WTNYSeptember 22, 2003
17 straight in 2004...but where?
By Bryan Smith

Greg Maddux eclipsed a sensational record this week, winning 15 games for the 16th straight season. While I tend to agree with Rob Neyer that the record is a bit overhyped, Maddux is one of the two great pitchers of this generation. The other one, Roger Clemens, will likely be hanging his spikes up for the final time at seasons end. Maddux will enter the free agent market blind for the first time in his life, and actually with lack of desiring competitors.

The Braves know that the only way to keep their aging superstar is to offer him arbitration, where he would make in excess of $10M, a figure he wouldn't come close to approaching on the free agent market. So instead, the team will likely opt to decline him arbitration, meaning they can't negotiate with their best pitcher since Spahn until May 1. That means Greg Maddux has 29 teams to pick from, except not all will be vying for his services.

Why not? Here's the two numbers I would point out:

2001: 8.49
2002: 8.76
2003: 9.32

OPS against (courtesy of ESPN)
2000: .612
2001: .644
2002: .654
2003: .720

These numbers pieced with the fact that Maddux's ERA is the highest it has been since 1987 is frightening. Two weeks into next season Greg will reach the tender age of 38, and be more of an injury concern than ever. Randy Johnson's 2003 is testament to the fact that good things are always ended by old age.

Another disturbing fact is that Maddux's IP/GS was down to 6.1 this season. That figure is significantly lower than 6.95, his career mark. Basically, Maddux goes 6 innings on average, compared to seven during his prime.

But, here's a look at Maddux's 2003 half-season splits:

2003 Pre-AS: 7-8 4.63 135/126.1 76/22
2003 Post-AS: 8-3 3.00 86/87 46/11

Greg has improved as this season went on, which shows a little hope. There's gas left in this tank, and there's no better assistant pitching coach than Maddux. While I believe Leo Mazzone has a good argument for the Hall, not enough of his success is attributed to Maddux. He's helped establish many careers, and is a great acquisition as a player/coach.

So whom could be interested? Here's the following teams that will call Maddux's agent:

1) San Diego Padres
2) Arizona Diamondbacks
3) Boston Red Sox
4) Chicago Cubs
5) Texas Rangers
6) Chicago White Sox
7) Anaheim Angels
8) San Francisco Giants

Now, let's see whom we can eliminate. Peter Gammons reports the Padres will not pursue Maddux, although I believe it would make sense. The Diamondbacks are in huge money problems, and although Greg would like to return home that doesn't seem plausible. Boston will have their priorities in acquiring Vazquez, Schilling, or Colon, with Maddux as a backup. The Cubs will also have priorities in other places, and likely have their rotation filled. But it would be nice to bring him home. Chicago's other team will have that in mind, but should also pursue Colon and Sidney Ponson first. Anaheim wants Miguel Tejada, and will throw millions his way. The Giants make sense, as Maddux would fit in nicely beside Jason Schmidt. But do they have the dough to bring Maddux in?

My final list:

1. Padres
2. Rangers
3. Giants
4. Cubs

I don't really believe Gammons that the team is more apt to sign Sterling Hitchcock than Maddux, and I think they'll pursue him. Texas needs a mentor, and having an ace like Maddux would give them 2004 hope. San Francisco needs rotation arms, and has no problem getting older. And I also threw in the Cubs, because who else will they go after?