BtB Mailbag: Matt Stairs, Cliff Lee, or Zack Greinke?

Welcome back to the BtB Mailbag, where every week we take our best shot at your best questions. Send your questions to btbquestions@gmail.com and include your name for inclusion.

Cliff Lee signing with the Phillies was a pretty crazy move (in the sense of unexpected and exciting), but the move and its implications on whether or not the Phils now have the best rotation off all time (Cole Hamels as the team's #4 starter is also crazy, as in insane) has been covered quite well all over the place. I'll just add that I'm glad he didn't go to New York, but Phillies fans don't have much right to complain about the Yankees' spending anymore. The best job in baseball next year might be as the Phillies longman; make $400K just to watch ballgames every day - maybe go in once a month or so.

The first question this week is near and dear to my heart:

Drew asks: Matt Stairs has been on a lot of teams, huh? Why does he keep getting traded/moved/picked up?

Stairs - who signed with the Nationals this week - is going to be 43 in February. He doesn't play more than a handful of games in the field each year anymore. And yet he still keeps chugging along, moving to his 7th team since 2006. While his .232/.306/.475 line from 2010 looks very unexciting for a guy whose only job is to come off the bench and hit, playing in Petco didn't exactly do him any favors. In fact, his wRC+ of 118 is right there with his career mark (119). Stairs will take a walk (he's had at least a 9.9% walk rate every season in his career with at least 100 PA) and he'll pop and occasional home run*. Considering it's just a minor league deal, there's a decent chance that Stairs - who has compiled 1.1 fWAR over the course of the last two seasons in just 240 plate appearances - will provide Washington with a good return on investment. Also, Matt Stairs is just plain awesome.

* It's what he does: "I'm not going to lie," Stairs told the assembled media after the game. "I try to hit home runs and that's it.

Kelly asks: There's no way anybody will be really happy with Greinke after Lee was on the table, right?

I don't know. Which of the following pitchers would you prefer going forward?

(Stats over the last three years)

A: 667.1 IP, 2.98 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 3.51 xFIP, 7.2 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, 20.9 fWAR, 16.6 brWAR

B: 651.2 IP, 3.25 ERA, 3.05 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, 8.4 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 19.6 fWAR, 15.6 brWAR

I imagine it's not hard to guess who's who with the strike-out and walk numbers, but that's still pretty close. Then add in that pitcher A is 32 and pitcher B is 29. I think I'd actually take Greinke at two years and $27 M over Lee at 5/$120M (plus a $12.5 M buyout). With the on-field performance being that close, taking the younger, cheaper guy with the much smaller financial commitment (pitchers aren't usually in the habit of staying healthy for long periods of time - and Greinke might be the safer bet in that area as well) seems like a solid plan.

Now, Grienke will obviously take several arms and legs to acquire in a trade which makes that option less attractive, but if you're a team that (1) is close to contention, (2) has some young players you can give up, and (3) doesn't have the biggest budget, then Grienke could very well have been the #1 option even when Lee was available. And even if not, having the guy who put up one of the great all-time pitching seasons as recently as 2009 on your team is a heck of a consolation prize.

Final verdict: it doesn't matter; the Nationals already won the off-season by getting Matt Stairs (I wish the "In Case of Emergency, Use Stairs" shirts were a little better designed (no offense) - I would totally get one. And a hoodie. And maybe a refrigerator magnet).

John asks: My cousin wants to play baseball to get rich, and I think he has the talent. If he was extremely good at one thing but nothing else, what would get him a decent job in some team's system?

I think that throwing hard off of the mound is probably the number one thing. That's one of those things that can't be taught, and I think teams are willing to dream on a guy with a big-time fastball enough to keep him around (collecting paychecks) for a little while. Monster power at the plate is probably the runner-up choice, but a pitcher who throws hard can maybe "develop" control, while a power hitter with a hole in his swing is easier to give up on I think. Those are tools type answers though. If he can be good at one thing, outcomes-wise, then striking out every batter he faces or hitting a home run every time up at the plate would probably make him a not insignificant amount of money. If that sounds like something he could do, please forward him my name so we can be friends (does he need an agent?).

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