A Bullpen After My Own Heart

Over the holiday weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays, amid reports that the team had already inked lefty specialist Darren Oliver to a one year contract, reacquired right handed reliever Jason Frasor from the Chicago White Sox for two young Minor League pitchers. Earlier this off season, the Blue Jays also acquired closer Sergio Santos from the Chicago White Sox  in exchange for pitching prospect Nestor Molina.

The three incoming players are to make up for the off season departures of Shawn Camp, Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch. Statistically, that won’t be difficult. In all likelihood, Frasor, Oliver and Santos will join some combination of Chad Beck, Joel Carreno, Danny Farquhar, Jim Hoey, Casey Janssen, Jesse Litsch, Luis Perez and Carlos Villanueva, plus discarded rotation candidates, to form the Blue Jays’ bullpen, at least to start the 2012 season.

Combined, the bullpen will cost the team around $15 million next year, and assuming proper use, probably includes as many as five above average relievers. That’s great value for the money, and even better when you consider that the back end of the bullpen was all acquired this off season.

Let’s take a quick look who will handle the eighth and ninth innings on most days and what they did last season.

  • Jason Frasor vs. RHB: 23% K%, 6.7% BB%, 34.4% GB%.
  • Darren Oliver vs. LHB: 24.5% K%, 4.3% BB%, 42.9% GB%.
  • Sergio Santos vs. both: 35.4% K%, 11.2% BB%, 43% GB%.

The first inclination might be to question Frasor’s lack of ground balls or Santos’ walk rate. However, the relatively low ground ball rate against right handed batters represents a career low for Frasor, and a high number of walks is a little more forgivable when Santos is striking out more than a third of the batters he’s facing.

I’ve preached several times before about how unnecessary it is to spend money on a bullpen, and I’m probably a little bit too quick to mock the Miami Marlins of the world for potentially committing more money to Heath Bell over the next four years than the maximum that the Blue Jays could pay Santos over the next six years (while Toronto holds the option to continue doing so in each of the last three years of the deal).

If I’m going to mock what I consider bad moves, it’s only appropriate that I also praise what I believe to be a good move. Amidst all of the disappointment expressed due to the lack of big spending from the Blue Jays, the front office has quietly gone out and inexpensively found a solution to the most complained about issue among the “not-spending-enough” set from this past season.