Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Free agent arbitration: Brian Fuentes

2011 age: 35 (turns 36 in August)

Free agent classification: Type B

2010 basic stats: 4-1, 24 saves, 2.81 ERA (Full stats here)

2010 salary: $9 million

The Outsider's verdict: No

In less than two full seasons as the Angels closer before
being traded to the Twins, Brian Fuentes had 71 saves
and an ERA of 3.76.
Diminished role should equal a diminished salary, and that's the basic argument against offering arbitration to Brian Fuentes.

Fuentes has been paid the past two seasons as a top-flight closer. In truth, he was probably never at that level despite leading baseball in saves in 2009, and he certainly isn't now.

He's still an effective pitcher -- sure death on left-handed hitters (.128/.222/.149 in 2010) but a bit home-run prone versus righties. Depending on his bullpen mates, he can be a second-tier closer, a top-flight set-up man or an overqualified LOOGY. None of those roles is worthy of $9 million a year.

If the Twins offer arbitration and he accepts, the lowest offer the team can make is a 20 percent cut, or $7.2 million. That might be justifiable in their salary scale if he's the closer, but that job, at least in theory, still belongs to the rehabbing Joe Nathan.

The Twins have, in the past, effectively capped what they'll pay set-up men at around $3 million. Even if that rises this offseason, it's not going to double.

They could offer arbitration it they were sure that somebody else is going to purse Fuentes as a closer, but that's hardly a certainty. The market is unlikely to put as high a price tag on the short-arming southpaw as arbitration is likely to.

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