Dec
16

Will a former closer set up for the Yanks in 2011?

By

Since Joe Girardi took over as manager of the Yankees, we’ve seen a trend from his bullpens. They start off a bit shaky, but after weeding out the ineffective ones and bringing in new blood they end up among the better units in the league. But now that the team has money and roster spots available, might they try to strengthen the bullpen now, when there are a number of quality relievers available?

The Yanks already have a good base in the pen. Mariano will return to close out games. Setting him up are Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson, both of whom are worthy of the job. Robertson has spells where he struggles, but he has far longer streaks of dominance. Joba got off to a rough start, but by the end of the year he was pitching as well as his peripherals indicated. Boone Logan, too, will be back as the team’s primary lefty. After that the Yankees have some openings. With the current free agent crop, they could choose to sign a primary set-up man and move Chamberlain and Robertson down the ladder.

Rafael Soriano

(Chris O'Meara/AP)

Yesterday ESPN New York’s Andrew Marchand wondered whether Rafael Soriano would work as a setup option. It seems to be based on an anonymous scout saying, “It would make sense,” so let’s look just a little deeper at the cases for and against Soriano.

If the Yankees want the absolute best reliever on the market, Soriano is their man. Since 2006 he’s been downright dominant, averaging a 2.54 ERA, 0.961 WHIP, and 3.17 FIP. He broke out in 2003 when he pitched 53 innings to a 1.53 ERA, but he then missed most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons after undergoing and recovering from Tommy John surgery. In 2006 he returned to form with a 2.25 ERA in 60 innings. The Mariners then traded him to the Braves for Horacio Ramirez, which was one of the most lopsided deals of the last decade.

In Atlanta Soriano continued his dominance. During his three years there he threw 161.2 innings to a 2.95 ERA and 3.26 FIP. He became eligible for free agency after the 2009 season, but instead decided to accept the Braves’ offer of arbitration. They then traded him to Tampa Bay, who signed him to a $7.5 million contract. He more than earned it by producing a 1.73 ERA in 62.1 innings as the team’s closer. The Rays offered him arbitration, but this time he declined. We haven’t heard much about him during the free agency period.

While Soriano, 31, is likely seeking a closer’s gig, there might not be one immediately available. He was originally connected to the Angels, but they signed Scott Downs and already have Fernando Rodney. That leaves him with only a few options. Setting up for the Yankees could certainly be an attractive gig for him. He remains on a winning team, and gets to set up for the greatest closer of all time before perhaps taking over for him in 2013. Soriano is by no means the next Mariano, but he’d be an adequate replacement after Mo finally hangs ‘em up.

There are downsides to signing Soriano, of course. First, he’s going to command a multi-year, big money contract. We know that relievers are volatile creatures, and while Soriano has been relatively consistent throughout his career, he’s still susceptible to random fluctuations. His health is also somewhat of a concern. After his Tommy John Surgery he missed time in 2008 with further elbow troubles. Since the Rays offered him arbitration he’d cost the Yankees their first round pick, which makes it a bit tougher a proposition. Losing the pick would be even worse if the contract didn’t work out.

Bobby Jenks

(Ted S. Warren/AP)

Last night Ken Rosenthal made a pretty terrible pun by saying that there is “heavy action” on former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks. He mentioned that the Rays have interest, as do the Yankees. What can Jenks offer the Yanks?

After producing a 4.44 ERA and blowing four saves in 2010, the White Sox declined to tender Jenks a contract. This comes as a curious decision. Since he came up in 2005 Jenks has been at least a good reliever, and at times has been downright dominant. He has the highly desirable combination of high strikeouts, high ground balls. That will play well in any park, but it works particularly well at Yankee Stadium.

The fear is that Jenks is in decline. It started in 2008, when his strikeout rate dipped all the way to 5.55 per nine. That was the culmination of a four-year trend. After striking out 11.44 per nine during his rookie season, he saw that number dip in each subsequent year.

