The Cubs added another right handed starting pitcher to their team today when they signed Scott Feldman to a 1-year deal for $6 million. There's another million bucks in incentives. Although he hasn't come close to a full season pitched in terms of innings but one time in his career, he's been relatively healthy. He hasn't had an arm injury since 2006 and that was a forearm injury. He battled through a knee injury in 2010 and then missed most of 2011 due to a knee surgery.
Following his impressive 2009 season the Rangers bought out his final years of club control with a 2-year deal for $11.5 million. The Rangers held a $9.25 million club option for 2013, but declined it.
According to pitch f/x on Fangraphs, his most common pitch is a sinker that he threw at an average of 91.5 mph last year (91.7 in 2011 and just below 91 in 2010). He also throws a cutter, curveball, changeup and the occasional 4-seam fastball. He threw his cutter most often last year against lefties, which isn't too surprising. He threw the sinker more frequently against righties.
He keeps the ball on the ground and doesn't strike a lot of batters out (just 17.9% last year). He also doesn't walk many hitters (6% last year, 8% in his career).
Despite keeping the ball on the ground, and in the ballpark about as one would expect, he's never really had as good an ERA as you might expect. His career ERA is over 4.8 and he has a 4.56 FIP and 4.52 xFIP. He had an ERA over 5 last year, but his FIP and xFIP were in the 3.80s. He's a guy who has been up and down throughout his career though mostly he's just been down.
His career fWAR is only 8.7 in 727 innings. He has 4.7 career WARP and 3.0 rWAR. Over the past few seasons his fWAR is 3.9 in just under 300 innings. The WARP is 2.9 and his rWAR -0.7. His rWAR was -1.1 in 2010 and he followed that with 0.4 in 40+ innings and only 0.0 last year.
He has some upside, but then again, what MLB player doesn't? Throwing strikes is something this team hasn't excelled at over the past decade, but it's something the new front office is emphasizing. They're also going after pitchers will good control though the K-BB% is still probably not as good as the types of pitchers the Cubs went after before.
I don't think that's too surprising considering the type of player the Cubs are targeting. They're not going after the higher profile players, but rather the guys who might come at a bargain.
As far as bargains go, this one looks to be a pretty good one. CAIRO projects 100 innings pitched and a 4.73 ERA. it projects an FIP of 4.27 and 1.1 WAR. Those projections are for the Rangers so a move to the NL will lower those rates a bit and increase the WAR. Bill James projects a 4.19 ERA and 4.14 FIP while Guru projects and ERA over 5.
It seems to me that Guru is probably a little too pessimistic while Bill James a little too optimistic. That said, I expect Feldman to be worth a little over a win and be worth the $6 million he's being paid. There's the possibility he's much worse or a little better making him a good bargain.
It's a good sign by the Cubs. There's little to risk and potentially something to gain. If Feldman can show that last season is something that can be repeated the Cubs get a chance to have a solid 3rd or 4th starter and someone they could extend.
Dave Cameron put it well here:
Feldman might not have the reputation of a quality starter yet, but he’s shown the skills necessary to become a perfectly acceptable middle-of-the-rotation innings eater. Last year, he ran a 3/1 K/BB ratio while maintaining an average ground ball rate, putting him in the same xFIP range as guys like Kyle Lohse, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, and Dan Haren,. He doesn’t have the same track record of success as those guys, but he’s also going to cost a fraction of the price, and offers the same low BB/average K/average GB skillset.
In a more friendly home ballpark and with better results at stranding runners, Feldman projects to be something not too far from a league average starting pitcher in 2013. And, while he’s going to be labeled a stop-gap type of signing, he doesn’t turn 30-years-old until February, so there’s no reason to think that the Cubs can’t extract longer term value from him if he pitches well in 2013. With Feldman and Baker, the Cubs have added a couple of pieces to their rotation who aren’t just pump-and-dump guys, but could be solid pieces to build future rotations around as well. This isn’t just patching a hole because the Cubs need arms for next season – these deals are investments in buying low on pitchers who could be part of the next good Cubs team, even if that team is still several years away.
There's a bit of a small sample size issue when he compares Feldman's last 150 innings to those of Dempster, Jackson, Lohse and Haren who have consistently put up above average xFIPs. Prior to the previous 150, Feldman had been much worse so take the sample size stuff written there with a grain of salt.