2016 Statistics: 19 GS, 116.1 IP, 5.65 K/9, 2.17 BB/9, 85 ERA-, 112 FIP-, 112.7 DRA-, 0.4 PWARP
Age on Opening Day 2017: 37
You know a free agent is a very low-cost option when he doesn’t make it on to MLB Trade Rumors’ free agent predictions, and their lowest prediction is a one year, $6 million contract for Derek Holland. This is, as we’ve all said ad nauseam, an incredibly weak free agent class, so that tells you something. This is also why signing Colby Lewis could be the perfect deal, with little risk.
In the age of competitive balance, MLB puts everything on the table as something that can be regulated and controlled. This isn’t a bad thing, of course: I’d much rather there be rules in place for the draft, international signings, and free agency that allow all teams to compete fairly. But when you continue to level the playing field, it only further incentivizes wealthier teams to take advantage of their monetary strength when they can. One of those ways is through depth signings.
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement is likely going to change the luxury tax threshold, so consider that signing Colby Lewis—or, for that matter, any of the lesser options—does not hurt the franchise’s bottom line by a significant amount. If we’re being realistic, he’ll get something like... $5 million or so? That’s peanuts.
Here’s why he’ll get peanuts: Lewis is currently 37 years-old; he has a career 94 ERA+ and a 91 ERA+ over the last three seasons; he has undergone surgeries for his rotator cuff, hip, and elbow; he has a career 64.5% fly ball rate. His last and only great season was in 2010, when he put together 84 ERA-/81 FIP-/86.3 DRA- over 201 innings.
The bright side is that this past season was more encouraging, to say the least. He did put up an 85 ERA-, even if that was only for 116.1 innings, and even considering the fact that both FIP and DRA would say it was more like a below average season. You still need to get the results, I suppose. His strikeout rate was a paltry 5.65, but his walk rate significantly improved to 2.17. He still allows a ton of homers, so all of that could still be moot in Yankee Stadium
The greater point is not that Lewis is great—I wouldn’t even say he’s good!—but he still has notched 491.1 innings since 2014, more than Stephen Strasburg, Shelby Miller, Jacob deGrom, and Masahiro Tanaka. Raw innings still matter.
The starting pitching depth outside of the obvious is also unknown. Who could the Yankees rely on to fill innings throughout the year if there’s an injury? Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, and Adam Warren are all options, but they’re also relative unknowns. This is why, regardless of what happens this offseason, an option like Lewis could be useful as the 2017 season moves along and innings are tough to come by. With the organization recently flush with cash, extra depth can never hurt.