2005: 11.44 K/9
2006: 10.33 K/9
2007: 7.75 K/9
2008: 5.55 K/9

Throughout all this he kept his ERA below 3.00, and still kept his FIP at a decent level. In 2009 he rebounded to strike out 8.27 per nine, but something else changed. He more than doubled his career home run rate to that point, allowing nine in 53.1 innings (1.52 per nine). That led to a career high 4.47 FIP, and his ERA inflated to 3.71. While his strikeout rate was encouraging, there still had to be some concern about Jenks. Still, the White Sox took a chance and tendered him a contract, which paid him $7.5 million in 2010.

In terms of peripherals Jenks completely rebounded in 2010. His ground ball rate shot back up to near 60 percent, and his strikeout rate rebounded to 10.42 per nine. He walked a few more than normal, but nothing drastic. Most importantly, his home run rate dipped down to his normal, low career level. He did struggle at times, thanks to a .368 BABIP — his career mark is .306. This makes the Sox decision to non-tender him a bit curious. He’s now a free agent, and while he could cash in better next off-season if he went to close for the Rays, he could also raise his value by setting up for the Yanks.

David Aardsma

(Ted S. Warren/AP)

Rosenthal was at it again last night, this time reporting that the Mariners were shopping closer David Aardsma. After bouncing around the league since his debut in 2004, Aardsma finally settled in with the Mariners in 2009, establishing himself as their closer that season. His 2010 season wasn’t as impressive, but it was still a decent season for a relief pitcher.

Aardsma has always been a high strikeout guy, but walks have hurt him in the past. That tendency was at its worst in 2008, when he walked 35 in 48.2 innings for the Red Sox. With the Mariners he showed a bit more control, but at 4.29 walks per nine he still issued a few too many. He thankfully made up for that by striking out 10.09 per nine and allowing just four homers in 71.1 innings in 2009. That certainly raised his stock, and instead of getting DFA’d, as he had grown used to, he got a $2.75 million contract from the Mariners.

In 2010 Aardsma continued his walk happy ways, but didn’t quite have the strikeouts or home run rate to sustain his 2.52 ERA from 2009. He did get some help on balls in play, a .235 BABIP that had to be somewhat influenced by Seattle’s strong defense. His FIP rose a full run to 4.05, which has to be a concern as well. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Aardsma have a disappointing 2011.

The big problem, though, is his fly ball rate. Aardsma is a straight fastball pitcher, and as such induced many fly balls. In Seattle’s large park he was able to keep his HR/FB ratio in check, but that won’t be as easy in Yankee Stadium. This makes him a poor fit for the Yankees. He might fit nicely into a setup role for another club, and might close for a second division team. But his fly ball and walk rates make him less than ideal for the Yankees.

Go hard after Jenks

It should be clear at this point that Jenks fits the Yankees the best. He doesn’t have Soriano’s track record, and there are certainly concerns with him, but given his price tag and lack of free agent compensation, I can see the Yanks getting involved. They might have to go above and beyond in order to land him as a setup man, but a two-year deal could definitely seal it. The only question then is money, though I suppose that depends on the types of offers he’s receiving elsewhere.

While Soriano makes sense for some reasons, he presents a few too many risks to warrant a four-year contract. That would be ideal for the Yankees, since it would give them a closer for two years after Mariano’s current deal expires, but if Soriano gets hurt along the way it doesn’t matter. Jenks can be had on a shorter contract and has the potential to be an elite setup man. If they’re going to target a righty free agent bullpen arm, it should be him.

Categories : Death by Bullpen

75 Comments»

  1. YankeesJunkie says:

    Agreed, Jenks seems like the best choice out of the three. Aardsma has had one good year and then has been relatively ineffective in the others. Soriano cost way too much and even though Jenks has had his problems in the last fews years his stats have rebounded quite nicely in the last two. If he was willing take a deal around 2/12 like Wood did then it would not be a bad risk for the Yankees to take and add him along with Robertson, Joba, and Logan the Yanks have a pretty solid bridge to Rivera.

    • Gerald Williams says:

      SO much for Jenks, he’s on the sawx. If we don’t get Soriano I’m going to flip.

