Free Agent Stock Watch: Jake Westbrook

Jake Westbrook has found the National League to his liking since being acquired by the Cardinals on July 31st.  He's provided them with 67.3 innings of 3.48 ball, improving his strikeout and groundball rates.  Westbrook would be open to returning to the Indians next year, and the Cardinals could try to extend him next month, but let's analyze his situation assuming he heads to free agency for the first time.

The Pros

  • Westbrook has always been a groundball monster, but his 62.8% National League rate harkens back to his best years and would rank second in the league behind Tim Hudson.  Teams in homer-happy ballparks figure to target Westbrook.
  • He won't cost a draft pick.  In fact, he's not even close to Type B status, so the Cardinals have no reason to offer arbitration.
  • Westbrook tallied fewer than 190 innings from 2007-09 due to Tommy John and hip surgery and an oblique strain; the missed time could suppress his price.

The Cons

  • Some teams may be concerned that Westbrook's improved National League performance wouldn't hold up if he left Dave Duncan's tutelage.  That might be unfair; Joel Pineiro was no worse for the wear this year.
  • Perhaps Westbrook's asking price will be significant – he's finishing a three-year, $33MM contract and should be one of maybe seven free agent starters coming off a 200 inning season.  Hudson received a three-year, $28MM extension from the Braves in November of last year with a much smaller post-Tommy John innings sample.
  • Westbrook is not a dominant pitcher.  His career K/9 is 5.0 and he's allowed 9.6 hits per nine innings.

The Verdict

Westbrook might be able to find a two-year, $15MM deal in the mold of the contracts signed by Pineiro and Jason Marquis last winter.  He'd be wise to jump on an offer guaranteeing multiple years, as GMs figure to remain cautious this winter in general.

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