71 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .209 BAA

Player Strengths:
When he is on, Pedro Martinez is still one of, if not the most dominating pitcher in the game. He has excellent command of all of his pitches: a lively fastball, hard curve, cutter, and changeup. He’s not afraid to remind the batter whose plate it is. Martinez can shut down even the best offenses on any day.

Player Weaknesses:
At this point in his career, Martinez is primarily a six-inning pitcher. His frame is not conducive to long outings and he works better on extra rest. He has been experiencing more “off” days and if left in the game too long he quickly becomes a sub-par pitcher. He is no longer the workhorse he once was and needs to be handled with care.

The Mariner Factor:
Given his age, price, and arm problems, Martinez does not figure to be in the Mariners’ plans. The team is in a retooling mode and any pitcher they sign needs to be at his best not just next season but for a few seasons. The 33-year-old Dominican will find plenty of suitors during the winter but the M’s will not be one of them.


Carl Pavano
Age on Opening Day 2005: 29
2004: 18-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .253 BAA
Career: 57-58, 4.21 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .271 BAA

Player Strengths:
Carl Pavano is a ground ball pitcher who relies on his strong command and downward movement. His fastball and sinker both reach the low-90s and his late-breaking slider and change are both plus pitches. His numbers have improved across the board each season since 2001 and he appears to have entered his prime years.

Player Weaknesses:
For a pitcher who relies on ground balls, it is surprising that Pavano is a below-average fielder. He strikes out less than six batters per nine innings and relies heavily on the defense behind him. He is not always able to get a strikeout when in a jam and that could potentially come back to bite him. At 29, he is currently at his peak and while he may be able to maintain a similar level of performance for a few seasons, he likely won’t improve much.

The Mariner Factor:
Given his expected price range and the other cheaper options, Pavano is unlikely to be in a Mariner uniform next season. If the Mariners were to sign him, he would not provide them with the best value as the ground ball pitcher wouldn’t take full advantage of the deep fences at Safeco Field. Pavano is expected to remain in Florida or return to his original organization: Boston. He may not find his new home in either city, but it is very unlikely that he’d even consider Seattle.


Matt Clement
Age on Opening Day 2005: 30
2004: 9-13, 3.68 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .229 BAA
Career: 69-75, 4.34 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, .243 BAA

Player Strengths:
Like Carl Pavano, Matt Clement throws hard and relies on his excellent downward movement to get ground balls. Unlike Pavano, Clement is a good strikeout pitcher and in 2004, he posted the best K/9 rate of his career. Clement has excellent movement on all of his pitches including a sinking fastball, hard slider, four-seamer and changeup. While he is 30-years-old and already at his peak, he still has the ability to improve because of his strikeout potential. He averages over a strikeout per inning and with a little luck and improvement, his ERA could still drop.

Player Weaknesses:
It has taken the hard-throwing righty many years to be able to harness his pitches to this level. His outstanding movement sometimes causes him more harm than good and it can show in some outings. Late in the 2004 season Clement experienced prolonged neck problems. The pain caused him to miss some starts and get hit hard in the games he was able to start. This recurring problem is a cause for concern but with the offseason to rest, he should be able to overcome it.

The Mariner Factor:
Matt Clement seems to be the best fit for Seattle. He isn’t the ace they could use but he won’t cost as much as some of the other options and has the potential to be as good or better. He has spent his entire career in the National League but a move to the AL shouldn’t affect him much. Expect the M’s to be major players for his services this winter.


Odalis Perez
Age on Opening Day 2005: 27
2004: 7-6, 3.25 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, .250 BAA
Career: 45-43, 4.00 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, .255 BAA

Player Strengths:
Odalis Perez is a lefty with a moving low-90s fastball, a plus change-up and sharp curveball. He has shown dominance at times, posting many months with an ERA under 3.00. He has fine command and walked just two batters per nine innings in 2004. The lefty is still young and has the potential to be a very good pitcher for years.

