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posted by bernie at 11 last night at the Pressbox:

Tomo Ohka

They're talking. Duncan wants him.

i've been wondering when they'd get around to this guy. he fits the mold: throws strikes, pitches to contact, gets groundballs. his durability is somewhat of a question mark --- he's thrown fewer than 100 innings in two of the last three seasons --- but that issue might be overblown: the missed time in 2004 resulted from a freak injury, a line drive that smashed his pitching arm to smithereens. he came back from that injury sound --- threw 180 innings the following year (ie 2005), with an 11-9 record and a 4.04 era --- although his peripherals took a marked dip: his k/bb dropped from 2.5 before the injury to 1.7 in 2005. the k/bb dipped again to 1.4 last season, when a shoulder problem limited him to only 97 innings; he went to the dl in early may, stayed there for more than two months, and got murdered after he came back: 5.71 era in 12 starts, with a k/9 one full point lower than his career average. ohka's normally impeccable command also faltered; he walked 3.2 men per 9 last year, after carrying a career average of 2.4 bb/9 into the season. only 3 of those final 12 appearances met the "quality start" criteria.

the reports of the shoulder injury have a mulder-y whiff about them: vague descriptions of stiffness, with the rotator cuff suspected to be the cause of the discomfort. that, combined with the drop in ohka's k rate, would have me concerned. on the other hand, he is the type of pitcher duncan and la russa always seem to get the most out of --- a league-avg mid-career veteran with good command and intelligence. he wasn't offered arbitration and therefore won't cost the signing team a draft pick; if it were possible to get ohka on a short deal (say, a 1-year guarantee with an option), i'd be all in favor. one report from the winter meetings claimed there are seven teams chasing ohka, but the pitcher's agent is the source of that estimate, so discount accordingly. on the other hand, if adam eaton can get a 3 yr / $24m deal, there's no reason tomo ohka shouldn't demand about the same. knowing nothing about ohka's shoulder other than what i've read on the Net in the last 10 minutes, i don't know if i'd want to stake three years' worth of payroll on the guy.

for what it's worth, ZIPS projects ohka to a 4.53 era. MLB Trade Rumors recently had a good capsule summary of ohka's career.

if the cards are going to take a run at a pitcher with injury risk, they might get a better deal out of john thomson, who was reportedly close to signing a one-year pact with seattle earlier this month. the mariners' acquisition of miguel batista likely curtails their interest in thomson, who missed half the 2005 season with a bad tendon and half of 2006 with shoulder inflammation. combine the two half-seasons thomson did pitch and you get 32 starts, 179 innings, a 6-13 record, and a 4.63 era (1.475 whip, 3.0 bb/9, 5.4 k/9). he was a very good pitcher as recently as 2004 (14-8, 3.72 era) and got off to a terrific start last season (1.87 era through may 15) before his shoulder acted up; but he pitched only 1 inning after july 18 last year, which likely explains why he's available on a short deal. given the cards' signing of kip wells and their apparent interest in carl pavano, i see no reason why they'd rule out thomson. he has thrown more innings, and pitched far more effectively, than wells over the last three seasons; he's got a strong groundball tendency and good career rates in k/bb and hr/9. if they can get him for a year with an option, why not?

john thomson's ZIPS projection: .500 record, 4.47 era.

the free-agent pool might deepen ever so slightly today, as it's the deadline for clubs to offer contracts to their arbitration-eligible players; anyone who is denied an offer (or non-tendered) becomes a free agent. derrick goold posted a short list of possible non-tenders recently at Bird Land; it includes one pitcher in whom the cardinals have shown prior interest, rodrigo lopez. this guy has jason marquis written all over him --- has good stuff but is a terrible pitcher. his era for the last 4 seasons combined (a 716-inning parcel) is 5.04. he does have better peripherals than marquis, and he gets groundballs and is durable . . . . .

gag. ZIPS projects lopez to go 11-15 with a 4.92 era.