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Tomko Not A Pitcher Of "Last Resort"

[December 14th] -- Poor Brett Tomko. He's like the kid in gym class who always got picked last when the class divided into teams. As the free agent signing period continues, he'll likely be one of the very last starting pitchers picked.

And I'm not sure why.

Look, I know his 2005 record of 8-15, 4.48 isn't exactly stellar. In 190 innings, the 32 year old gave up 205 hits, walked 57 and struck out 114. But like recently acquired Brian Lawrence, his 2005 numbers aren't indicative of his career success.

Since joining the Reds in 1997, Tomko has amassed a career record of 81-73 with an ERA of 4.26. Granted, those aren't Cy Young numbers, but they certainly reflect an acceptable back-of-the-rotation pitcher. His average big league season looks like this: 12-10, 4.26, 203 innings pitched, 116 strikeouts, 56 walks.

Still don't want him on the team? You say you'd rather have someone like Javier Vasquez, who was just traded to the White sox for three players? Well, last season, Vasquez went 11-15, 4.42, very similar to Tomko's 8-15, 4.48. Vasquez, who began his career the same year as Tomko, has a career season average of 11-12, 4.28.

So Tomko has averaged 12-10, 4.26 over his eight year career, and he will probably sign for less than a million dollars, and Vasquez has averaged 11-12, 4.28 over his eight year career, and is making more than $10 million per year on a multi-year contract.

Huh?

The Washington Nationals could easily sign Tomko for 2006, and get a pitcher with similar career stats for a tenth of the cost. So why don't they? I'm not sure. My guess is, however, that Tomko is performing at the level expected of him, and Vasquez continues to carry the label "untapped potential." The Marlins, the Yankees, the Diamondbacks, and now the White Sox think they have some magic formula that will unlock Vasquez's talent.

The Nationals should sign Tomko, throw him into the five slot in the rotation, wind him up and watch him go. At year's end, he probably will have won 10-12 games with an ERA around 4.20. And that's good. But you know what? So will Vasquez. And that's bad.


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