Jon Rauch Rumors
The Blue Jays announced that they exercised their 2012 option for Edwin Encarnacion and declined their option for Jon Rauch. Encarnacion obtains a $3.5MM salary instead of a $500K buyout and Rauch obtains a $250K buyout instead of a $3.75MM salary.
Encarnacion, 28, posted a .272/.334/.453 line and hit 17 home runs in 2011. I explained at the beginning of September that the Blue Jays were likely to pick up his option because of his strong final four months.
Rauch, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in 52 innings for Toronto in 2011, finishing the season on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee cartilage tear. Although he is a Type B free agent, an offer of arbitration from the Blue Jays seems unlikely.
The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.
Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.
Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things -- innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on -- it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.
During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.
The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.
- Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
- Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
- Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times.
- Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
- Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.
This is a running list of players who have cleared waivers, based on published reports. Once a player clears waivers, he can be traded to any team (barring a no-trade clause). This list can always be found in the sidebar under MLBTR Features. Player names are linked to the source articles.
Updated 8-30-11 at 10:56pm
- Aaron Harang, Padres - Harang's ERA is a respectable 3.92 with 6.7 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
- Dontrelle Willis, Reds - Willis has bounced back with the Reds, posting a 4.10 ERA, 6.3 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 0.68 HR/9, and 56.8% groundball rate in 52 2/3 innings.
- Carlos Zambrano, Cubs - Zambrano cleared waivers prior to being placed on the disqualified list. He has a short fuse, lousy stats, and over $22MM remaining on his contract through next year.
- Rodrigo Lopez, Cubs - Not surprising to see the journeyman clear waivers.
- Chris Capuano, Mets - Capuano owns a 3.74 SIERA as of August 14th and earns only $1.5MM plus incentives, so it's hard to see why a few teams didn't place claims.
- Bronson Arroyo, Reds - His peripheral stats haven't changed much, but Arroyo has a 5.31 ERA as of August 15th. $15MM of his $35MM contract is deferred through 2021 without interest. The deferrals are voided if he's traded, however. At any rate, expect Arroyo to stay put.
- Bruce Chen, Royals - Chen has his moments, but it's not surprising to see him clear waivers.
- Jason Vargas, Mariners - Like many of the starters here, Vargas' fastball wouldn't break a window. But he has less than a million bucks left on his contract this year and is under team control through 2013. He'd fit nicely at the back end of several rotations.
- Chien-Ming Wang, Nationals - His three starts this season were his first in over two years, so it's understandable that contenders wouldn't jump to claim him.
- Tom Gorzelanny, Nationals - Booted to the bullpen last month, the 29-year-old flyballing southpaw has posted strong strikeout rates in recent years but can't hold a rotation job.
- Ted Lilly, Dodgers - He always has strong strikeout-to-walk numbers, but is prone to the longball. With over 82% of his $33MM contract remaining ($27MM+), it's no surprise he cleared waivers.
- Joe Nathan, Twins - Nathan won't be traded, according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
- Chad Qualls, Padres - Qualls is enjoying a bounce-back season, though his strikeout rate dipped to 5.3 K/9 this year.
- Bill Bray, Reds - Bray has been decent this year, and a little tougher against lefties. He'll be arbitration eligible for the second time this offseason.
- Hong-Chih Kuo, Dodgers - A dominant reliever last year, Kuo has dealt with a back injury and anxiety disorder as his control has eluded him.
- Huston Street, Rockies - Between a recent triceps injury and the $9MM+ owed to him through 2012, Street was expected to clear.
- Brian Fuentes, Athletics - He's owed over $6MM through next year, and has been mediocre for the A's.
- Jon Rauch, Blue Jays - Rauch is affordable, but he's on the DL for an appendectomy and wasn't great before that.
- Mike Gonzalez, Orioles - Gonzalez has been dominant in August, and against lefties. The problem is that he's still owed almost a million bucks.
- Kevin Gregg, Orioles - Gregg might be the worst reliever holding down a closer's job, and he's owed at least $6.4MM through next year.
- John Grabow, Cubs - He's been ineffective even against lefties, and he has over $700K remaining.
- D.J. Carrasco, Mets - The Mets signed Carrasco to a two-year deal in December - their biggest acquisition of the offseason - but optioned him to Triple-A in April. He stayed there until mid-June.
- Aramis Ramirez, Cubs - In July, Ramirez's agent said that his client would consider an August deal but he has since had a change of heart. The Cubs hold an option on Ramirez's deal worth $16MM.
- Alfonso Soriano, Cubs - This one was also obvious. SI's Jon Heyman notes on Twitter that the Cubs are willing to pay a "major, major chunk" of the $58.35MM owed to the left fielder through 2014.
- Lance Berkman, Cardinals - Berkman has said he hopes to re-sign with St. Louis after the season, when he hits free agency. Still, it's a surprise to see him clear waivers.
- Ryan Theriot, Cardinals - Theriot earns $3.3MM this year and will be a non-tender candidate after the season.
