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The Idea of Kevin Millwood

First of all, I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving and that you were smart enough to bring your laptops to bed with you so you could read my blog when you inevitably could not get out of bed. If not, and you are reading this after you were successfully able to remove yourself from the you shaped chasm in your mattress, then I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving last week. On to business.

It was recently reported that the Royals had interest in Kevin Millwood. Shockingly, Millwood is a former Brave, but I’m actually not sure if that is the reason for the impetus with this player. The story of Millwood shows a pretty interesting career path. He came to the majors in the late 90s and was given the opportunity to learn from those great Braves pitching staffs. His first full season in 1998 was almost exactly on the nose of average with the exception of his 17 wins. Those Braves teams were REALLY good. 1999 was when he broke out in a big way with 18 wins and a 2.68 ERA. For those of you who care about this sort of thing (it will be all of you when I get done with you), he earned it. He struck out over eight batters per nine innings and he walked 2.3. He gave up just 168 hits in 228 innings and coupled with his walks earned him a rare WHIP under 1 by a starter. He was fantastic.

Millwood’s next two seasons with the Braves were pretty well average and he followed those up with another very good year that the Braves cashed in on and traded him to Philadelphia for Johnny Estrada. Two average (sensing a trend?) years later, Millwood signed a value building deal with the Indians where he posted a fantastic ERA of 2.86. The peripherals didn’t match up quite with that, but they did indicate that he was a very good pitcher that year which took him from a pitcher on the brink of becoming a journeyman to a guy looking for a big contract. Luckily for Millwood, the Rangers organization hadn’t gotten smart yet and he found a five-year deal in the place pitchers go to die. One mediocre season followed by two poor seasons put the Rangers in a position with Millwood that was expected by most.

*One of the best games of the year that the Royals and Zack Greinke were involved in came against the Rangers and Kevin Millwood. It was early on, just Millwood’s third start. Millwood had been lights out early, but this game was in Texas, so it looked like this might be when both pitchers actually give up some runs for the first time. Millwood lost a complete game and gave up just two runs, but Zack was better. I remember Soria got the save and being so disappointed that it wouldn’t be another complete game for Greinke.

A funny thing happened, though. Millwood had his traditional above average season*. Once every five years whether he needed it or not. He won 13 games and had an ERA of 3.67. His strikeout rate was continuing to plummet, though, so it was pretty obvious that he would have difficulty replicating that season. Well now the Rangers had gotten smart and found a trade partner who would value the veteran leadership that is often spewed from front offices when they acquire a lackluster player either in a trade or as a free agent. They were able to pawn him off on the Orioles where he pitched pretty well for his first seven or eight starts before absolutely caving in. He lost 16 games and had an ERA of over 5.00.

So now he’s a free agent and rumor has it that the Royals are interested in his services. For the right price, I’d sadly rather see Millwood over O’Sullivan. And I do understand the value of signing a veteran to eat some innings in order for the young guys to have some time to develop and not be forced into action. While I get it, Millwood is not the guy you want for this. His low strikeout rate coupled with the Royals defense is a recipe for an Elarton-esque disaster. Interestingly enough, Millwood’s the guy I wanted the Royals to go after instead of Elarton. For an incentive based deal, I say go to town and give him the fifth starter job, but for anything more than $1 or $2 million, he’ll end up as a sunk cost.

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