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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reliever Countdown

The Twins need right-handed relievers. You know this. I know this. The front office, the coaches and the players know this. It’s become a priori; even Kant knows it. It’s transcendental.

What I don’t know, and haven’t seen, is exactly what the Twins can do about it. So let’s do a little a posteiori analysis on eleven names that could be available this trade deadline. While we’re at it, we’ll rank them from the least to the most desirable. We’ll group them by what it might take to land them.


11. Juan Cruz
The 32-year-old bounced back a little this season with the Rays after two miserable years with the Royals. It’s nice that the Rays were to get a 3.44 ERA and 21 hits in 34 inning from a guy they signed to a minor league deal. Unfortunately, Cruz is still having troubles with his control (he also has 21 BB) and now he’s sidelined until after the deadline with a strained groin. It’s a shame, because in some ways he’s having a better year than the next two guys on the list, but he wouldn’t cost a team nearly as much thanks to how the Collective Bargaining Agreement rewards teams that lose free agents. (See, Francisco, Frank.)


10. Frank Francisco
He’s the former closer for the Rangers and was supposed to be the closer for the Blue Jays. He started the year on the DL with some pectoral/shoulder problem, came back, was given the closing duties and has now lost them again.

If you take nothing else away from this story, take away this: you can tell a lot about the year a reliever is having by looking at his WHIP (Walks + Hits/Inning Pitched). 1 is awesome. 1.5 is very bad. Francisco’s is 1.725. If the Twins go after him, it’s because they think they see something they can fix.

The Blue Jays shouldn’t need to be talked into selling off their relievers since their team sits 9.5 GB of the wild card. Indeed, it almost looks like management assembled their bullpen with the express purpose of selling at the trade deadline. Francisco is a free agent at the end of the season, so you might think he could be had at a reasonable price. But that’s where the Collective Bargaining Agreement comes in.

Currently, Francisco is on track to be a “Type B” free agent, meaning the team that he leaves would receive a supplementary draft pick after the first round if they offered him arbitration. Provided he finishes the year fine, he’s a safe bet to offer arbitration, so the Jays will get a good draft pick by NOT trading him. That’s why a team will need to give up a decent prospect to get him.

9. Kerry Wood
Gawd, what a winding road it has been for this 34-year-old. He looked like he bounced back last offseason, accepted a $1.5M offer just so he could pitch with the Cubs again, but has struggled (1.516 WHIP) in the right-handed setup role there. His control has been especially shaky, and lately he’s been dealing with a blister.

The Cubs will be selling, and Wood will be a free agent this offseason, but he will also cost a team a decent prospect for the same reason Francisco will – he’s on track to be a Type B free agent.

8. Jon Rauch
Yep – same scary neck tatoo guy that you know. He signed with the Blue Jays and has gotten a fair number of saves while Francisco has struggled. As with the Twins, he hasn’t been especially dominant: 27K in 39.1 IP and a 1.271 ERA. Whichever team trades for him can also bring him back next year at $3.75M, which seems fair. He also projects as a Type B free agent, so letting him walk could conceivably net a supplementary pick – unless the team was worried his saves would jack up his arbitration case.

I’ll just say this for the last time and then let it drop: Rauch will have similar stats to what Matt Capps had when the Twins gave up Wilson Ramos for him last year, including the “closer” experience that some deemed so valuable. He’s also on pace to finish the season with stats similar to what Capps has last year; the same performance that convinced the Twins to pay $7M so he would return in 2011. And one can expect just about the same out of Rauch in 2012 that one could reasonably have expected out of Capps this year.

Some might think that piling on Capps at this point is gratuitous, but that misses the point: I’m not piling on Capps at all. I’m piling on the front office’s infatuation. They repeatedly tried to acquire him, finally paid a premium price, and then compounded the mistake by overpaying so again in the offseason. And the entire time they defiantly told critics that we were missing something.

Turns out, we are. We’re missing Wilson Ramos, $7 million and seven blown wins.

So, if you were a big fan of the whole Matt Capps move, I present to you: Jon Rauch. While I’d like to say there is almost no chance o him coming back, who knows what the front office will favor?

We’ll get to #7 through #4 tomorrow (in part because I’m not quite sure how I’ll rank them) and then finish up the list on Monday. And if you have any other names you would like me to make sure are included, let me hear about them in the comments section. Or, follow me on twitter and send me a tweet with the names you want to hear.