When the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to non-tender Jeff Karstens a contract over the winter instead of going to arbitration with him because he was projected to make about $3.8 million, I thought it was a dumb decision. Karstens pitched well enough in 2012 to make himself that money and the Pirates, for once, had the money available to spend. They did indeed non-tender him. For some reason, no other teams showed any real interest in the versatile right-hander, so the Pirates were able to resign Karstens to a one-year, $2.5 million deal.
Karstens has had injury problems throughout his entire Pirates career. In just 2012, he missed significant time with hip, shoulder AND groin injuries. The guy is made of glass apparently. The Pirates knew about his injury risk and they knew that he likely wouldn’t be able to contribute much early this season. I highly doubt, however, that they had been anticipating Karstens missing this much time without throwing a single pitch. Seemingly every time Karstens gets close to taking nice steps in his rehab process, he has a setback of some type. This happened again on Friday. While throwing on Friday, Karstens felt pain in his throwing shoulder. It’s getting to the point now where questions have to be raised, was it really worth it to sign Karstens, knowing the injury risks?
Personally, I think it was worth it. The contract was very team friendly, and I try to avoid calling a transaction a failure due to an injury, rather than on-field performance. When Karstens is able to play, he is a solid contributor. During his seven-year career, Karstens has seen time as a reliever and a starter, posting a career 4.48 ERA. Karstens is one of the best control pitchers in MLB, with a 1.8 BB/9 in 2011 and a 1.5 BB/9 in 2012.
I’m not going call this a good signing or a bad signing at this point in the season. If August comes around and Karstens still isn’t contributing, then sure, it was a mistake. Until then, I’m just hoping he can get healthy so he can help the Pirates make a long awaited postseason run.