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My take on Suppan, in part

Since Jeff Suppan has been slow to sign, and there haven't been a lot of offers floating around, I used today's Hardball Times article to look at just how much money he might get. Read the article for the details and the methodology, but judging by the contracts that other free-agent starters have gotten, Suppan ought to be worth something like $11M per year. No surprise there--that seems to be the consensus, give or take a million.

Obviously, that's a lot of dough. Especially if it takes a four or five year deal to sign him, which it probably will. Now, there's no disputing the fact that Suppan would add something to most teams--he may be a mid-rotation starter, but mid-rotation starters are extremely valuable. Heck, the difference between Suppan and Barry Zito may only be about one marginal win. Granted, Zito isn't everything some teams seem to think he is, but he's the only other solid option out there.

Based on Suppan's numbers, he should be worth about two wins above a "bench player" over a full season. Last year, Zach Jackson fit the Win Shares definition of a bench player, as did Rick Helling. Carlos Villanueva was a bit above that last year, but I would assume that he'll take a step back in his second time around the league. Given that Claudio Vargas is also a big question mark, I think it's safe to say that we'll have 30 "bench player" starts next year if we do nothing to change the rotation.

Thus, adding Suppan ought to be worth about two wins to this team. In other words, if the team, as currently constructed, would win 81 games, it would win 83 with Suppan. Not a huge difference, of course, especially for a $45 million contract.

But that's one of the main points I led up to in my article: it all depends on what two wins those are!

In general, then, the teams considering adding one of these two starters are making the same kinds of decisions clubs face at the trading deadline: are we in it or not? The value of Suppan to the Brewers or Zito to the Rangers is not entirely encapsulated in the numbers above: it depends on whether those teams view themselves as two or three wins away from a playoff spot.

As bizarre as it may have sounded even a few months ago, if the addition of Jeff Suppan turns a team into a Wild Card winner, he probably will have been worth $11 million. Even if he doesn't repeat as championship series MVP.

As some of the discussion in this thread has made clear, there's a lot of variation among Brewers fans as to just how much hope we should have. It seems like a stretch to project the 2006 Brewers as, say, an 86-win team that the addition of Suppan would turn into an 88-win team. If this is yet another consolidation year in which we'll be lucky to break even, it would be dumb for us to spend the money on Suppan. If we're going for it, that's a different story.

Now, the Pirates? That's a completely different story. They'll be lucky to break 75 wins this year, and I would imagine Suppan will require a larger contract to go toil in Pittsburgh. Especially for a team with so much young pitching (albeit some of it mediocre), that would be a horrible contract. Maybe the money's there and they have to spend it on something, but...sheesh.

Systematically evaluating just how good this Brewers team will be is another topic for another day, but that's a very important part of deciding whether to shell out the cash for Suppan. If you think we're within striking distance of the Wild Card, he's probably the best available option (besides Zito, who we're not getting) to put us there. If you think we're going for the gold in 2008, we ought to wait and sign a mid-level starting pitcher next year.