Just under one month ago free agent pitcher Jason Marquis signed a 2-year, $15 million contract with the Washington Nationals. While some questioned the deal, many considered it a good price for an innings eater who was a second tier free agent. He would go to a team that desperately needed starting pitching and would (hopefully) put some ease on the bullpen.
What made the Marquis deal look especially good for the Nationals was that the pitcher who many had one slot above him, Joel Pineiro, was making demands of 3-years for $30 million. Pineiro, of course, had a great year in 2009 under the tutelage of Dave Duncan and wanted to cash in after transforming himself into the top ground-ball pitcher in the league.
However as Pineiro's demands grew higher and higher, the Jason Marquis deal set the tone as no one wanted to give Pinerio too much more than what Marquis received. While the steady price-shelf surprised some, a look at the numbers revealed that 1. These players aren't all that different and 2. In the last three years Marquis has been a more consistent pitcher than Pineiro.
However after Marquis and Lackey signed, and then inevitably Adrolis Chapman, Pineiro remained on the market as the top starting pitcher available. That fact, paired with Chapman's recent $30 million cash-in, left Pineiro in great bargaining position as he could pin desperate teams like the Mets, Angels, and Cubs against each other in a bidding war for almost the same player the Nationals got for 2 years at $15 million.
Then...Ben Sheets happened:
"I was impressed," Mariners scout John Stearns said. "Ben was free and easy, throwing the ball really well with not too much effort. He had good velocity. I was especially impressed with his curve ball. He's got a plus major-league curve ball with a lot of depth to it. It looked to me like he was healthy, and health is the key issue here. I'm going to give him a strong recommendation to our organization.
With the big righty back in the picture, Pineiro quickly signed a 2-year $16 million deal with the Angels...Well he got what he wanted...more money than Marquis...
Lets take a look at the two pitchers over their career:
(Graphs created at Fan Graphs - The most useful stat site on the net)
As you can see the one place where Pineiro trumps Maquis is an improved control, which may have been what helped lead him to a more successful 2009 than Marquis. Their BABIP numbers have been almost identical, and while Pineiro led the majors in ground ball percentage in 2009, Marquis ranked right behind him as the third best ground ball pitcher in baseball.