After wrongly leaving Justin Speier off my Top 50 Free Agents list, I felt the need to make it up to him by giving him his very own post.
Speier was drafted by the Cubs back in ’95, buried in the 55th round. He was a reliever from Day 1. The Cubs made a pretty poor trade for bullpen help at the trading deadline in ’98, sending Speier, Kevin Orie, and Todd Noel to the Marlins for Felix Heredia.
Things didn’t go well for him in Florida, leading to a trade to Atlanta for a no-namer. Speier was placed on waivers at year’s end and the Indians claimed him. He pitched well for the Tribe in 2000 but was sent to the Mets for a no-namer the next year. The Mets designated him for assignment after ten days, but Speier was out of options and didn’t make it through waivers. He became a Rockie.
After two solid seasons in Colorado (including some closer duty), the Blue Jays rescued him in the winter of ’03 in the Joe Kennedy/Mark Hendrickson trade. Speier got some saves in ’04 under Carlos Tosca, though a sore elbow sidelined him in May.
He was to begin ’05 as the Jays’ closer, but Miguel Batista got the gig instead. Ligament damage in the middle finger of his pitching hand popped up in September to end a fine season (Speier allowed fewer than one baserunner per inning).
The finger injury recurred in spring of 2006, but he was fine to start the season as B.J. Ryan’s setup man. Forearm issues came about this August, causing Speier to post his smallest inning total in a long time.
Speier has solid command, with a career K/BB of 2.5. Scouting report from Keith Law:
"Speier is a three-pitch reliever with good command of all three. He has a low-90s fastball with a little run but no sink; a tight slider with good tilt; and a splitter that he has improved to the point that it’s a very effective weapon against left-handed hitters. When he’s on, he keeps everything at or just above hitters’ knees, garnering strikes and some bad swings. His fastball is flat, however, and he’ll give up a lot of home runs if he has to pitch in the upper half of the zone."
According to ESPN, Speier throws about 64% fastballs, 29% sliders, and 7% other stuff.
I could see Speier commanding a deal similar to Kyle Farnsworth’s – three years, $17MM with incentives and a signing bonus. The closer market is terrible, and Speier is one of the better choices.