- David Wright, Mets - It's surprising that Wright cleared waivers, but it doesn't mean the Mets have interest in dealing him. Wright earns $15MM next year and can void a $16MM club option for 2013 if traded.
- Conor Jackson, Athletics - Olney notes that the Red Sox asked about the light-hitting 1B/LF/RF, but there doesn't seem to be any traction there.
- David DeJesus, Athletics - DeJesus has had a rough year but could at least be useful against right-handed pitching.
- Hideki Matsui, Athletics - The Athletics have several waiver trade candidates, and Matsui's hot second half and low salary (owed less than $2MM the rest of the season) could make him a popular target.
- Jason Bay, Mets - With Bay being owed at least $38.8MM through 2013, this was expected. It's only been 12 games, but Bay is at least having his first good month of 2011.
- Willie Harris, Mets - The versatile Harris has less than $200K left on his contract.
- Angel Pagan, Mets - It's been a dismal year for Pagan, who may be in line for a non-tender after the season.
- Carlos Lee, Astros - No surprise here, as the 35-year-old is hitting .263/.321/.417 and is owed almost $23MM through next year. El Caballo's ten-and-five rights kick in after the season.
- Johnny Damon, Rays - Damon blocked an August trade last summer and 12 months later he's a candidate to be traded once again.
Tim Dierkes contributed to this post.
The American League Central welcomed a handful of new players this week - most notably right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez. Yet many other trades didn't materialize. Here are the details on some deals that could have impacted the division...
- The Tigers tried to acquire Tommy Hunter from the Rangers before the Orioles obtained him in the Koji Uehara deal yesterday, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). The Tigers did acquire Doug Fister for their rotation.
- The Brewers called on every good left-handed relief option out there, including White Sox southpaw Matt Thornton, according to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com (on Twitter).
- The Twins talked to the Blue Jays about re-acquiring Jon Rauch, but talks went nowhere, according to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
- The Indians discussed as many as 75 players leading up to the deadline, according to MLB.com's Jordan Bastian (on Twitter).
Colby Rasmus is making his Blue Jays debut in Toronto, where he’s batting second and starting in center field tonight. Here’s the latest on a Blue Jays team that could make another move or two before Sunday afternoon...
- Though the Blue Jays have said they're likely done making deals, other teams believe they may still trade Jon Rauch and/or Frank Francisco, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).
- The Diamondbacks, who had interest in some of the relievers the Blue Jays traded, aren't willing to mortgage the future for middle relief, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (on Twitter). Octavio Dotel, Jason Frasor and Marc Rzepczynski were dealt yesterday.
- Rasmus' father, Tony, says Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pushed his son out of town. “Tony needed pitching and wanted to force the GM into making a trade, so he belittled Colby to the fans,” the elder Rasmus told Bob Eilliott of the Toronto Sun.
- One MLB executive told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that the only thing he's sure of is that Toronto GM "Alex Anthopoulos is the smartest dude in the game." Rosenthal warns his readers that forming snap judgments about trades is dangerous, but most of his sources like the deal for the Blue Jays.
2:16pm: Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos, who is in a lot of talks, "probably is going to keep his Type B relievers," tweets ESPN's Buster Olney.
1:08pm: The Braves "will continue to evaluate the possibility of acquiring either Jon Rauch or Jason Frasor from the Blue Jays," writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman. Bowman notes that the Jays want a significant return for either reliever, since they both project as Type B free agents and therefore could net supplemental draft picks. Both righties also have club options for 2012 at $3.75MM, so they're more than rentals.
The Braves' bullpen is fourth in the NL with a 3.08 ERA, but the group also ranks third with 319 innings pitched.
The Blue Jays have inquired on the Padres’ available relievers, including Heath Bell, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. It’s not clear whether the Blue Jays want to obtain a closer or are interested in flipping one of San Diego’s relievers to another team.
If they were to acquire Bell, they could offer arbitration and collect a pair of draft picks next season, presuming the free agent to be declines the offer and signs elsewhere. Mike Adams is under team control through 2012, but Padres owner Jeff Moorad told him he’s staying put.
Don’t count on the Blue Jays trading their own relievers, Rosenthal writes. Toronto has 2012 options for Jon Rauch, Jason Frasor and Octavio Dotel, who all project as Type B free agents, according to MLBTR’s reverse-engineered Elias Rankings.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports has a new Full Count video up, so let's recap...
- Two GMs tell Rosenthal that the Yankees are more worried about Mariano Rivera's nagging triceps injury than they're letting on. If true, they could increase their efforts to acquire a setup man, though they're hopeful Rafael Soriano will be back from his elbow injury soon after the All-Star break.
- The Mets have called the Yankees and offered Francisco Rodriguez according to one source, but they're only interested if the Mets call them at the deadline and offer K-Rod at a minimal price.
- The starting pitching market could soon heat up. The Rockies are getting calls about Ubaldo Jimenez and several other players, though they're not shopping their ace right-hander. Rosenthal says they'll listen on anyone besides Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Jimenez is under contract through 2014 (though he can void that option if traded) and could return a significant package of the players, so the team would give a trade serious consideration.
