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Offseason Issue: Kevin Millwood

I'm going to try to place all the conversation and links regarding the upcoming offseason issues in its own place, for your benefit and for mine as well.

Starting with Kevin Millwood makes a lot of sense, because he has an effect on the rest of the offseason. If Kevin stays with the Indians, then it ties Shapiro's hands in other areas; if he walks, then you'll probably see money spent to get another starter and maybe a bat.

The stories on the impending Millwood free agency have already started, so now's a great time to start an in-depth look at the Millwood decision.

History: Kevin Millwood was drafted out of high school by the Atlanta Braves in 1993. He wasn't that high of a pick (11th Round).

Here's his minor-league numbers.

It looks like he had difficulty adjusting to the Sally league in 1994, but had a much better go of it in 1995. By his age 22 season he was a very good prospect, and made his major-league debut at the age of 23.

Here's his major-league numbers.

In his first full season, Millwood won 17 games for the Braves, and followed that up with a fantastic 1999 campaign. The first arm injury problems showed up in 2001, when he missed two months with an inflamed right labrum. After the 2002 season, he was dealt to the Phillies because of budget issues (Greg Maddux had unexpectedly accepted arbitration). Millwood stayed for two seasons with the Phillies, one more than Philadelphia had planned for, because after the 2003 season, he accepted arbitration because he didn't get a longterm deal. In 2004 he spent about a month on the DL again, this time due to tendonitis in his throwing elbow. Because of this injury and his mediocre performance during that year, no one offered him a multiyear deal, and he ended up signing an incentive-laden one-year contract with the Indians.

The Market: Millwood finally has good timing, because he might be the best starter on the market this winter. There's no Pedro Martinez to wait on,  and there's very little second-tier pitching to be had besides Millwood and AJ Burnett. Add to that the whispers that a lot of teams have money to spend because the new TV/satellite radio deals, and you could see a lot of teams make legitimate offers to Millwood if he decides to test the free agent waters. His agent, Scott Boras, likes his clients to wait a while before signing, as it creates a feeding frenzy after other free agents are off the table. So unless Millwood really likes the Indians' offer, don't expect this to be over with quickly.

Replacements: Now obviously the Indians don't have anyone on the farm or the resources to sign a pitcher who will match Millwood's 2005 production. Heck, even Millwood himself isn't likely to do as good in 2006 as he did this season. But if Millwood does leave, the Indians will probably sign another veteren starter or give the rotation spot to one of two or three young pitchers:

  1. Jason Davis. He has the most experience of the three, but hasn't progressed as expected. He did OK subbing for Sabathia and Millwood during their DL stints, but the overall numbers aren't that impressive given how long he's been around.
  2. Fausto Carmona. A young sinker-baller, he combines good stuff with very good control. Probably my favorite right now to win a job. The upside isn't that high, but I could see him as a solid workhorse in the vein of a Carlos Silva.
  3. Jeremy Sowers. Again, a pitcher with good control, but misses more bats that Carmona. His only issue is that he's only pitched as high as Akron. He could probably pitch in Cleveland next season, but may have to wait for other guys ahead of him to falter.
Contract Issues: As with any pitcher, it's risky to go beyond 3 years on a contract. Millwood has had a couple semi-serious arm injuries in the past 5 years, so that increases the concern from the Indians' standpoint. Even if the payroll increases to the $50M range, you would tieing up 1/5th of that with one guy. The Indians probably couldn't insure the contract (besides going with "self-insurance") so they would take a pretty big gamble if they give him $30M through 2008.

The Compensation: If the Indians don't sign Millwood, they'll get two high draft picks. Which may be a poor parting gift, but remember that the Indians received two picks when Jim Thome left in 2002, and used them to select Brad Snyder and Adam Miller. So you can gain at least something if you can't sign Millwood. Yes, this is assuming that the Indians offer arbitration, but unless Millwood wants another one-year deal, he's not going to accept it.

Conclusion: It's still too early to gauge what kind of money will be out there for Millwood, but at the very least I believe he'll be offered $10M a year. This is based on the paucity of good starting pitching on the free agent market and contracts signed by pitchers last offseason.

Further Reading:

11-13-05: Sunday Roundup