Possible trade target: Octavio Dotel


The Yankees and Pirates have developed a bit of a big brother-little brother relationship over the last few seasons. Whenever little brother has something that big brother wants, big brother imposes his will on little brother and takes it away. In exchange, big brother will give whatever he doesn’t want to little brother. The Yanks poached Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady from Pittsburgh in 2008, then turned the same trick last year when they grabbed Eric Hinske (and money to pay half his salary!), and in the meantime they’ve been sending their scraps (Steven Jackson, Eric Hacker, Casey Erickson, etc.) to the Steel City.

With an obvious need for a late inning arm in the bullpen, the Yanks could again turn to their little brother in Western Pennsylvania, who have a productive closer and no real need for one. We’ve already looked at trade scenarios involving Jeff Keppinger, Ty Wigginton, and David DeJesus, but now let’s turn our attention to the mound and our old buddy Octavio Dotel.

Photo Credit: Keith Srakocic, AP

Obviously, the Yanks already have a history with Dotel. They signed him to one year deal worth $2M with a bunch of incentives prior to the 2006 season, when the former Met was working his way back from Tommy John surgery. He ultimately appeared in just 14 late seasons games for the Bombers, and predictably battled control issues (very common after elbow surgery) as he pitched to a 7.50 xFIP in ten measly innings. The two sides parted ways after the season, and Dotel has since pitched for Royals, Braves, White Sox, and now Pirates.

The now 36-year-old righty has changed a bit through the years, replacing the upper-90′s gas with a low-90′s heater while scaling back it’s usage a bit in favor of a curveball. He’s still got the wipeout slider and still racks up a ton of strikeouts, but the walks have increased and so have the fly balls. The elbow has yet to give Dotel any more trouble, but he has dealt with some oblique issues (including this spring) and had a shoulder strain back in 2007. Any pitcher can hurt his arm at any given moment, but it’s less of a concern when the guy is on a short contract.

Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP

That short contract will pay Dotel about $1.9M the rest of the season, and there’s a $500,000 buyout for his $4.5M option for next season. He projects to be a Type-B free agent quite comfortably, so if whatever team holds his rights at the end of the season is feeling frisky, they could decline his option and offer him arbitration for a shot at a supplement first round draft pick. On the downside, he could accept and be looking at an arbitration award north of $4M (ooo saves, shiny).

While it’s clear that the Yankees could use another end game arm, I’m not 100% convinced that Dotel is the answer. His walk and homerun rates aren’t necessarily a deal breaker, but they’re not the kinds of characteristics you want to see in a high leverage reliever. Experience certainly counts for something (to his credit, Dotel’s been pitching in high leverage spots his entire career), but it won’t overcome 5.34 BB/9 and 54.2% fly balls in a park that’s inflated homerun totals by something like 32% since being opened (using ESPN’s park factors). The element of name recognition comes into play here, so Dotel’s trade value is going to be perceived to be higher than his actual value.

Sky Kalkman’s trade value calculator pegs Dotel’s trade value at $5M in the best case scenario, which is equivalent to a Grade-B hitting prospect or two Grade-C pitching prospects under the age of 22 according to Victor Wang’s research. Think Corban Joseph or Jairo Heredia and Nik Turley, something along those lines. For a three or four month rental of an inherently volatile reliever? I think I’ll pass.

* * *

Related Aside: Look at how many relievers have been traded on the deadline. Too many to count. How many went on to be productive for their new team? A whole lot less, that’s for sure. The position is just so unpredictable, it doesn’t matter how good a guy’s track record is when you acquire him. He might suck unexpectedly and for no reason whatsoever. That’s why I hate spending big money and giving multiple years to bullpeners.

Categories : Death by Bullpen


  1. Angelo says:

    That’s why I hate spending big money and giving multiple years to bullpeners.

    The truth!

  2. zs190 says:

    I hate trading for relievers, they only give you a small amount of innings and it’s hard to know what a reliever might do in that small amount of innings. Just not worth taking on salary and giving up prospects.

    Dotel is old, injury-prone, and has poor command. I hope we don’t trade for him.

  3. Pete says:

    Yeah, not feeling it. I feel like we could get the same production out of Ivan Nova if we wanted it. I’m never interested in relievers making over a million unless they’ve got plus to plus-plus control and command. Otherwise, there’s pretty much no way you can expect them to be any less volatile than generic reliever X.

    • Angelo says:

      plus-plus control and command

      Aren’t they the same thing?

      • Dirty Pena says:

        One is throwing strikes, the other is throwing to the right spot in the zone.

        • Pete says:

          that. I think of control as innate and command as developed, especially for off-speed pitches.

          • Pete says:

            I think of command as execution, really. So for instance, back in ’07-’08, Joba’s control wasn’t that great – he had very high walk rates, and threw a lot of balls out of the zone. His command of a few key pitches – fastball on the lower corners, slider down and in on lefties, down and away on righties – however, was excellent, which enabled him to escape many of the jams he created for himself via the strikeout.

            The two usually go together, but often times you’ll see young pitchers with good stuff get to the majors before they’ve got great command of all of their pitches, and command of multiple pitches to multiple locations, thus causing them to throw balls when not throwing the pitch/location of which they do have command.

            Other times, you’ll see pitchers come up from the minors with great BB-rates in the minors and a reputation for great control, albeit lesser stuff, but have trouble in the majors because they don’t have great command of their pitches, or can only execute a few pitch/locations well, which is not enough to get by on unless the stuff is really good. Think Ian Kennedy in ’08 – he could spot the fastball on the lower inside corner to lefties (outside corner to righties) and the changeup just off the lower outside corner to lefties well, but had weak command of his breaking ball and of his fastball to other sections of the strike zone, resulting in a lot of pitches getting clobbered.


