Free Agent Stock Watch: J.J. Putz

Adding right-handed reliever J.J. Putz last December for a $3MM guarantee was a brilliant move by White Sox GM Kenny Williams.  Putz's stock is back up after a lost 2009; let's take a look.

The Good

  • In four of the last five seasons, including last year, Putz struck out more than ten batters per nine innings.  His control with the Sox this year returned to an acceptable level, at 2.5 walks per nine.  Putz posted a solid 48.5% groundball rate, his best since '06.  He had no problems getting left-handed hitters out.  His 2.83 ERA was well-deserved.
  • Putz has closing experience from 2006-08 with the Mariners.  With an average fastball velocity of 94.0, he can be intimidating in the ninth inning.
  • He's a Type B free agent, so he won't cost a draft pick to sign regardless of whether the White Sox offer arbitration.

The Bad

  • Putz, 34 in February, hasn't reached 55 innings in a season since '07.  His only ailment this year was a knee injury, but he had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow in June of '09.
  • It may have been related to the elbow injury, but Putz walked 5.6 per nine innings from 2008-09.  He walked 4.8 per nine over the last two months of this season.
  • Potentially, Putz could seek a multiyear deal or a salary matching his '09 base of $5MM.

The Verdict

Closing jobs are hard to come by, but my guess is that Putz will instruct his agent at LSW Baseball to seek such an opportunity first.  That could mean the Rays, Blue Jays, Angels, Braves, Marlins, or Diamondbacks.  He could also stay close to home and sign with the Tigers, or set up for teams such as the Red Sox, Yankees, Rangers, Cubs, or Cardinals.  Two years and $10MM seems plausible.

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