Revisiting the Scott Feldman signing

added 8/11/2016 by Greg Thurston

If you're one of those people that was infuriated by the lack of trade deadline activity by the Astros, maybe these next few paragraphs will reinvigorate your trust in Jeff Luhnow. Not only did the timely trade of Scott Feldman result in an immediate win and avoid an embarrassing home sweep at the hands of the Blue Jays, it closed the books on a deal that has to be considered extremely successful.

When the Astros signed veteran right-hander Scott Feldman to a 3-year/$30 million contract in December of 2013, many fans thought the club had drastically overpaid for a mediocre pitcher. With Feldman being sent to the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline earlier this month, I think we can safely say the Astros got more than their money's worth over the last 2-1/2 seasons.

Feldman was brought to Houston to be a stabilizing force on a young pitching staff that was finally beginning to take shape after three years of turmoil and upheaval. Leading by example, going to the mound every fifth day, and piling up over 180 innings in his first season with the Astros had to have a positive impact on the development of rotation-mates Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh -- in my opinion.

Despite being limited to only 18 starts in 2015, Feldman accumulated 1.4 WAR while bridging the gap for Lance McCullers and the upcoming wave of young arms. Forced to the bullpen in 2016, Feldman continued to succeed. Scott did whatever was asked of him to help the team, posting a 140 ERA+ in 62 innings.

While there were several starting pitchers with seemingly more impressive track records on the Free Agent market at the time of Feldman's signing, I would argue that the Astros got the best bang for the buck. Of the eleven starters who signed lucrative Free Agent deals that winter, Feldman ranks fourth with 3.7 WAR since the beginning of 2014.

Phil Hughes, who signed a 3-year/$24 million deal with Minnesota, leads the pack with a cumulative WAR of 5.9 over the time period. But his season ended in early June after surgery due to thoracic outlet syndrome.

Bartolo Colon signed a 2-year/$20 million deal with the Mets. After compiling a WAR of 1.5 over the life of the contract, the ageless wonder inked a $7.25 million deal for 2016 and has posted 2.7 WAR so far this season.

Scott Kazmir gave the Athletics 5.0 WAR for their share of a 2-year/$20 million contract before being traded to the Astros and pitching at replacement value for the final two months of 2015. Kazmir is now fleecing the Dodgers to the tune of 0.3 WAR in the first year of a 3-year, $48 million deal.

Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ricky Nolasco, the biggest earners of the 2014 Free Agent class, have posted negative WAR over the last three seasons. Bronson Arroyo and Jason Vargas have both had to undergo Tommy John surgery.

Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum signed with San Francisco for two years at $23 and $35 million respectively. Hudson provided 1.8 WAR for the Giants before retiring. Lincecum pitched below replacement value and probably should have retired.

pitcher         yrs/$    WAR  
Matt Garza      4/50    -0.8
Ubaldo Jimenez  4/50    -0.2
Ricky Nolasco   4/47    -0.7
Tim Lincecum    2/35    -1.9
Scott Feldman   3/30     3.7
Jason Vargas    4/32     2.7
Phil Hughes     3/24     5.9
Bronson Arroyo  2/23.5   0.7
Tim Hudson      2/23     1.8
Bartolo Colon   2/20     4.2
Scott Kazmir    2/20     5.3

Say what you will about Scott Feldman's tenure with the Astros, and about Jeff Luhnow's business decisions. Moves or non-moves are difficult to judge -- especially early on. I say this is a move that had a lasting positive outcome and I certainly don't think it will be the last.