Ben Sheets signed a 4 year, $38.5 million deal with the Brewers this week, which should end the Ranger fan parlor game of coming up with a potential Ranger/Brewer trade for Sheets ("Let's see, Melvin loves his old prospects, so what about them giving us Sheets, and we give them Laynce Nix, Joaquin Benoit, and...how about Scott Heard? Isn't he a great catching prospect? Oh, he retired?").
The Transaction Oracle loves the deal, and I agree, this is a terrific signing for the Brew Crew. Before last season, Joe Sheehan commented in a BP chat session about the A's taking Barry Zito over Ben Sheets, opining that 99% of the difference between where the two players were was attributable to the organizations they joined, implying that with Sheets, it wasn't a matter of ability, but his team's inability to properly nurture and develop that ability.
Last year, of course, Sheets exploded, was arguably the best pitcher in the N.L., and as the Oracle points out, his low ERA was supported by very strong peripherals, making it much less likely that it was a fluke season. There has been a lot of speculation that Sheets would be a trade target if the Brewers couldn't lock him up -- and of course, the Rangers would have been a prime candidate to try to acquire Sheets -- but with the new contract, he's off the market.
On the other hand, with Kerry Wood struggling in Chicago, Chicago columnist Jay Mariotti is pushing for the Cubs to trade him. Mariotti dismisses Wood as a headcase who is overpaid and has never reached his potential, who has never learned how to pitch, instead of just throw.
If Wood's struggles continue, the heat could get turned up, and we might start hearing the cries to bring Wood back to Texas, for the Rangers to trade for him and get the ace that they've been needing.
Now, Mariotti has a reputation as being an inflammatory jackass -- think Gerry Fraley times two -- and I can't speak to Wood's mental state, but he's not completely offbase with the rest of his evaluation of Wood. I thought at the time he signed his extension with the Cubs that Wood was overrated and overpaid, and I haven't changed my position.
Wood has the reputation -- and the paycheck -- of a legitimate ace, but his performance simply doesn't correspond with that. He's finished in the top 10 in ERA just twice -- 9th in 2001, and 8th in 2003. He's finished in the top 10 in WHIP just once -- 9th, in 2003. He's never finished in the top 10 in the Cy Young voting. And we aren't talking about some wet-behind-the-ears youngster anymore...Wood is in his 7th major league season, and turns 28 in June.
He's been a very good pitcher, but not a great one, during his time with the Cubs. Yes, he strikes out a ton of batters, and can be dominant at times, but his control problems hurt his ERA, and he throws too many pitches to regularly work deep into games. Like most power pitchers, he's also a flyball pitcher, something the Rangers are trying to stay away from. And Wood's injury history makes him riskier than your average pitcher, in terms of health projection.
So if the Cubs start shopping Wood, I think the Rangers would be best off passing on him. Sure, if they could get him for cheap, he'd make sense, but there are other teams out there -- the Yankees, for one -- who would be willing to pay a premium to get Wood. The Rangers shouldn't be one of those teams.