Lidge? With a split finger change??? Two words: WHY BOTHER. He's dominant enough as it is, reminds me of Dotel trying his new curveball on Opening Day last year and blowing the game.
On to SP and RP free agents in '06, with their handedness, age, 2004 IP, ERA, and GB/FB ratio (career GB / FB ratio in parentheses).
Tim Wakefield, RHP, 38, 188.3, 116, 4.87, 1.23 (0.98)
Kevin Millwood, RHP, 31, 141.0, 125, 4.85, 1.10 (0.97)
Jason Johnson, RHP, 32, 196.2, 125, 5.13, 1.68 (1.15)
Tim Hudson, RHP, 30, 188.2, 103, 3.53, 2.53!! (2.21)
John Thomson, RHP, 32, 198.1, 133, 3.72, 1.36 (1.27)
A.J. Burnett, RHP, 28, 120.0, 113, 3.68, 1.49 (1.23)
Jeff Weaver, RHP, 29, 220.0, 153, 4.01, 1.06 (1.22)
Vicente Padilla, RHP, 28, 115.1, 82, 4.53, 1.25 (1.61)
Matt Morris, RHP, 31, 202.0, 131, 4.72, 1.59 (1.69)
Brett Tomko, RHP, 32, 194.0, 108, 4.04, 1.08 (1.10)
Esteban Loaiza, RHP, 34, 183.0, 117, 5.71, 0.98 (1.36)
There's a big reason I included GB / FB ratio - although I'm hoping we sign one or two FA outfielders for 2006, there's always a possibility we retain Biggio and sign Berkman to huge contract, so we have terrible OF defense again. However an infield of Ensberg / Everett / Burke / Bagwell is still likely to be excellent defensively, so all other things being equal, a high GB / FB ratio is a plus.
Ok, that's a lot of data. First off, let's eliminate Esteban Loaiza and Jason Johnson due to crappy years, and Tim Wakefield due to age (though it might not affect a knuckler, but it makes my life easier). Brett Tomko came out of nowhere to have a good year, but his peripherals were bad in a pitcher's park, so he gone. Matt Morris will probably be overpaid because he used to be great, but his shoulder's shot, so NO MAS.
That leaves Millwood, Hudson, Thomson, Burnett, Weaver, Padilla.
First off, Hudson is incredible. Absolutely incredible. He has NEVER posted a GB / FB ratio under 2.00, and he's durable and young. But he's going to be very expensive, and his K rate has declined significantly the past 3 years. He'll be awesome, but expensive, and he might have peaked already. Pass.
I'll hold off on Millwood - a lot depends on how he does with the Indians this year, but he's declined for a few years now, and his GB / FB ratio isn't a great fit with our strengths.
I'll also hold off on A.J. Burnett because he's such an injury risk - if he has a great 2005, I'll talk about him them.
That leaves my top 3: Thomson, Weaver, Padilla.
Thomson had his "Atlanta year" last year, much like John Burkett and Jaret Wright have, so he might not be as good ever again. However, he was solid for Texas for a number of years, he has a decent K rate and a solid GB / FB ratio, and he's 'only' 32.
Weaver finally got out of NY and immediately became good again. He pitched a lot of innings, so he might have a slightly down year this year, and he's more of a flyball pitcher, so I don't like him quite as much as Thomson or Padilla. Dodger Stadium also helps him out.
Padilla is my sleeper pick; I'm a big fan. His career GB / FB ratio is an excellent 1.61; if he can approach that this year, his ERA should drop back down. His numbers might also be somewhat skewed by that crazy new Philly park. His K rate is still good, also. He's only 28, so I would definitely give him a 4 year / 20 million dollar contract or something along those lines.
Whew, need a break. Relievers next.
1. Vicente Padilla (4/20)
2. John Thomson (3/12)
3. Jeff Weaver (3/10)