It obviously would be another great get for the Nats to sign free agent four-time All-Star right-hander Ben Sheets. He has spent his entire eight-year career with the Milwaukee Brewers and had a very impressive 13-9, 3.09 ERA in 31 starts back in 2008.
He had 5 complete games that season and 3 shutouts, which was a career high. Sheets won a Gold Medal for the U.S.A. in 2000 Summer Olympics in which he pitched 22 innings, struck out 11 batters, walked one, and gave up 11 hits during the tournament.
The 31-year-old missed 2009 after surgery for a torn flexor tendon. The Nationals were expected to send scouts to attend his throwing session today, along with several other teams.
Sheets has a lifetime ERA of 3.72 and 1,206 strikeouts (compared to only 313 walks) over eight seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (a U-Va alum), the long-time beat writer for the Brewers in Milwaukee gave me the breakdown on the veteran Ben Sheets:
"When healthy, Sheets had a devastating combination of a live fastball and killer curveball, keeping hitters off balance and leading to high strikeout totals. He also had superb command of those pitches, resulting in very low walk totals.
Unfortunately for Sheets, the "when healthy" phrase popped up all too often during the last few years. Once a dependable workhorse, he battled injuries throughout the four-year, $38.5 million contract that ended after the 2008 season.
Then, he was unable to take advantage of his first taste of free agency, instead undergoing a flexor tendon surgery and sitting out all of '09. That's why nobody knows for sure what he has left and why he has to throw today for scouts."
What separated Ben from other pitchers in his tenure with Milwaukee?
"What made Ben a top pitcher was his competitiveness, so I'm guessing he is bound and determined to come back from that injury."
How about his personality, he seems to be a pretty fun guy to be around. Do you think he would be a good influence on young pitchers like Stephen Strasburg?
"Ben is a funny guy who knows when to be serious. He talks in "cajun" at times but that's a bit of an act. I'm guessing he could be helpful to any young pitcher looking to learn a few things."
A lot of teams are interested. Would Milwaukee try to resign him today?
"The Brewers are going to scout Sheets today but they've given no indication they plan to make him an offer. If he's successful in coming even close to getting the kind of money he wants, he won't fit their budget in any event.
I'm guessing he goes elsewhere. No real bridges were burned, but club officials know how much trouble Sheets had staying on the mound over the length of his big contract in Milwaukee."
So do you think Ben still has something left in the tank?
If Sheets can stay healthy, "somebody will get a good pitcher who knows how to compete and likes winning. Being unable to pitch in the 2008 post-season, after waiting so many years for the Brewers to make it, was a tough thing for Sheets to stomach, and a tough way to end his time in Milwaukee."
Thanks to Tom for the primer on Ben Sheets and lets see how it works out today for the Nats.
By the way, I am off to Dayton today with GW basketball and Nats pitcher Craig Stammen is expected to join me at the game Wednesday night. I will try to get him for the half-time interview and post it after the game for you.
The Flyers alum has been talking a ton of trash about Dayton basketball, and he is right, they are a very good team this season. They have been good for awhile. He was pretty bummed the way the Bengals' season ended versus the Jets a couple of weeks ago. I will get an update from him on the offseason and when he plans to head down to Viera.