Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mulder and Lilly? Keep dreamin'

Athletics Nation and Susan Slusser are openly speculating on who will replace Zito once he leaves during the off-season. Their speculation points to 2 old A's lefties: Mulder and Lilly. To which I say: keep dreamin'.

Ted Lilly is sure to attract some serious interest on the free agent market and will almost assuredly fetch a higher price than the A's are willing to pay, particularly looking at the free agent pitching signings over the last 2 off-seasons. Mulder is coming off of shoulder surgery which means he will most likely not be ready to start the 2007 season. Even if he can or when he eventually does join the rotation, it will take considerable time to get his arm back up to strength and even then it will take time to get back in the rhythm of major league pitching. And he is still enough of a name to attract some interest in the free agent market, particularly teams willing to offer a longer term deal knowing that the first season he pitches for them could be a throwaway considering his injury and surgery. I don't see Billy Beane making a move for Mulder unless he senses that there is little interest in Mulder and can convince Mulder to sign a 1-2 year incentive laden deal.

The far more likely route, and one that is typical A's, is to promote and develop from within. The A's already have 2 lefties in their bullpen that traditionally have been starters: Brad Halsey and Joe Kennedy.

While I wasn't too impressed with Brad Halsey as either a starter or in the bullpen, he is still young. He will be 26 next season with only 3 years of major league experience, and his first season he pitched only 32 innings. He had mixed results with Arizona as a full time starter, but his numbers weren't much different than he had here in Oakland. While I didn't see too much that impressed me, there is always the chance he improves with further experience. He's also still several years away from his arbitration years which basically means he's cheap, and the A's love a good bargain.

More expensive but coming off of a solid year, despite the injury, is Joe Kennedy. He pitched excellent coming out of the bullpen which may have reduced his value as a starter. Performing so well out of the bullpen may have sealed his fate there. However, things could change with Zito leaving and a spot open for a lefty starter. Kennedy has more experience, but that experience as a starter has been spotty at best.

I don't know if Halsey or Kennedy will make the rotation, but they certainly are more realistic options than Mulder or Lilly.

And don't forget Dan Meyer, the once touted prospect from the Hudson trade. He has had shoulder problems 2 years running now, but if and when he can get back to full health he just might return to the player the A's knew he could be when they traded for him. The A's might be gambling for a Meyer return, if so then they would only need a fill-in for 1-2 seasons while Meyer returns to full strength, perhaps getting a call up in late 2007 or 2008. But this is just wild speculation, time will tell what the A's really think of Meyer.


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