        • Angelo says:

          Okay, that makes sense I guess. Thanks for the clear up

    • I feel like we could get the same production out of Ivan Nova if we wanted it.

      I really like Ivan Nova, but I highly doubt that.

      Octavio Dotel has no control, but he has an out-pitch. Ivan Nova does not have an out pitch. That matters a lot for a short reliever.

      • Pete says:

        I think, then, that it’d be a worthwhile experiment, even if only at the minor league level, to try Nova in the bullpen. If you put him in a situation where he can focus solely on trying to strike everyone out, it will give him more repetitions on specific pitches to specific locations, which could turn an inconsistent breaking ball into a hard biting breaking ball down and in on a lefty.

        Also, Nova has hit the mid-90s as a starter. That could be an out-pitch as well.

  4. Dotel plays for the Pirates, right?

    I’ll give them Marcos Vechionacci and Kei Igawa for him. And they have to pick up all of Dotel’s salary.

    Sounds like a deal they’d accept.

    • Pete says:

      only if they agree to include Andrew McCutchen in the deal

    • CS Yankee says:

      MLB would certainly block a trade that involved the winnest pitcher in SWB history, right?

      The sad part is that he was labeled as having only half the talent (and posting fee cost) of Dice-BB…and they were right!

      Who would of thought that Dice-BB is a 5th or 6th starter and Kei a 10th-12th starter on the depth chart?

    • Evan in NYC says:

      Hey, hey, hey! Pump the breaks! Kei Igawa is SWB all-time career wins leader. Please, show some respect!


  5. CS Yankee says:

    So many better options in SWB plus the annual fire sale bargains coming up for the other sellers…Astros, A’s, Indians, etc.

    We got time we haven’t even used yet!

  6. Fun Fact: the Florida Marlins just brought back Armando Benitez to shore up their bullpen.

    No, seriously.

  7. Mike HC says:

    Agreed. Pass on this deal.

  8. Thomas says:

    I love that second picture of Dotel with the tongue sticking out.

  9. nsalem says:

    Should not Albaladejo at least be given shot before we look elsewhere?

  10. Rose says:

    Trading for bullpen arms is like buying condoms…you feel it’s the right thing to do…but in the end you still pull them off (the mound) and hate every second when they’re on (the mound).

  11. Rose says:

    What do you think the Royals would ask for DeJesus? He’s having a career year and he’s probably their best offensive player right now.

    MLBTR says the Giants and Red Sox are looking at him (and Jose Guillen – meh)

    Rather have a bat than Dr. Octopus

  12. Dirty Pena says:

    The only way this makes sense is if the Pirates pay 80% or so of his salary, and he’s not used in high leverage situations. I suspect the Pirates will be able to find a decent deal with a team willing to make him their setup guy. Pass.

  13. Nick says:

    He’d do a better job than Chad Gaudin

  14. MaineBucs says:

    Only came across this ‘analysis’ because it was linked on the MLB Trade Rumors site. I would take a bit of exception to the following comment:

    “In exchange, big brother will give whatever he doesn’t want to little brother. The Yanks poached Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady from Pittsburgh in 2008, then turned the same trick last year when they grabbed Eric Hinske (and money to pay half his salary!), and in the meantime they’ve been sending their scraps (Steven Jackson, Eric Hacker, Casey Erickson, etc.) to the Steel City:

    Clearly, the Pirates have picked up a lot of lesser lights, such as the ones you noted above, from the Yankees. That said, none of these folks came over in the Marte and Nady trade. Three of the players dribbled out to the Pirates may not amount to that much as Karstens and Daniel McCutchen are likely AAAA pitchers, and Ohlendorf has not impressed this year after showing good numbers in 2009, but that 21 year old outfielder, Jose Tabata, who is now in Pittsburgh, appears to be a real keeper.

    In short, if you have any more Tabata’s laying around, us poor folk in Pittsburgh sure would appreciate if the all knowing and never erring Yankees would be willing to send such our way again. Geez, I would even suggest that the Pirates would be willing to pick up the rest of Dotel’s contract in exchange.

    • CS Yankee says:

      Pirates haven’t kept a player above profits since the 70′s…only the Marlins give them a run for the money on getting rid of talent.

      Except that end result is that the Marlins have won on the other persons dime and the Pirates…well, lets just say the name fits the ownership.

  15. MaineBucs says:

    Clearly the Pirates are not spending much at present, and I will openly admit that the current team is performing poorly, as has usually been the case since 1992.

    But, in looking at the past, the Pirates actually outspent the Yankees in 1992 in total team payroll; $36,228 mil to $34,902 mil.

    Further, I will again note — please send us a few more Tabata’s for our veterans. We sure could use a few more talented ballplayers in Pitsburgh and the Yankees have obliged our need for talent.

  16. Mattchu12 says:

    All I remember, and care to remember about Ocatvio Dotel is the nickname we gave him when he was in Pinstripes because he was so unpredictable: No-Tell-Dotel.

    Doesn’t that really say it all?

  17. Jake says:

    Umm you didn’t mention that the pirates also got: Ross Ohlendorf, Jose Tabata, and Jeff Karstens.

    • joe page says:

      jake, i’m sure the author was too busy still relishing nady’s 28 ABs in 2009 and marte’s 9.45 era to remember the ‘fuzzy’ details of the trade he seems so pleased with.

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