      • Dave Roberts says:

        What is wrong with Cashman? He should be fired. He has botched everything this year. Feliciano is all he can get?
        We’ve lost on Jenks (Red Sox), Downs (angels), Guerrier (Dodgers) and Crain (White Sox). We need Soriano or Balfour if we have any chance to keep up with the Red Sox….

  2. Mister Delaware says:

    With the Lee money not going to Lee, hopefully we can overpay on one year rather than guarantee two or more.

  3. kosmo says:

    I wonder why you think Jenks has the potential to be “an elite setup man“?? He peaked in 07-08 .
    Soriano would certainly be a costly move .If NY wants to go that route I´m all for it of course it all depends on if Soriano sees himself in a setup role and the dollar amounts matchup.

    • whozat says:

      Because “His ground ball rate shot back up to near 60 percent, and his strikeout rate rebounded to 10.42 per nine. He walked a few more than normal, but nothing drastic. Most importantly, his home run rate dipped down to his normal”

      ? Seems pretty clear…

    • Steve H says:

      He peaked in 07-08

      This has nothing to do with his effectiveness in 2011. A-Rod peaked years ago yet can still be a huge contributor.

  4. Andrew says:

    Aardsma doesn’t have the track record of Soriano or Jenks, and he’d be acquired via a trade, which I don’t like. Heyman reporting that Jenks is looking for $8 million is also a bit of an eye-opener. Is he worth that, especially if it’s for 2 years? Also remarkable how Soriano’s market has somewhat dried up, but a team will still probably emerge willing to hand him a closer gig and pay him accordingly.

    Jenks makes the most sense but I don’t know if Cashman will be interested in spending $8 mill a year on a reliever. Even though Wood had a large salary last year, they were only paying him for 2 months and they didn’t offer him arb presumably to avoid paying him exorbitantly for middle innings work.

    The question is, does Cashman definitely want to spend big $ on the middle-to-back of the bullpen just because he has it burning a hole in his pocket post-Lee? I am not convinced he will get into a bidding war for Jenks so I could easily see him going to TB or elsewhere.

    • YankeesJunkie says:

      The only way that Jenks gets 8 million is if he only wants a one year deal. However, if the Yankees signed Jenks to deal that was somewhere in that neighborhood of 1 year for 7 million I would be for it because the Yanks with their lack of starting depth will need a stronger bullpen this year and that is what Jenks can offer them.

    • A.D. says:

      Aardsma also costs players, which makes him even less appealing

  5. The Real JobaWockeeZ says:

    Jenks or Joel Peralta for me. Stack this bullpen up.

  6. Cy Pettitte says:

    Mitre, D-Rob, Joba, Logan, Jenks, Feliciano/Fuentes, Mo is easily the best bullpen in the east

    get Andy back, figure out the 5th starter spot and we’re good to go

  7. Clay Bellinger says:

    I completely agree. Jenks definitely makes the most sense. I saw that he’s looking for 8 mil though.

    What about Jon Rauch?

  8. A.D. says:

    I’d like Jenks, but given some of the reliever contracts being handed out, really not sure if it’s worth it

  9. A.D. says:

    Couldn’t Jon Rauch also go on this list?

  10. mustang says:

    Agree on Jenks.

    If all the major links develop and the Yankees end up with Andy, Jenks, Zambrano and Feliciano for about the price of Lee minus the long term commit maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

  11. Monteroisdinero says:

    I like the words “absolute best” and “downright dominant” Fits well with our team.

    Mariano is 41 and his dominance is not forever and he won’t be able to pitch on consecutive days etc etc.

    I think I spend the money on Soriano. Who are we competing against for him now?

    • A.D. says:

      Well losing a 1st round pick for him would kinda suck

      • Monteroisdinero says:

        True but if he took over for Mariano and was a dominant closer for 3-5 more years it would be worth it. Since we are exploring “what ifs?” for all these guys, what if Mariano gets injured as a 41/42/43 year old closer? Not that unlikely especially since we know he will be used alot. We don’t have 4 Bob Fellers starting.

