Market looks bare for free agent setup men


On his Touching Base blog, the Daily News’s Jesse Spector takes a look at the free agent class of setup men. With the possibility that both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes start the season in the rotation, the Yanks are going to need someone to pitch the late innings. Judging by Spector’s list, which goes into the arbitration status of each player, the Yanks will probably favor internal candidates. There aren’t any truly elite setup men in the class (or else they’d probably market themselves as closer), but their 2009 salaries were a bit more than you’d want to pay for a middle reliever.

Spector lists five players among those whose teams will likely offer them arbitration. Those include Type A’s Darren Oliver, Rafael Betancourt, and John Grabow. Of them, only Betancourt seems remotely worth the money, and his value is likely overrated now because of his stellar second half in Colorado. He’s had great seasons beofre, but he’s also turned in clunkers — most recently in 2008, when he posted a 5.07 ERA over 71 innings. With the contract he’ll want, plus the first-round pick he’ll cost, I think the Yanks will stay away.

Among the players who will likely not cost a compensation pick (i.e., their teams will not offer them arbitration in all likelihood), there still aren’t any standout names. Octavio Dotel and LaTroy Hawkins top the list, and we all know how each of their stints in pinstripes went. Otherwise, none of the listed pitchers will be worth the salary, especially when there are comparable options in the system.

Given the dearth of relief pitching on the market, and given the volatile nature of relieving in general, I think the Yanks will do best to stick with the options in the system. This might mean that Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain pitches out of the bullpen for a portion of 2010. Readers know that I don’t favor such a solution, but I’d rather do that for a year than sign a free agent to set up. Obviously, the ideal solution is for the guys already on the roster — mostly Robertson, but also Melancon and Bruney — to step up and take the late innings. They’re the Yanks best shot.

Categories : Death by Bullpen
  • Matt ACTY/BBD

    Obviously, in house is the best choice. We may get annoyed at this because of the frequent commercial breaks and general LaRussaism, but I think Marte and D-Rob could definitely be a platoon-set up situation. With Coke as the second lefty out of the pen (who should probably stick to LHP now), this option seems alright to me.

    I wonder, too, about what will be done with Aceves. I know he was told to prepare as a starter and he clearly fits the swingman/long relief option, but part of me thinks he could be converted into a one inning reliever to fill the potential set-up void. Or, perhaps, Chad Gaudin and his greater ability to miss bats could be used as a one-inning guy, rather than a swingman.

    • Matt ACTY/BBD

      Interestingly enough, Robertson has a reverse platoon split in his (very short) career. He could definitely be left in to face LHB, especially with that backdoor curve. I really think he’ll emerge as the clear set-up guy this year. Maybe I’ve got too much faith in him after a short deal of success, but I think he’s got the stuff to be a future closer.

      • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

        I agree that he could be a good set up guy. Closer…nah, too many control issues.

        • Reggie C.

          Which he could figure out. 43 innings doesn’t write the book yet on D-Rob. He’s talented for sure, and the high K/9 rate has given him more helium than any other reliever in the non-Mo division. Nonetheless, I’d love to see how he adjusts to a bigger role.

          He’s our potential D. Bard (minus 5 mph & the ill-timed gopher balls).

          • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

            Not 43 innings. 43 innings and minor leagues.

            D-Rob has had control problems throughout his whole professional career.

            • Mike Axisa

              3.6 BB/9 in the minors hardly qualifies as “control problems.”

              • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

                That’s a pretty decent amount of k/9. Almosy 4 k/9? That seems like control issues.

                • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

                  My bad. bb/9, not k/9.

                • Mike Axisa

                  Andy Pettitte had a 3.5 BB/9 this year, does he have control problems too?

                • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi
                • JGS

                  for what it’s worth, K-rod walks 4.1/9 for his career, and 5.0 this year

        • pete

          i really don’t think he has control issues. If you watched last year, he rarely misses his spots by more than an inch or two, and almost never misses over the plate. I can deal with a closer who walks guys if he keeps the ball in the park and strikes out a ton of guys. I wouldn’t expect him to ever be more than a middle-of-the-pack closer, which may be tough for yankee fans used to Mo’s Mo-ness to deal with, but having an inexpensive closer could free up more money to pursue pitching or whatever other needs the yanks may have.

          • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

            It’s not just the major leagues we’re going by; it’s his whole professional career.

            • pete

              what i’m saying is that having a noteworthy walk-rate does not often indicate “control problems”. I’m saying that the guy lives on the corners, and thus gives up few hits and fewer HRs. Sure he walks a few guys, but it’s not too many to overcome, by any stretch. I’d rather a guy walk someone than give up a HR.

  • aj

    Um, Takashi Saito, Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Darren Oliver, Kiko Calero, and Brandon Lyon are all available. Why aren’t they being considered?

    • Eric

      +1. I’d add JJ Putz and maybe even Brett Myers to that list. Don’t know if we need 3 lefties in the pen.

      • Reggie C.

        The Mets declined to exercise an $8.6 mm option on Putz. I’d definitely want to know he’s recovered from last season’s injury and surgery before thinking of him as an option. he’s a veteran , and i think the Yanks would do well to add a veteran righty with Bruney and Albaladejo coming off poor years. its gotta be discussed at least.

    • Mike Axisa

      Gonzalez and Soriano will market themselves as closers, as they should. There’s no fit.

      Oliver is a Type-A, forget it.

      Why spend money on Calero, who’s injury prone?

      Saito and Lyon? Meh.

      • aj

        Saito – 2.43 era, 52 ks in 55 innings, 1.95 BAA against lefties, meh? That’s not bad

        And Lyon – 2.86 era, 1.11 whip, .205 bAA. Not bad either. I don’t think we should overlook them both.

        • pete

          1.95 BAA would be frighteningly high. Completely impossible, of course, but high nonetheless. Jokes aside, though, why through a bunch of money at a 40 year old reliever? Same goes for lyon. I just feel like, being that we are already giving an insane amount of money to Mo, and a significant amount to Marte, we should try not to spend any more money on the bullpen. It was fine this year – why shell out big bucks to fix it?

          • aj

            .195 BAA is what I meant. Anyway, Saito made 1.5M this year. What big bucks?

            • pete

              it’s not really big bucks, but the yankees will probably have three relievers as good as him at the end of the year making roughly that total.

              • andrew

                Three relievers with an ERA under 2.5? That’s setting some pretty high expectations. Spending under $2 million for a guy like Saito doesn’t seem to be a bad idea to me

    • mike pop

      ….and Oliver is mentioned.

  • Ed

    This year’s market has lots of free agent closers and teams that want to trade closers. There’s more available closers than openings, so if you want a good setup man, you’re probably better off trying to get a closer to fill the role.

    • Rocky Road Redemption (formerly RAB poster)

      I don’t like putting closers in the role of set-up men. Normally that doesn’t work out since they’re not used to being second banana.

      • pete

        moreover, i don’t like spending significant money improving a bullpen that is already good, especially when it already has Marte and Rivera in it

  • Mark L.

    Mo, Robertson, Coke, Marte and Aceves seem like the only locks for the 2009 bullpen. Melancon could earn a spot and something’s gotta give with Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy. Gaudin is another maybe. If they only have 2 undecided spots, I’d leave one up for grabs and see how the market shapes up one-time closers like of Lyon, Putz and Baez. Depending on the arbitration situation, I also imagine they’ll keep tabs on high-ceiling guys like Escobar and Dotel.

  • Reggie C.

    I’m crossing my fingers that Melancon finally figures into the bullpen plans. If Cash isn’t going to cough up draft picks for a Rafael Soriano or Mike G., then looking in-house there are two promising arms: Melancon and the new “kid”, R. Sanchez (who should be a reliever with his power stuff & high barrier of rotation entry).

  • Jersey

    I’d still like to think Albaladejo could become a useful piece of the bullpen. Yes, he struggled in the bigs last year, but he had a great year in AAA – better than I realized. And he was 26 last year, so he could still turn a corner. Obviously, you can’t bank on it, but I’m optimistic at least.

