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Ben Sheets' impending surgery makes it clear why he had
not garnered a whole lot of interest this offseason.
Kelvin Ma/Icon SMI

Free agent right-hander Ben Sheets is planning to have the flexor tendon tear near his right elbow surgically repaired and is hopeful for a return in the second half of the 2009 season, his agent Casey Close told SI.com.

MLB.com first reported today that Sheets was considering surgery.

After failing to receive any offers reflective of his superior talent, Close said Sheets concluded, "I'm just going to get this fixed.''

Noted sports surgeon James Andrews will likely perform the surgery.

Sheets has had a career comparable to A.J. Burnett yet Burnett's big second half last season led to an $82.5 million, five-year deal, while Sheets, who actually started the All-Star Game last year but hurt his elbow in September, was getting only one-year offers with relatively low bases (probably no more than $5 million) and mostly incentives.

At one point, Sheets and the Rangers were discussing the framework for a two-year deal, but when that fell apart, Sheets determined he'd be better off having the surgery now and gambling that he could return to his usual form. Sheets was 13-9 last year, but teams were focused on his flexor tendon tear and the uncertainty it was causing. Sheets also noticed how Burnett's excellent few months attracted a lot of attention on the free-agent market and is hopeful he can come back as a difference maker in July or August.

Doctors told Sheets he could try to pitch through it but that at some point it would probably go. They also told him they wouldn't know when that would be until he got on a mound and threw at maximum effort.

By getting the surgery now, Sheets removes the uncertainty. He also gambles that the free-agent market will be slightly better next season. "With 10 or 12 starts, he's going to be in pretty good shape," Close said.

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