- Don't be surprised if the Marlins listen on Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez. Florida will try to get back into contention, though they'll likely entertain offers for both pitchers if that doesn't happen. Nolasco is under contract though 2013, Sanchez under team control through 2012.
- The Blue Jays offer perhaps the best value on the bullpen market. Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, and Jon Rauch aren't in the same class as Heath Bell, though all three could pitch better outside of the AL East and have club options for 2012. They all figure to qualify as Type-B free agents as well.
Seven years ago today, the Yankees signed Eduardo Nunez as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic. Now 23, Nunez is in the mix to be New York's utility infielder in 2011 after hitting .280/.321/.360 with more walks (three) than strikeouts (two) in his brief big league debut last season (53 PA).
Here are some more notes that have to do with the Yanks and their fellow AL East clubs...
- Joel Sherman of The New York Post reports that the Yankees "have told their scouts to bear down on several teams they think could have starters available" in a trade this summer. The teams they are targeting include the Braves, Angels, A's, White Sox, and Cardinals according to Sherman.
- Jayson Werth told SI.com's Jon Heyman that he had a "great" meeting with the Red Sox earlier this offseason, after which he figured they would offer six years (Twitter link). They only offered five, so he ended up with the Nationals.
- Carl Pavano spoke to Kelsie Smith of The Pioneer Press about being pursued by the Yankees this offseason. "I don't think [the past] would be a hindrance, but there would have definitely been obstacles," said Pavano. "I'm not naïve enough to think that there wouldn't have been things I would have had to overcome, especially the trust of the fans and maybe some of the guys that were there. That's reality."
- Richard Griffin of The Toronto Star notes (on Twitter) that four of the Blue Jays' ten highest paid players are former closers: Jason Frasor, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch, and Octavio Dotel.
- When asked about the payroll disparity between his Rays and other teams in the division, Joe Maddon told Ken Davidoff of Newsday that he's "never seen a dollar bill throw a strike, or hit a homer, or whatever." (Twitter link)
Twins Assistant GM Rob Antony recently sat down for a chat with Jesse Lund from Twinkie Town to discuss a variety of topics. Let's recap the hot stove talk...
- Tsuyoshi Nishioka first popped up on the team's radar after Antony mentioned to his agent that the team was looking to get more athletic on the infield. This was long before they decided to trade J.J. Hardy.
- The Twins believe Nishioka is a good player, but they understand there might be a bit of a transition period. Not just for the move to MLB, but the move to the United States. They've hired an interpreter for Nishioka, and don't believe the additional Japanese media will be an issue in the clubhouse.
- The three-year, $9MM contract Nishioka signed was "exactly what we pretty much anticipated and were willing to give." They were trying to add speed and athleticism to the lineup, but no one on the free agent market jumped out at them, hence the pursuit of Nishioka.
- Hardy was expected to make $5MM+ in 2011 (he eventually signed for $5.85MM), and the team "just decided that we wanted to put that money into other areas." Carl Pavano, Jim Thome, and most of the bullpen were free agents, so they had to prioritize. "Trying to fit all those guys into a budget was going to be impossible."
- The Twins had conversations with other teams about Hardy, but there were never any real offers. The trade with Baltimore was "by far [their] best opportunity to make a deal." It became apparent that Brendan Harris wasn't a fit anymore, hence his inclusion in the trade.
- Antony says the Twins like Rule 5 Draft pick Scott Diamond in long relief, and Dusty Hughes' success against Minnesota last year played a role in claiming him off waivers.
- Although they would have liked to retain Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes, the Twins just "couldn't compete" with the multyear offers they were receiving as free agents.
- Thome decided that Minnesota was where he wanted to be after talking with his family, and the money didn't appear to be much of an issue.
- Antony expected Pavano to get two or three years at $10-11MM per season, and he knows the Brewers had some interest in the right-hander. Pavano's agent basically told the Twins he wanted to play there, and he wasn't a guy that was "chasing the last dollar."
- Rumors of Francisco Liriano being available in a trade were just that, rumors. As far as a multiyear deal with the lefty, Antony said there "can be many reasons why you don't consummate a multiyear deal, and sometimes the player doesn't want to, sometimes the club doesn't want to, sometimes you just don't agree on numbers, or whatever. So we're not going to talk about any of our negotiations with that or anything else, but he was a big part of our rotation. We're not talking to anybody right now on Francisco Liriano."
- The team is at the "far reaches" of where they can go with payroll, so they tried to maintain flexibility for 2012 by not doing any multiyears deals this offseason (aside from Pavano).
- "If the right deal arises and we can improve our ballclub, we could look at it from that point of view," said Antony, regarding a potential trade involving one of the team's excess starting pitchers. "I don't think we'd trade away one of our starting pitchers for a middle reliever or something. It would have to be something that would make sense for us. And a trade isn't even the most likely scenario, it's a possible scenario."