Transactions: Indians Sign Kerry Wood

Signed RHP Kerry Wood to a Two Year, $20.5M Contract ($11M 2011 Option)

The 2011 Option will vest if Wood completes 55 games in 2009 or 2010. If he doesn't, the Indians can still pick up the option. Meeting the vesting option certainly isn't a given; 10 closers topped that mark in the majors last season, including Wood (with 56). Finishing games isn't the same as making 30 starts; teams can be playing either too or well or too poorly to use their closer that often. And if Wood would happen to miss as little as a week due to injury, he might not be able to make that milestone; he barely made it last year as the closer for the best team in the National League.

Paying $10M to a pitcher who probably won't throw more than 65 innings in a season looks like overkill if you figure that Wood is going to be worth about 1.5 wins to the Indians. Of course, consider the contributions that Joe Borowski and company made in the ninth inning last year, your perspective changes a bit. On a marginal basis, the improvement should be substantial.

Wood's 2008 peripherals (66.3 IP, 54 H, 84 SO, 18 BB, 3 HR) were among the best in baseball. His average fastball last season was 95 mph, and his slider sat around 83 mph. In other words, he can blow his fastball by a hitter even if he's looking for it, and if he throws his slider to a hitter expecting his fastball, that ball isn't going to be hit. The Indians usually don't have an opportunity to sign these types of players.

The elephant in the room is, of course, Kerry's extensive injury history. Shoulder problems derailed his promising career as a starter, and he's going to be pitching the rest of his career, however long that is, with a torn rotator cuff. The last two players the Indians have given quasi-market contracts to (Jake Westbrook, Travis Hafner) have sustained major injuries soon after signing, so although this contract isn't a long-term risk, the team doesn't have the financial wherewithal to shrug off another 10 million dollars' worth of non-productive talent during the middle of a season.

 

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