Darren Oliver is a very good pitcher. Despite being in the neighbourhood of 100 years old, Oliver just capped his fourth successive season with an ERA under 3.00, his third consecutive season posting a FIP under 3.00 and his fifth straight season worth more than one Win Above Replacement on Fangraphs.
As a man of his age is wont to do, Darren Oliver is having a going problem. Does he want to go home to be with his wife and kids or does he want to lace’em up one more year? Oliver signing a one-year contract with a club option attached with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2012 season. As previously noted, he pitched extremely well for Toronto but now flirts with retirement.
As Andrew Stoeten of DJF covered in detail, part of Darren Oliver’s reluctance to make a decision on his 2013 fate relates back to that club option he agreed to. The club option calls for a “mere” $3 million in salary for next season, less than he received in 2012 and far, far less than the fair market price.
Is Oliver within his rights to hold out for a little more money or demand a trade to his hometown Texas Rangers? Should the man honor the contract he signed with Toronto like the upstanding citizen we believe him to be? Should the Jays pony up for a little extra Black Magic (his words!) in 2013? To all those questions: yes.
In a vacuum, yes they should. The Blue Jays are a team headed in one direction and one direction only: up. The litany of moves GM Alex Anthopoulos made this winter helped position the Jays as the betting favorites in the American League East. The final piece of the puzzle was trading two highly regarded prospects (Travis D’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard) for recently crowned NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
The Jays could have kept their prospects and delved into the free agent market if just pitching depth was their aim. But the Jays recognized that getting the true talent of their team from 88 wins to 90 wins (or thereabouts) is both difficult and invaluable.
The same applies to Darren Oliver. Using Darren Oliver in high leverage situations versus Aaron Loup or Brett Cecil represents a significant upgrade, not to mention peace of mind for returning manager John Gibbons (!!!).
Sure, Oliver should probably honor the deal he signed just one year ago. But rare is the opportunity for a player, at the very end of his career, who can make coming back to play an extra season worth his while. Those worried about setting a bad precedent should take a step back and recognize how rare a situation Oliver finds himself in.
The Blue Jays won’t be getting exploited any more than they would be exploiting a pitcher of Oliver’s considerable skills by paying him half of what Brandon League is set to make in 2013. Did Oliver agree to his deal in bad faith perhaps? That is not too big a stretch to assume – that Oliver was already thinking retirement but if his year went well and he felt up to it, maybe he could squeeze out a few extra dollars in the exchange.
This isn’t the time for the Toronto Blue Jays to start worrying about appearances and counting pennies. They are all-the-way-in on this title push – having trusty old D.O. on-board is a great way to bring that dream closer to a reality.
And the rest
Baseball Prospectus presents the top 10 Padres prospects. Not a lot of sexy names and a defense-first catcher at the top of the list but there is enough depth to make this a top five system. [BP]
Projecting BABIP and regression for pitchers. BABIP for pitchers is a real thing, don’t fight it. [Beyond the Box Score]
Rob Neyer pins ole DOBoner’s ears back after Dave O’Brien plays the relativism game with the Braves new BP caps [Baseball Nation]