  • pete

    i like the idea of playing matchups – not just based on righty/lefty splits, but based on hitters’ and pitchers’ tendencies/stuff in general. For example, because of their harsh handedness-related splits, marte, coke, and gaudin could be used as OOGys – of course gaudin is more versatile/capable than a pure righty guy, but he has excellent numbers against righties and terrible numbers against lefties. Unless you need him to start games (with 5 starters, we hopefully won’t, at least for a while), or be a long reliever (with aceves, we shouldn’t really need that either), he might help the team most by fulfilling a role in which he could have the most success. Because robertson has great numbers against both sides, he could be your “primary” set-up man, although outs not belonging to mariano should be given in order of actual, not inning-based, importance, which should be divided based on success. Aceves should fulfill the “versatile, multi-out/inning reliever” role that he had last year. This means that there are “defined” roles for Mo, Robertson, Marte, Coke, Gaudin, and Aceves. Then you start the year with Bruney as the mop-up guy and melancon in the minors until he gets hot and/or someone in the ML bullpen gets injured/starts sucking vehemently. As with the last two years, the emphasis should be on flexibility and depth, and should strategically rely on playing matchups/the hot hand. I really don’t see any need to go out and throw $2-4 million at another reliever when we have 8 viable options in-house, with a chance for more to present themselves as the season progresses (nova/mcallister/darkhorse still brackman)

    • pete

      (other candidates include both sanchezes, albaladejo, ipk, and many more)

  • byron

    what about edwar ramirez? any chance he makes a comeback?

    • mike pop


    • radnom

      Please, no.

  • mike pop

    I’m a fan of Jose Valverde myself.

    What’s the arbitration deal with him?

    • Reggie C.

      I wish. Valverde’s the definition of Type-A free agent, and since he killed it in ’09, he’ll field offers to close from any number of teams. He’d be a good fit for the Phillies. Demote the current closer (what’s his name?) to 8th inning guy (Meyers is gone) and sign Valverde.

  • steve (different one)

    i’m not advocating signing Dotel, but i don’t think it’s fair to lump him in with Hawkins as “won’t go down THAT road again”…he was recovering from TJS. everyone knew that.

    i don’t know if they’ll have interest, but i think his first stint is probably irrelevant

  • pete

    i feel like spending money and picks on free agent relievers (or worse – trading for one) is a huge waste of a major asset – our plethora of cheap, viable relievers, who give us flexibility elsewhere. Take a bunch of quality arms, add joe girardi, and you’ve got a solid pen. No need for veteran help.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      What he said.

    • Amol

      If anything, the Yankees should be looking to trade away relievers. Phil Coke, in particular, strikes me as redundant with Marte, Dunn, and de la Rosa on the roster.

      • Tank the Frank

        Mike Dunn can’t throw the ball over the plate, Marte’s not getting any younger, and WDLR is years away. Coke is a left hander who throws in the mid-90’s and true out pitch with his slider. I think you gotta hold on to him.


  • Neil

    What about trading Melky Cabrera for a SU man. Have Gardner start the year in CF, and have Jackson eventually take over?

    • andrew

      Or signing Cameron and trading Melky for a setup man. Although I think Melky is probably more valuable to us than a setup man, especially if we don’t sign Cameron

  • Pingback: / archive » Yankees Need a Setup Man, but Prospects are Slim

  • Joe D.

    Marte, Robertson, Aceves, Melancon, Kennedy, McAllister, Bruney, Gaudin. We’ll find two BridgeToMo guys out of that group of 8 as the season 2010 season moves on. No need to pay actual money for an RP unless the deal is right.

    Signing the Douche for 1/5 + Tm Option would bolster the group nicely, though, while creating some addition SP insurance.

  • steve

    Kiko Calero is my guy

  • KDB

    I’m sure they’ll look at Joba, Hughes, as starters. If either or both falter – bullpen they go. Saying that, I would prefer both to start. For the eighth inning guy you have Melancon, Bruney (if healthy) Robertson, Aceves, Dunn, or one of Mitre, Gaudin, or even Nova. This year the bullpen looked one way at the start, and quite another at the end.

  • Pingback: Free agent rankings hurt middle relievers | River Avenue Blues