Potential FA target: Paul Maholm


If the Tigers want to shop around for a left-handed starting pitcher on the free-agent market this winter, they will ultimately give Paul Maholm a look (I refuse to say kick the tires – it‘s played out).  Maholm, who is indeed a southpaw recently had his $9.75 million option for 2012 declined by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Maybe some people hold the opinion that Jacob Turner will be ready to start out of the gate in 2012, but I’m not so sure.  I think the idea of signing a guy to conjure up some competition isn’t a bad idea, plus throw in the fact the Tigers are void of a left-handed starter and you got, well, a double not-so-bad idea.

Maholm is an intriguing case this offseason.  The starting pitching market is a little thin, which bodes well for Maholm’s finances.  He is also coming off of a career year in which he posted 3.66 ERA in 162.1 innings.  However, Paul did have himself a rocky August in which his numbers got a little ugly, thanks in large part to a shoulder strain that eventually put him on the shelf for the remainder of 2011.  This was the lefties first stint on the DL, which suggests he isn’t injury prone, though Maholm had mentioned it was an issue that has popped up on and off throughout the last couple years.

While Maholm did post nice numbers in ‘08, which helped him net a nice 3-year $13.75 million deal, ‘09 and ‘10 weren’t exactly great years for Paul.  In 2009 he finished up with a 4.44 ERA, and 2010 things got a little worse as his ERA went over 5.00.  However in 2011, May, June and July were terrific months for the 29-year-old.  In that time, he carried a 2.81 ERA with a .247 batting avg. against in just over 100 innings.

Paul Maholm is your proto-typical soft-tossing/crafty lefty.  His fast ball tops out around 88-89.  He’ll throw a cutter around 83 mph, and a curveball around 79.  Watching this guy pitch, it’s fairly evident, he doesn’t have amazing stuff.  In his career he has struck out less than six batters per nine innings, while walking just under three.

But as long as the shoulder issue is straightened out, Paul Maholm could be a durable innings eater from the left side.  And his nice stretch I earlier documented from the middle of last season indicates he’s the type of pitcher who has the tendency to be fairly effective.

Of course anytime you bring a career National Leaguer over to the AL, the red flag will inevitably pop up.  A quick look at his inter-league numbers will probably muster a sigh from some of you, as they are less than flattering.  In 112.2 innings pitched against the AL, Maholm has posted a 4.63 ERA with a WHIP of 1.562.

Options like Maholm will have to be considered though.  Other coveted left-handed free-agents such as C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle don’t have the signability that a guy like Maholm has for the Tigers.

Jacob Turner will more than likely be given an opportunity to compete for a rotation spot coming out of the gates in 2012.  He is a fantastic talent, but for God sakes lets remind ourselves the kid is 20-years-old.  There’s a lot of people that feel he still needs some seasoning in the minors.  Adding a guy such as Maholm adds depth to the position, and it could allow Turner to develop more away from the big leagues.

Hopefully you will not read this as some sort of ringing endorsement for Maholm – I’m merely saying he’s option that makes a little bit of sense.  He’s in the prime of his career, he’s left-handed, and I’m guessing he could be had for a relatively modest price.  If they could sign him for two years, that would be ideal.  But three years at $17 or $18 million wouldn’t necessarily break the bank.

One way or another, I’d like to see the Tigers add a back of the rotation type guy to add some depth.  This particular lefty might be a decent fit.