Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reliever Countdown Part II

“It is not God's will merely that we should be happy, but that we should make ourselves happy.”

- Immanuel Kant

Tragically, what would make me happy is to continue our a posteiori look at all the right-handed relievers clogging the trade market. Yesterday I promised to count down the top eleven. I lied. I’m going with the top fourteen, because readers sent three more names between comments and tweets. To review, yesterday I ranked the following:

14. Juan Cruz

12. Frank Francisco
11. Kerry Wood
10. Jon Rauch

Today, let’s backtrack a bit and add a name and a new category:


13. Matt Guerrier
Guerrier is with the Dodgers now, and having a mediocre year (1.323 WHIP), meaning it’s a little more in line with his “stuff” than he had with the Twins. I started by putting him a half point behind Jon Rauch on the list because:

1) He’s not having quite as good a year as Rauch and
2) He has a guaranteed contract that pays him through 2013 that pays him somewhere between $7.5M and $10M the next two years.

But the more I thought about it, the less he’ll cost in a trade. He can’t be a free agent, so the whole Type B status thing doesn’t really matter. The Dodgers would probably love to have that back-loaded contract off their books. And it’s not like he’s been especially good this year.

Honestly, the more I think about it, the more likely it seems he ends up returning to the Twins. He was a popular guy – very popular in the Twins clubhouse. He fits the basic need for a fairly reliable mid-inning right-hander. If the Dodgers commit to paying his $3M signing bonus, I gotta think the chances of him returning to the Twins is almost 50/50.

Late thought: I honestly wonder if this isn’t for whom the Twins could trade Kevin Slowey. Discuss.


I ranked and re-ranked the guys in this category at least a dozen times. The challenge is that they all bring different benefits, so they’re hard to compare. What they all have in common is that they’ll cost you someone that you really don’t want to give up.

9. Kyle Farnsworth
I’ll be honest: it kind of depresses me that the Rays might actually sell at the trade deadline, but I’m assured they will. The Rays reliever to grab is the 35-year-old Farnsworth – and actually it kind of depresses me to say that, too. Farnsworth has had a roller-coaster of a career and I always get a little hopeful when he comes into the game for the opposing team. It’s hard to place him this high on this list.

However, there is no denying the success he’s had this year. His WHIP (.957) is one of the best on this list. His control, which has always been a little questionable, has been exceptional, with just 7 walks in 38.2 IP. He’s currently closing for the Rays. The reason I rank him a little lower than the others is that his strikeout rate has only been mediocre, with 28K in 38.2 IP.

Finally, Farnsworth has a $3.3M club option that a team can exercise next year. He also projects as a Type A free agent – but I’m not sure if that increases or decreases his value to any team that acquires him (or for the Rays). My guess is that if a team offered him arbitration, he would simply accept it, and make more than they would pay for the club option.

8. Heath Bell

The Padres closer, and one of the most talked about names on the trade market, only ranks 8th on the list? After all, we’re talking about a closer who has posted 40+ saves over the last two years and is on pace for almost 50 this year. The 33-year-old will be a free agent at the end of the year, but has a 1.195 WHIP. Isn’t he EXACTLY what teams need?

I’ve moved Bell everywhere from 5th to 9th on this list, and ultimately downgraded him because of his strikeout rate this year. IN the previous years, he’s struck out more guys than he has pitched innings, showing absolute dominance. This year he has struck out 28 in 39.1 innings. That just scares me a bit. But I won’t take it personally if you want to rank him above the next much less accomplished relievers.

7. Octavio Dotel
Here’s another name I didn’t expect to find this high on my list. After all, Dotel is basically a 37-year-old journeyman reliever, albeit a pretty successful one. His latest stop has been Toronto, and his numbers this year pop out: 29K in 27 IP with a 1.111 WHIP. He’s been grim death to right-handed hitters (.169 BA/.464 OPS).

But there’s more. He is also is a Type B free agent, and he also has a club option next year for $3.5M. I still feel a little silly ranking Dotel this high – it’s Dotel. (Like I said, you can shuffle a lot of these guys around.) But when I add up all those factors, I end up with him a notch above the crowd.

6. Jim Johnson
The Orioles have talked about turning Johnson, their 28-year-old setup man, into a starter next year. He’s a little different than the other guys in this category because he doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers (38 K in 58 IP), but has had good results (1.155 WHIP). I’m ranking him slightly higher than the others because he’s under team control through arbitration through 2014. But make no mistake, he’s a setup man, not a closer.

5. Grant Balfour

Balfour is Dotel with a better recent track record. You’ll remember him throwing heat with the Twins before a shoulder injury, way back in 2004. This year he’s with Oakland and putting up exactly the kind of numbers you want to see from a right-handed setup guy: 40K in 37.2 IP, 15 BB, and just 24 Hits. That’s just a 1.035 WHIP.

He’s a little more expensive than most on this list, making $4M this year and again in 2012 with a club option for $4.5M in 2013. A savvy team could take his closer-type stuff and that contract and have a hell of a nice option for the next couple of years - even if he never becomes the closer.

Unless you folks throw some more names at me in the comments, that leaves me with four names to cover, including two closers and two setup men. All of them will cost a pound of flesh – but they sure are fun to talk about. See ya on Monday.

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