Thursday, February 2, 2012

On bypassing the veteran middle relievers

There are a number of Twins bloggers -- most prominently Aaron Gleeman -- vocally unhappy with the Twins' activity, or lack of it, in the middle-relief free agent market.

As Gleeman sees it, Terry Ryan and Co. erred first by re-signing Matt Capps, then by bypassing a flock of veterans who have signed more cheaply than Capps, or who haven't signed at all (yet).

I don't share Gleeman's displeasure. I'm inclined to agree with Ryan's sense of Capps' ability and value, to begin with; as much as I respect Gleeman's analysis and insight, I suspect he's holding the Wilson Ramos trade against Capps.

Brad Lidge, once one
of the most feared closers
in the game, threw
less than 20 innings
in 2011 for the Phillies.
He's signed with
Most of the relievers on Gleeman's list are older guys clearly on the way down and increasingly relegated to low-leverage roles. Brad Lidge? His fast ball is gone; he's basically down to his slider now, and while that remains a high-quality pitch, the amount of time he's missed in recent seasons suggests that it takes too heavy a toll. If the Phillies thought he had use, they wouldn't have so emphatically walked away from him. Jonathan Broxton? We'll see how he fares in Kansas City, but for my money he's a classic case of Joe Torre bullpen burnout. Jon Rauch? LaTroy Hawkins? Been there, done that.

That the likes of Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls are signing minor league deals elsewhere does not disturb me. The Twins have plenty of non-roster invitees, maybe too many -- but they are generally younger and unestablished, and to me that offers the possibility of finding a hidden gem. Wheeler is 34, had an ERA above 5 for most of 2011, didn't pitch at all after Sept. 7 and was seldom entrusted by the Red Sox with game situations. Are the Twins really losing out on anything there?

Maybe Wheeler is better than (picking a 40-man roster arm at random) Kyle Waldrop, but I doubt the difference is significant enough to opt for certain mediocrity over possible mediocrity. I think the Twins can get from the unknowns at least what they would be getting from the known quantities, and possibly -- possibly -- more.


  1. Gleeman is typical ignorant blogger. The strength of his opinions is unrelated to how likely he is to be right. His value is as an entertaining writer, even if it is simply a rewrite of someone else's analysis.

    I think you hit the nail on the head in terms of why he is wrong here. But there is another important problem. That is the assumption the Twins could have signed those guys even if they wanted to. The free agent "market" is not a marketplace where the buyer gets to make the decisions. The players decide who they will sign with. And, like anyone looking for a job, salary is only one consideration in that decision. A team that just lost 99 games, has a bunch of young pitchers competing for jobs and a reputation for promoting players from within might not be at the top of the list if you are 34 and looking for a spot to play.

  2. I suggest Edward that you take a look at last years Bullpen. How did that work out? Again this year the search is on to find this years version of Dusty Hughes and Jim Hoey.