Free agent pitcher Ben Sheets, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers, made his biggest step in his path back to the majors yesterday when he held a throwing session for MLB scouts at his alma mater, the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Last off season, Sheets agreed to a two-year deal with the Texas Rangers. However, Sheets failed his physical due to the necessity of surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow, which effectively called off the deal and his season. The oft-injured 8 year veteran is now looking to find a market for his services this off season and looks to have found one with yesterday’s session.
It is not known exactly how many teams where present for yesterday’s session, but according to those in attendance the list of MLB teams represented was high. The teams rumored to have the best chance of signing Sheets are the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Texas Rangers. Sheets held three separate throwing sessions consisting of 20 pitches each. He was listed as topping out at 92 mph with his fastball and his signature curveball was said to be moving well. Many scouts came away impressed from the session and thought Sheets looked healthy and ready to contribute this season. However, many of the scouts also noted that Sheets looked “gassed” after only 60 pitches as his stamina will need to improve after missing a whole year of pitching. Matthew Cerrone of MetsBlog.com reports that Sheets is looking for $10 million, along with incentives and possibly a second year player option in his new deal. However, Sheets is more likely to find a deal similar to the one Brad Penny signed with the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this off season.
The biggest problem for Sheets in his career has been injuries. He has only pitched more than 30 games in 4 of his 8 seasons in the league. In my opinion, his career is very similar to Kerry Wood, as they are both former first round draft picks who have shown flashes of domination, but due to injuries have never won more than 14 games in a season. I feel Sheets will be a good gamble and the potential steal of the free agent market if healthy, but he needs to lessen his rumored current demands for his new deal. A team to watch in the Sheets market is the Seattle Mariners, as GM Jack Zduriencik is the former Director of Scouting for the Milwaukee Brewers and played a key role in the team drafting Sheets out of college. For more info on Sheets and his road to recovery, ESPN.com’s Tim Kurkjian has a good story up on Sheets and what he expects to provide this season.