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.

Comments (19)

  1. Well said. I’m pretty happy with this bullpen and I’m looking forward to seeing how well they perform this season. Hopefully the starting pitchers manage to go deep often enough so the ‘pen isn’t overused.

  2. I agree. A great job so far. The best part is that is a large pool with which to round out the remaining part of the bullpen as you pointed out. Allows you to use the best and insulate against injury.

    So if I look at the team as whole I think
    Bullpen: good to go.
    Offence: good could use another bat maybe but I’d be ok with as is
    Rotation: Would like to see AA steal a number 2 or 3 from somewhere
    Uniforms: New and Excellent
    General Mgr: Captain Kirk of GMs: charms Orion slave girls er GMs into trading away something for nothing
    Stadium: Meh

    Almost there…

  3. JP Ricciardi built excellent bullpens for years on the cheap, too. It didn’t matter because there wasn’t enough talent on the rest of the team. AA still needs to add a bat and a SP before this offseason is over.

    • Very true. The Blue Jays generally had a top 5 bullpen under J.P. We also had a true Ace, and we still didn’t get to the playoffs. History suggests this team needs much more.

  4. I don’t think a bat is super-necessary at this point. A lineup that features Bautista, Lawrie, Escobar, Rasmus, Johnson, Snider, and a platoon of EE/Lind is going to score plenty of runs. It’s more about keeping the other team off the scoreboard. Would another bat be awesome? Hell yeah, but I think the Jays need to place more value on getting another starting pitcher than acquiring another bat.

  5. I’m content with the bullpen as it stands. I don’t think it’ll be a great bullpen, but it should be pretty good and able to get the job done most nights.

    Now if the Blue Jays would just do away with the closer role and forget that the save statistic exists,* I’d be very happy.

    * I will freely admit that this is highly unlikely.

  6. There is so much depth right now among young relievers with the Jays that I honestly don’t think it CAN be all that bad next season.

    They’ve hedged their bets with Oliver and Frasor who are proven and Santos who has the potential to be everything that the “sign a closer” crowd wants and more. You know Jansen will give you quality appearances.

    Still, with the arms you’ve mentioned (Chad Beck, Joel Carreno, Danny Farquhar, Jim Hoey, Casey Janssen, Jesse Litsch, Luis Perez and Carlos Villanueva) There is simply too much talent for some combination not to emerge as an effective pen.

    Great work by AA to smartly fashion a very efficient bull-pen without spending dollars that will eventually be needed elsewhere.

  7. Okay, so we get Frasor back after one year.


    • In order to get JPA more at-bats. Nobody could have predicted the second half Napoli had last year.

      • Lest you forget, the whole process of acquiring napoli was not for actually acquiring napoli…it was to shed vernon and his albatross contract…no matter who came the other way, they were never going to be part of the plan

    • Hindsight is 20/20

      • Except even without that hindsight, the Jays needed a bench depth guy far more than Francisco, WHEN THEY ALREADY HAD FRASOR.

        At least if “oh, Frasor was a bad guy that we were happy to see go” was the reason, I’d be fine with it. But they liked him enough to scoop him up again the first chance they got!

  8. it sounds promising but they will still finish behind the billion-dollar payrolls of New York and Boston. The league is set up to favour the most supported and needed markets, it’s about making money -not sports!

  9. I think Carrreno was pretty good in the pen last year

  10. Excellent stuff, I agree that the bullpen looks to be in great shape next year and more than content to see Santos going balls out next year. Hopefully his arm/elbow falls off for whatever reason! A #1-2 would be ideal, but I’d rather not overpay now and just go in-house until the right opportunity presents itself.

  11. i’m not sure oliver and frasor are the best late-inning options before santos. maybe the image of oliver giving up the biggest hits in the playoffs the last couple of years has soured me. and watching jason frasor stare at the catcher like a frightened child is also not inspiring confidence, especially when your 7 or 8th inning situations are often your highest leverage. would prefer to see janssen and carreno with perez handling lefties myself.

  12. I for one am excited about 2012. There are some building blocks in place and I think the Jays can win 90-95 games. Will they make a run in 2013/14? When guys like Snider and JPA and Lawrie and Escobar get more AB’s and they shore up the starting lineup, then go for broke. 2013 is our year!

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