Player Weaknesses:
While Perez has excellent command, he does not strike out batters at an equally impressive rate. He has had trouble striking out more than six per nine innings and a rate that low is not a good sign for future dominance. At times he loses focus and that is shown in the high number of home runs he has allowed. He does not have a strong command of the running game with his weak pickoff move and slow delivery. Perez has a lot of talent but has not been able to put it all together.

The Mariner Factor:
Perez is another strong candidate for the M’s to end up with. His 7-6 means nothing for his talent but it will help keep his price tag low. Safeco Field will help him keep the ball in the park and in turn, keep his ERA low. Expect Perez to be second on the M’s target list, behind Clement.


Derek Lowe
Age on Opening Day 2005: 31
2004: 14-12, 5.42 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, .299 BAA
Career: 72-59, 3.88 ERA, 1.30 WHIP

Player Strengths:
Lowe is an extreme ground ball pitcher and has shown a tendency to come up big when it matters. He has one of the best sinkers in the game and is able to change speeds with it. He is an excellent defender and can pitch in a variety of roles.

Player Weaknesses:
His poor command and low strikeout rate have finally caught up to him. He was a little unlucky with his inability to escape jams by getting a double play. He is easy to run on, partially because so many of his pitches end up in the dirt.

The Mariner Factor:
The former Mariner has a chance to end up back in Seattle but he would not be the best option. Whichever team he ends up signing with will be overpaying for him thanks to his excellent postseason performance. He has the potential to bounce back from a poor regular season in 2004, but we have seen the best years from him and that is not what the M’s need.


Brad Radke
Age on Opening Day 2005: 32
2004: 11-8, 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, .267 BAA
Career: 127-118, 4.23 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .273 BAA

Player Strengths:
Brad Radke is one of the best control pitchers in the game. He hits spots and gets outs with his sinking change as he eats up innings consistently. He is coming off of the best year of his career and his command appears to be getting better.

Player Weaknesses:
Like many of the free agent pitchers, Radke does not strike out as many batters as you would like. He gets in trouble when he tries to be too fine with his pitches and can be hurt with the longball. His style and numbers show that he will never be much better than he currently is.

The Mariner Factor:
It is unlikely that Radke is even being considered by the Mariners. He is already 32 and the M’s need to find a way to get younger. He is a good pitcher and will get a nice contract from a team needing him right now.


Others:
Jon Lieber: Lieber is a solid pitcher who can help a team ready to compete right now but at 35-years-old, he should not be in the M’s plans. He has outstanding command of all of his pitches and puts hitters away with a tight slider. The 2004 season was his first since undergoing Tommy John surgery. It usually takes a full season to recover from the surgery so whichever team picks him up for 2005 might be getting a good bargain for a year or two.

Jaret Wright: Chalk this one up to another Leo Mazzone reclamation project. Wright is coming off the best season of his career and he will get paid for it this winter. He is one of the wild cards of the winter as he could continue his great pitching and be a bargain for his new team or he could revert to his old form and be a complete bust. He is unlikely to be contacted by the M’s as he is a big risk.

Russ Ortiz: Ortiz is an innings-eater in every sense of the word. He doesn’t go out there and dominate but he gets the job done. He strikes out just enough to get by but his walks prevent him from taking the next step. He could sneak on to the Mariners’ radar if the other options fall through. The benefit he brings is that you know exactly what you are getting with him.

Kris Benson: The former number one pick is another wild card this winter. He could take the next step in his career or remain the same pitcher he currently is. He appears dead set on resigning with the Mets and that could be the best thing for him. Benson has a lot of talent but needs to refine it and Rick Peterson is the perfect man for the job.

Kevin Millwood: Another pitcher with all the talent in the world but not the ability to pull it all together. Millwood has outstanding stuff but just two seasons that represent how good he could be. After being paid $11 million in 2004, he will surely have to take a pay cut to find work elsewhere. He could be another backup plan for the Mariners.

Eric Milton: After being traded from New York to Minnesota for Chuck Knoblauch, Eric Milton has always been given more credit than he’s deserved. He is a solid pitcher but has never taken the next step. At 29-years-old, he is running out of time to advance to the next level but the lefty will still get a nice contract from someone. The M’s have other options on the table and it is unlikely they will turn to Milton.

