Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tampa Relief Fund

Photo from the Tampa Tribune
It's a good year to be a free agent reliever.  Rafael Soriano signed with the
New York Yankees for 3 years and $35MM.

This off season has seen a meteoric rise in reliever contracts.  The quality of relief pitchers on the market this off season has been high but the contracts have been higher.  The real questions are, are relief pitchers worth giving up draft picks for (if they are a type A free agent) and are they worth large mutli year deals?  The Tampa Bay Rays don't seem to think so.

So far this off season the Rays have watched as Grant Balfour, Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Dan Wheeler, Chad Qualls, Randy Choate and Lance Cormier all departed from their bullpen.  This group has signed contracts worth an absurd total of $67.1MM (Cormier is still unsigned) this off season.  Instead of resigning any of their departing relievers the Rays have capitalized on MLB's draft pick compensation program.  Balfour and Soriano were both Type A free agents, while Qualls and Choate were both Type B.  This nets the team 6 draft picks early on in the 2011 draft.  Chad Qualls is the most impressive of that group since for all intents and purposes the Rays traded for him during the season last year to gain the draft pick in what scouts are calling a "deep 2011 draft."

Now the Rays still have to replace all of these relievers but they also seem to have figured out that the majority of relievers are a dime a dozen and don't seem to be worth a mutli year contract by the time the contract is over.  Minor league contracts and young pitchers who can't crack a starting rotation are good ways of doing so.  They have gone ahead and signed Joel Peralta ($900,000k) and Kyle Farnsworth ($3.25MM) as well as re-signed J.P. Howell ($1.1MM) on a team friendly deal.  They have also expressed interest in former Red Sox reliever, Manny Delcarmen.  Prior to the Farnsworth signing and their upcoming arbitration cases (B.J. Upton and Andy Sonnanstine) the Rays only had $18.34MM tied up this season.  That leaves plenty of room in their budget to aquire another reliever such as Delcarmen, who would not cost the team a draft pick.  It also leaves room for them to look at sluggers such as Vladimir Guerrero for their DH slot which would offset the loss of Carlos Pena.

The Rays are as progressive of an organization as any out there in sports and they seem to understand their main way to compete is by utilizing the draft.  They have maximized that chance this off season by understanding the relief pitching market better than other teams seem to.


  1. Wow, I had no idea the Rays had basically gutted their bullpen. I am intrigued with how they run their FO and seem to have great success. They just agreed with Upton, avoiding arbitration. I will miss Peralta and thought he was solid for us last year in the last few months of the season.

    This is off topic but who do you see closing for the Nationals? I hate closer by committee but I am not totally confident in Storen at this time.

  2. It is quite impressive what they have done with their bullpen. While they have gutted it almost completely they have also gained the 6 picks just from losing relievers, all before the 2nd round. This might be a down year for them but I wouldn't be shocked to see them make a strong return in 2012.

    As far as the Nats closer situation I too am not a fan of closer by committee and am also not sure if Storen is completely ready for the job either. However at this point in the off season I don't think there are any free agent relievers that would be better than just letting the bulk of the oppurtunities go to Storen. The only downside is if he struggles (ala Hanrahan a couple years ago) it could cause a psyche problem.

    I really felt like the Nats needed to sign a veteran reliever because the bullpen is VERY young. It reminds me somewhat of Bowden's last year in office when he rolled out the bullpen full of young guys and it was awful. At least Clippard and Burnett have a solid track record but beyond that I'm just not sure what we have. A lot of power arms with huge K rates but it isn't a guarantee it works out. Maybe a stab at Aaron Heilman for a veteran presence, but he really isn't that great. Manny Delcarmen, Todd Coffey and Chad Durbin are all out there too. I wouldn't mind the Nats taking a flyer on Chris Ray either. He is a free agent and has closer experience.