        As an aside and a useless fact, Raf is from the same town in the DR as Robbie and Alfonso Soriano (and many other berry berry good players)

        • Rob says:

          I don’t like this idea of acquiring Mo’s heir apparent via free agency this offseason at all. Someone (maybe Joba) or a lower price/short term FA who can close games in case of injury (or Mo not being available) would be great, but Soriano is a bit overkill/unecessary for that role in my opinion. Mo signed a two year deal..by the time that expires Soriano will be entering his age 33 season in 2013, not sure he can be counted on as elite even at that point, never mind for 3-5 years beyond that. I go for a cheaper and/or short term rp (Jenks could fall into that category, but he’s probably out of reach). And acquire the closer of the future at a later date, it’s too soon now. Maybe Joba or someone internally is that guy in 2 years..or you acquire Jenks for example (preferably the 2011 FA version of these guys, whoever’s available) and sign them to a short term deal (maybe just 2012) and if you like what you see extend him when Mo presumably retires following the season. Not to mention (though I don’t expect this) maybe Mo wants a 1 year deal in 2013 in which case this is even a worse idea looking to far ahead and spending big bucks for a volatile position on a pitcher who might not be the same guy at 33+ as the one you signed.

    • Steve H says:

      But for Soriano to come here as a setup guy, you’re going to have to totally blow away the market. Let’s say he can get 3/$40 to close elsewhere, he wouldn’t take a similar deal to setup. You’d have to pay thru the nose to bring him in.

      • Sweet Dick Willie says:

        I think you would have to consider the ring factor.

        Set up w/ good chance at a ring >> close for a non-contender.

      • Monteroisdinero says:

        I don’t know if he will just be a setup guy. I think he will have chances to close as well. You might need more innings out of these guys than you think.

        Who else is gonna pay him 3/40?

        • Sweet Dick Willie says:

          Chances Soriano would have to close w/ Yanks:

          1) Save situation and Mo has pitched the previous 3 nights
          2) Mo is on the DL

          That’s it. No way Girardi gives him the ball in a save situation unless Mo is unavailable.

          • Monteroisdinero says:

            disagree with #1. depends on how many pitches and NO WAY Mariano pitches 3 nights in a row. When are we going to come to grips with the fact that the core 4 will not always be in their prime?

            Mo WILL get back spasms and minor injuries that will limit his availability going forward. or maybe not until he’s 50!

            Give me a break.

            • JAG says:

              Point still stands though, Soriano isn’t going to be platooning or anything with Mo. He’s only getting save situations when Mo is not available. That may come up more now than it used to but it’s still not going to be that common a situation.

      • Rob says:

        I like this idea less and less now that I see those numbers typed out. Just say ‘No’ to Soriano. Acquire a capable “spot closer” now (who is primarily a setup man) + Joba and D-Rob and acquire the close of the future, if need be, a year or two from now. Plus losing our 1st in a year we can hold onto it with all of the worthy FAs off the market (and a good draft class), absolutely not worth it for me.

  12. Jorge says:

    I would have loved to have the team keep Kerry Wood, but that ship has sailed. I have to admit that seeing Wood up with the Cubbies irrationally tested by patience a bit last night.

    I agree that Jenks is the best choice. I want no part of giving up a first rounder for a reliever, no matter who that may be. Aardsma just screams “fodder” to me. The team could develop an internal option just as easily as the role he would wind up playing, I think.

    • Mr. Sparkle says:

      I don’t understand the obsession with losing a first-round pick. How many times have the Yankees made the most of their first round picks? They have a pretty bad history. Probably because most of their first-round picks, due to their success, end up coming closer to the second round anyway.

      I just picked a past draft to look up at random: 2000. Pick #1: Adrian Gonzalez. Pretty good. Pick #6: Rocco Baldelli. Ehh. Pick #15: Chase Utley. Very, very good. Picks #2-5, #7-14. No one anybody remembers outside of their mothers…and the GMs who made the wrong choice. Sorry, but in the case of Soriano, I’d rather deal with the known quantity.

