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Away for the weekend

I'm going to MetroCon over in Tampa this weekend so I won't be around at all on Saturday (except maybe for a little bit late at night) and not until later in the night on Sunday. What's unfortunate about this, of course, is that I miss a Fossum start tomorrow night.

Earlier in the season when Fossum was finally moved into the rotation I suggested that he might be the best starter for the Rays this season. He had shown good enough control and a high strikeout rate as a reliever and had been a starter for most of his career. So far he has proven me right, not only is he the best starter, I think he's the best and most reliable pitcher, period, on the staff.

Some stats and where he ranks among the rest of the team (minimum 15 innings pitched):

ERA: 3.99 - 2nd (Baez)
WHIP: 1.31 - 2nd (Carter)
BAA: .231 - 2nd (Baez)
OBPA: .326 - 2nd (Carter)
SLGA: .342 - 2nd (Baez)
OPSA: .668 - 2nd (Baez)
H/9: 7.98 - 2nd (Baez)
K/9: 8.90 - 1st
BB/9: 3.84 - 6th (Hendrickson, Waechter, Harper, Carter, Colome)
K/BB ratio: 2.32 - 1st

Almost half his appearances have come as a starter but he's outperforming all but one reliever in most categories and leads everyone in the two generally considered most important: K/9 and K/BB ratio. He has the only ratio above 2, everyone else is either walking too many or not striking out enough, or both.

Fossum as a starter

Seven starts so far

4.03 ERA
38 IP
35 strikeouts
17 walks
3 home runs
1.24 WHIP
.214/.323/.314 BAA/OBPA/SLGA
7.11 H/9
8.29 K/9
4.03 BB/9
2.10 K/BB

Except for his control he has actually been better as a starter, baseball is hitting like Royce Clayton against him.

The question now is what do the Rays do with him? He is making $1.05 million this season, which was the first time he was eligible for arbitration. Even with a good year I don't see him pulling in more than $3.5 million for 2006 but he'll be expensive after that. Then there's the matter of free agency after the next two seasons, the Rays may want to keep him around. After this season, if Fossum's success continues, should the Rays try to lock him down?

The first thing to think about is that Fossum was once a well thought of prospect, good enough to get traded for Curt Schilling. From what I've gathered he was overhyped some, he's not an ace caliber pitcher, but he still had the potential to be very good. His year in Arizona was completely lost, he was just awful, but he was still recovering from shoulder surgery. That can take a long time and he appears to be 100% finally this season.

That raises the biggest concern though with committing to him. Will his shoulder hold up? There's no way of knowing, something that has to be a significant factor in any decision to guarantee him multiple years. The Rays can't afford getting stuck paying a lot of money to a non-contributor.

My opinion is that is Fossum is an above average, healthy starter for the rest of the season then the Rays should take the risk and work out a deal. My preference would be a two-year guaranteed deal with a team option for the third. I can't say for sure what the total cost would be but I think something around $15 million could get it done. Say, $3 million for the first year, $5 million for the second, and $7 million ($1 million buyout) for the option year. That keeps the risk fairly low, only guaranteeing $10 million but giving the Rays the chance to keep him for at least one year of free agency at a reasonable salary. If things work out with prospects and Fossum doesn't have a place on the team later in the deal then the reasonable price would make him great trade bait.

Anyone have any thoughts on whether or not the Rays should give Fossum a multi-year deal after this season if he continues to pitch well?