Matt Morris: Morris is one of the most talented pitchers on the market this winter but his performance doesn’t show that. His mid-90s fastball and power curve is a deadly combination when they are on but that has been less often recently. Morris has the ability to shut down opposing hitters but has had little success recently. The Seton Hall grad is a high-risk high-reward target this offseason that the M’s could take a chance on depending on the price.


RELIEVERS:

Troy Percival
Age on Opening Day 2005: 35
2004: 33 saves, 2.90 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, .230 BAA
Career: 316 saves, 2.99 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, .186 BAA

Player Strengths:
Even at 35, Percival can still bring it with the best of them. His fastball still sits in the mid-90s and even touches 100 at times. He keeps hitters off balance with a curve and changeup but the fastball is his bread-and-butter. He brings a lot of experience in the closer role and is still one of the most dominating pitchers around.

Player Weaknesses:
Percival’s age and nagging injuries have to be a concern. He has missed time recently with various ailments including a degenerative hip condition. He is very easy to run on and still working out some kinks in his delivery in an attempt to smooth it out.

The Mariner Factor:
Although the Mariners have Eddie Guardado as their closer for 2005, Percy remains an option. Given Guardado’s health, the M’s would like to have a proven closer setting up incase Guardado goes down. The M’s won’t pay him as a closer but if they find themselves with some cash to spend, they may throw it Percival’s way.


Armando Benitez
Age on Opening Day 2005: 32
2004: 47 saves, 1.29 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, .152 BAA
Career: 244, 2.85 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .185 BAA

Player Strengths:Benitez combines his high-90s fastball, hard splitter and slider to get outs in any way possible. He has gone from a dominating strikeout pitcher to one who just gets outs while keeping his K/BB rate the same. He is constantly finding new ways to get batters out and posted possibly the best season of his career in 2004.

Player Weaknesses:
Benitez has been in New York twice and many playoff situations and has seemingly always found a way to screw it up. He has outstanding stuff but his mental makeup is not great for a closer. He can handle the routine save situations but when the pressure is turned up, he becomes problematic.

The Mariner Factor:
Benitez has already had one trip through Seattle and another one is unlikely. He’ll be looking for a big payday after his great season and Seattle won’t give it to him to set up Eddie Guardado.


Steve Kline
Age on Opening Day 2005: 32
2004: 2-2, 1.79 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .209 BAA
Career: 27-30, 3.30 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, .246 BAA

Player Strengths:
Steve Kline is known as a lefty specialist but he has the ability to get righties out as well. In 2004 he held lefties to a .143 BAA and righties to a .269 BAA. Kline has typically been an everyday pitcher out of the pen and is coming off the best season of his career.

Player Weaknesses:
Kline battled injuries at the end of 2004. He is going to have surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left index finger and will need three months to recover. He is now beyond his physical peak so he may experience some trouble pitching as often as he had in the past.

The Mariner Factor:
Kline would be a good target for the M’s to pursue this winter. He is a veteran lefty that would compliment the many young righties that will battle for spots in the pen in 2005. Like with Percival, if the M’s have some extra cash to spend, Kline’s name could surface as a target. That is, unless they sign…

Ron Villone:
Age on Opening Day 2005: 35
2004: 8-6, 4.08 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, .232 BAA
Career: 47-49, 4.80 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, .255 BAA

Player Strengths:
Ron Villone is very flexible and can pitch out of the pen or in the rotation. Nothing from his arsenal stands out but he has the ability to get outs via the strikeout and he can keep the ball in the park. He can eat innings for a team needing a decent lefty.

Player Weaknesses:
Villone doesn’t do anything particularly well. He has a good approach to the game but that may be his best asset. His stuff isn’t overwhelming and he gets by on pure guts.

The Mariner Factor:
The Mariners have already had conversations with Villone about returning in 2005. It is likely that they will have him back for another year as a swingman.



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