There is no harm in asking, I guess we could say. When the news “trickled” out last week that Rafael Soriano seeks a 4-year, $60 million contract, many people scoffed. The richest contract for any reliever ever and it would go to Rafael Soriano? Nope, not happening.
And then Brandon League happened. It was crazy at first and only looked crazier as different elevators and bonuses could raise its total value from $22.5 million dollars to more than $33 million. Which, for Brandon League, is in fact crazy.
Paying for relief pitching on the free agent market seems as inefficiently as a team can spend their precious dollars. While locking up an elite, established reliever like Jonathan Papelbon certainly helps the team win a few more games, the asking price of all relievers is on the rise.
The recent flurry of waiver claims and re-signing of Joel Peralta show front offices will do whatever they can to avoid paying big bucks for relief pitching. All the while other GMs endlessly pursue “power arms” with “swing-and-miss” stuff via trades. One trade after another for relief pitchers. Each more fungible than the last!
Building a bullpen for some teams resembles a fickle old man setting the temperature in his bathtub: constantly tinkering and adding hot or cold water, never satisfied but ever vigilant.
The top five bullpens in baseball (by WPA) represent the full spectrum of bullpen building styles. The Rangers stacked pen features free agent signings mixed with trade pieces and homegrown starters slumming until they’re needed in the rotation. The Athletics also signed a closer off the free agent market but supplemented Grant Balfour with spare parts and converted infielders.
The Braves have no need to spend on expensive veterans as the in-house options are…compelling. Not every team (or any team) has a Craig Kimbrel in their midst, finding a reliever of his quality is not unlike winning the lottery. The Braves are more than just Kimbrel as Jonny Venters combines with smartly acquired players like Eric O’Flaherty put in good high leverage work.
The Rays turn their bullpen over year after year, playing matchups heavily and running out a deep pen. The Orioles turned a reliable reliever into a dominant one in 2012, filling in remaining spots with converted starters, big arms and confounding side-armers.
Which is to say: there is no one way to build a bullpen. The volatile nature of relief pitching performance makes bullpen building more art than science, with inspiration providing just as much value as perspiration. Shelling out big bucks for the precious few wins between nice season and playoff glory represents greater risk than any other type of free agent deal.
And the Rest
In a completely reasonable and totally indefensible decision, Yu Darvish will not pitch for Japan in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. When reached for comment, baseball fans everywhere uniformly agreed “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” [Rangers.com]
Speaking of the WBC, the Asian qualifying stage is about to begin and the Filipino team really, really hopes Tim Lincecum will suit up for the nation of one set of his grandparents. Considering his refusal to play for the good old US of A in 2009, this seems like a longshot. [Big League Stew]
One more random WBC tidbit: Johnny Damon plays for Thailand? I tip my Khao San Road banana milkshake to you, sir. [NESN]
Important Reminder: despite your deepest urges, don’t vote Felix Hernandez for president. [Lookout Landing]
Geoff Baker thinks you pantywaists need to buck up and spend some cash on free agents, Nancy. [Seattle Times]
Jim Bowden puts his witch skills to the test again in 2012 after nailing it in 2011 like it’s his job (which it is) [ESPN Insider]
Parkes ran down the top ten baseball stories of 2012 right here on Getting Blanked! [tehScorez]
The 44th President of the United States of America won re-election last night. Below is a video highlight of his speech.