Mets sign Kelvim Escobar to one-year contract

Kelvim Escobar will make his National League debut next year with the New York Mets. With this signing, the Angels lose another key component to their pitching staff while the Mets just potentially boosted their bullpen. The one-year deal includes a $1.25 million base salary plus $2 million in incentives as a starter and $1 million as a reliever.

In the best-case scenario he could set up closer Francisco Rodriguez as the team’s eighth-inning guy.

“It’s a low risk, but could have a high reward,” one AL scout said. “It hangs on if he’s healthy.”

Pitching out of the bullpen would not be something new to Escobar, who had surgery in 2008 to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder and then suffered a setback in 2009 that limited him to one start. He was primarily a reliever when he came up with the Blue Jays and saved 38 games in 2002 as their full-time closer. The Jays converted him to a starter during 2003 and he went 12-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 26 starts.

The Angels inked him to a three-year, $18.75 million contract after that season and put him in their rotation. In the second year of the deal he needed elbow surgery but returned to help them reach the postseason by going 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA in nine September relief appearances. He was re-signed to a three-year, $28.5 million deal before 2007, but made only one start after his breakthrough year.

Although he’s made just one major league appearance over the last two seasons, Escobar went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 2007. All things considered, the Mets don’t have much to lose by brining him on board. I like the idea of having Escobar set up former teammate Francisco Rodriguez, but I wouldn’t limit him to that role. Since the Mets starting rotation is pretty thin, giving Escobar a couple spot starts couldn’t hurt.

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Bargain hunting for starting pitchers

Josh Beckett

All 2009 Fantasy Articles | 2009 Position Rankings

As someone who loyally subscribes to the “wait for pitching” strategy on draft day, I’m always on the lookout for value starters. Experience has shown me that there are plenty of nice starting pitching bargains in the middle and late rounds every year, and if I’m diligent enough, I can also add pitching via the waiver wire during the season. All of which allows me to load up on as much hitting as I can in the early rounds, understanding that the more offensive firepower I have on my roster, the easier it will be to trade for a top-line starter should I find myself in need of reinforcements for the stretch run.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I ignore pitching on draft day. Far from it. Those SP bargains I mentioned above are available each year, if you know what to look for. Sure, it’s nice to have a reliable horse like Johan Santana or Brandon Webb anchoring your pitching staff, but the cost of adding someone like that is usually a little too steep for my tastes. So instead, my goal is to take five to seven solid starters who can deliver quality ratios while racking up strikeouts. Ideally, I also look for guys who pitch for successful teams, hoping that will translate to wins for my team.

The guys I target tend to fall into one of four categories: Young Guns, Rebound Vets, Undervalued Arms and Late Steals. As I’ve admitted in previous posts, I’m a sucker for upside but that doesn’t mean I’ll fall for any promising youngster with a lively arm. I’m also a sucker for a good revival story so I’m always looking for veterans with a solid track record whose stock has fallen because of an off year, while guys in the undervalued category tend to fly under the radar despite their consistent production. Finally, I try to wrap up every draft with one or two late-round picks that could pay off big in the long run.

Below, I’ve listed several pitchers I’ve got my eye on in each of these four categories, using the Average Draft Position (ADP) from ESPN’s draft kit as a guide. I’ve included the ADP as well as the SP rank (SP13, for example) for each of the 16 starters below. These aren’t, of course, the only guys who would qualify in these categories, just the ones at the top of my list. If you’re thinking about stockpiling bats early in your draft, maybe they should be at the top of your list too.

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