And…that’s a wrap.
The San Diego Padres have seemingly finalized their roster for the start of the 2012 season by inking Micah Owings to an interesting one year deal worth $1M. It’s interesting in that Owings agreed to accept a minor league salary if he is sent down, and he did not require an opt-out clause if he doesn’t stick on the ML roster.
This signing is the epitome of the type of team-friendly deals the team should pursue in its offseasons. Arms can be had and for reasonable rates. The risk factor for pitchers is so much lower than for hitters, and we have the park to thank for that.
During the early moves of this offseason, GM Josh Byrnes and Co. seemed intent on trading for arms. As the team moved deeper into the offseason, a formula of trade for offense and sign pitching seemed to prevail, as the team traded for Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso and added via free agency the aforementioned Owings.
Owings brings an interesting mixed bag along with him to spring training. A career WHIP of 1.401 and a K/9 of 6.5 is nothing to get overly excited about. Plus, every 7.51 innings, he’s giving up a home run. However, last season, Owings finished 8-0 (4 starts) with a 3.57 ERA. Additionally, his FIP has decreased significantly from an alarming 5.67 in 2009 to a slightly below average 4.47 last season. He added the cutter back into his repertoir last season, throwing it 77.7% of the time. Given that his 2011 numbers are much stronger, going with the cutter so often seems to have worked for him. However, he’ll need to rely on at least one other pitch in order to hold down the 5th spot, or long relief for that matter.
Much has been said about Owings offensively, as well. While the tongue-in-cheek response of: “We’ve found our cleanup hitter” will garner a laugh or two, honestly, his offense is no joke, especially for a pitcher. In 203 at bats, his slash line is: .286/.313/.507 (.820 OPS) to go along with a beefy ISO of .222. In 45 at bats as a pinch hitter, Owings has hit: .244/.292/.444 (.736 OPS). While the numbers seem sexy on the surface, a K% of 32.3 keeps us grounded in what he can do with the stick: strike out quite a bit but run into one every now and then.
The beauty of this skill set, though, has more to do with what doesn’t happen on the field, and that will be the need to pinch hit for him. The trade of Wade LeBlanc coupled with the cool $2.0M Dustin Moseley just earned, and Owings seems poised to win a long relief role with the club. When relievers come into the game early, the bullpen isn’t the only facet of the team that gets taxed. Typically, the bench gets into the game early and often as well. Owings will allow those bats to be better served as the team works its way back from what is most likely a deficit.
Overall, with the improvements Owings has made the last few seasons, it seems he’s poised to have a very strong 2012. He also has an excellent park for hurlers and two coaches in Balsley and Black who know how to handle a pitching staff. With that little bit of offensive boost, all signs point to this being an excellent acquisition for the team and a firm punctuation mark to what has been a solid first offseason for Byrnes.