A 1.95 ERA sure doesn't go as far as it once did. Veteran reliever Kiko Calero posted that career-low mark in 67 appearances for the Marlins last year, as well as an impressive 10.4 K/9 ratio. With those numbers, a career ERA+ of 132 and a history of dominance against right-handed hitting (RHB have hit just .202/.266/.312 against Calero in his career), you would've thought that the 35-year-old had set himself up for a decent free agent contract this winter.
Instead, teams have opened their spring training camps and Calero (a Type B free agent) is still without a new address. He has been connected to a few clubs, but hasn't signed for a variety of reasons...
- Florida, who signed Calero to a minor-league deal for $500K in January 2009, didn't offer salary arbitration to the right-hander and haven't pushed hard to bring him back. MLB.com's Joe Frisaro tweeted that the chances of Calero returning to the Marlins "are very slim" since the Fish are worried about Calero's injury history. The reliever tore his right rotator cuff in 2008 and also missed a few weeks of action last season with shoulder problems.
- These arm problems may have also scared off the Cubs, who were talking to Calero last month. Chicago only wanted to give Calero a one-year contract, while the reliever was looking for two years. The Cubs have been looking for bullpen help all winter and might be well served to revisit negotiations with Calero given right-hander Angel Guzman's most recent injury woes.
- San Francisco made an offer to Calero that CSNBayArea.com's Mychael Urban guessed was probably a one-year deal plus an option. But that news broke over a month ago, and the Giants have since announced that they had finished their winter shopping.
So if these teams are out of the running, who's left? One intriguing destination is St. Louis. Calero broke into the majors with the Cardinals, posting a 2.80 ERA in 67 appearances with the Redbirds in 2003 and 2004 before being shipped to Oakland in the Mark Mulder trade. Erik Manning of Fangraphs points out that the Cards' bullpen is the "one potential Achilles heel" on a team that should dominate the NL Central, and finds it "surprising" that there have been no whispers about the Cardinals bringing Calero back.
If the righty performs as he did in 2009, he would provide a big boost to whatever team takes the plunge and signs him. For Calero's part, he might have to recognize the reality of the market and accept a one-year deal or a contract similar to the Giants' reported offer rather than hold out for a multi-year commitment. After all, not every reliever can be as lucky as Brandon Lyon.