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Lieber Signs With Cubs

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Wed, January 16, 2008 12:00 PM | Comments: 5
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The Cubs signed Jon Lieber to a one-year deal today, putting him in their running for fifth starter.

Why the Phillies didn’t approach him to re-sign for a year is beyond me, but maybe they didn’t want injuries to creep back into the picture, and maybe the price is steep. I’ll update with more information and a short retrospective on Lieber later today.

Update: The deal is worth $3.5MM for one year.

Lieber went 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA in limited action between rotation and bullpen last season. He spent three years with the Phils — the life of his contract.

When he signed with the Phillies in December 2004, he was set to make $21MM over three seasons, just below the Adam Eaton deal. Lieber’s track record, however, was much more impressive than Eaton’s — he went 20-6 with a 3.80 ERA in a Top-5 Cy Young year in 2001, and for the majority of his career, was slightly better than average.

Lieber was acquired to be a frontline starter. I remember back in 2004 outlining my prospective Phils roster for the 2005 team. Scouring the free agent list, I noticed Lieber and thought “this is a guy the Phillies would take a chance with” — he had a few good seasons and was coming off a bad injury (he had Tommy John surgery in 2002). To me, Lieber would fit the No. 3 role after a poised Brett Myers and either Randy Wolf or a re-signed Eric Milton.

Instead, Lieber was tapped to be opening day 2005 starter, and while he had a good season (17-13, 4.20 ERA), he wasn’t a No. 1 and probably not a No. 2.

Lieber’s time in Philadelphia was filled with some good, consistent stretches, but overall, he was seen as a waste of dollars — a guy who didn’t quite give what we hoped. I don’t blame Lieber — the contract was substantial, No. 2-quality at its time. He never delivered, because really, he never exhibited a consistency of delivering at that level.

The best aspect of Lieber’s game was control. Overall, he walked a little more than a batter per game, including an astounding 24 walks in 2006. But good control without great stuff means easy hits for batters, and Lieber was always one to give up his share of hits — 510 in 76 games.

But he was consistent. When he won, he won a bunch in a row. When he lost, he lost a bunch in a row. You knew what you were getting almost every time Lieber pitched, just by seeing what he did five days before. In the end, his consistency came to a halt with a foot injury last season.

When looking at the free agent class of 2004, Lieber was actually one of the better pitchers signed. Since the Phils weren’t in the bidding for Pedro Martinez or Roger Clemens, Lieber really was the best available pitcher looking back (though Paul Byrd also had a good three seasons since). The bottom line, however, is Lieber wasn’t worth the $21MM for three years — the kind of money you’d more likely give to a No. 2 starter, at least in 2004. Lieber received jeers because he didn’t quite live up to his contract, but looking at Lieber’s career, how could you expect that?

His best days are likely behind him — maybe in Chicago he’ll redeem himself a bit, putting together a nice string or two for the Central-contending Cubs. A 9-7, 4.80 ERA season isn’t out of the question. It’s out of the question for the Phillies, which probably is for the best.

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About Tim Malcolm

Tim Malcolm has written 1947 articles on Phillies Nation.

 
 
  • Posts: 0 Sean P.

    I wonder how much he signed for?

    I’m suprised the Phillies didn’t go after him either, I guess they like his gas guzzling pick up, or the fact he weighed just as much as that truck did coming into the season.

    Its amazing how a #1 starter falls to getting signed as a mediocre #5 starter. But maybe i shouldn’t since the Philadelphia is the place where #1 starters come to ruin their career.

    Kevin Millwood, Freddy Garcia (hasn’t signed but i’m sure won’t be a #1 guy next year), and now Jon Lieber…

     
  • Posts: 0 brett

    $3.5 mil plus incentives (IP) for one year is not steep–even for the phils.

     
  • Posts: 0 Chris C.

    $3.5 is not steep, but do the Phills need a guy who will be 38 at the start of the season who is not in the type of shape needed to be effective at that age? What would he be good for? I just do not where the upside would be with signing him. May as well take that money to AC, put it all on black and see if you can get a guy who will sign for 1 year for $7 mill.

     
  • [...] the Phillies may be glad that the nearly 38 year old Lieber is gone;  Phillies Nation’s Tim Malcolm surmises that “his best days are likely behind him — maybe in Chicago he’ll redeem [...]

     
  • Posts: 0 PhillyTransplant

    The price is cheap but I don’t think the Phillies could go that low because of rules about how much you have to offer your own free agents (something like at least 70% of their last salary isn’t it?)

    They could use another pitcher but with Moyer at his age we need someone younger with potential to be here 2-3 years. Lieber’s not the guy – I’d rather take a shot with Durbin or Happ at the 5 than overpay him.

     
 
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