      • pete says:

        well, for one thing, 2011 does not figure to be a “random” draft; by all accounts it is completely stacked. Also, every draft is a crapshoot, but if you stockpile picks, especially high ones, you’re more likely to get ML value out of it.

  13. Mr. Sparkle says:

    I think Soriano is the clear choice. Closers never seem to adapt to a set-up man role. How many times have we seen closers blow-up in non-save situations? How many times have they blown games when they’ve been brought in with a tie score. In my opinion, it’s a mentality issue. A different mind-set when the situation is different than what they’re used to.

    Soriano became a full-time closer just last year and was solid as a set-up man for a couple of years. Given all that plus Jenks’ declining numbers, I can’t see him excelling in that role. I see more of a 2009 J.J. Putz-type performance. Another all-star closer brought to NY to be a set-up man. Didn’t work out too well.

    I personally don’t care about losing a #1 draft pick. After all, those are just as much gambles as offering a 31-year old a four year contract. The difference…we already know Soriano can perform splendidly at the MLB level both as a set-up man and closer.

    • pete says:

      eh, pitchers pitch. The reason Soriano has had success in both roles is because he’s very good at pitching – most relievers, even closers, are relatively mediocre and/or extremely inconsistent. Jenks has shown that he is good by reliever standards, and will cost significantly less. Soriano would likely perform better, but you’re talking about very small amount of value difference, a difference almost certainly not worth the extended commitment, higher AAV, and loss of a draft pick. Like you said, draft picks are gambles just as much as offering relievers big contracts are, but the stakes are much, much lower in the draft. We don’t need another $10+m reliever in a bullpen that already has Robertson, Chamberlain, Logan, probably has Feliciano, and could have Jenks. It’s simply not a worthwhile upgrade. My guess is the difference between Soriano and Jenks probably winds up amounting to less than a win.

  14. jay says:

    I would not give up a first rounder for a reliever.you can just draft a 21 year old kid for the closer position. even that i would have a hard time doing. not many kids drafted as relievers work out.

    jenks, feliciano, and who knows maybe detroit will trade valarde after signing benoit for closer money

    • Mr. Sparkle says:

      I would not give up a first rounder for a reliever.you can just draft a 21 year old kid for the closer position. even that i would have a hard time doing. not many kids drafted as relievers work out.

      You started by saying you wouldn’t give up a first rounder and “you can just draft a 21 year old kid for the closer position.” Then talk about how “not many kids drafted as relievers work out.”

      I’m confused. Which side are you defending?

      Also…I wouldn’t go near Feliciano. He’s pitched 86, 88 and 92 innings in the last three years. Torre-esque overuse. Plus, he’s not very good and he’s 34. He has averaged almost 4 walks per 9 innings and almost a hit per inning in his career. Passable for a good starter. Unacceptable for a reliever who often faces only one or two batters a game.

      • Mike HC says:

        The Yanks need at least one other lefty reliever though. Boston’s lineup struggles against lefties. We need to take a chance on someone, and Feliciano seems like a good moderate cost option, clearly with risks though.

      • jay says:

        my point is that if i had to give up a first round pick for a reliever, i would rather sign a college kid. i dont think that is a good idea either so i would do neither of those ideas. if i had to choose one of them i would draft a kid though higher upside cheaper

  15. Mark L says:

    I think it would be interesting to compare the relative strengths of the set-up crop — Balfour, Wheeler, Rauch, Fuentes, Dotel and Wood (assuming he isn’t already signed by the Cubs)

  16. Mike HC says:

    I would go after Soriano.

  17. On a one or two year deal, Jenks for sure. If nothing else, at least he’ll have to shave that blond possum growing on his chin.

  18. Monteroisdinero says:

    So back to the question of who will sign Soriano if we don’t?

  19. Cy Pettitte says:

    Olney – “Heard this: The Red Sox have agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with Bobby Jenks.”

    shit

  20. Bulldozer says:

    Handing out less years for relievers is best.

  21. Yank the Frank says:

    MLBTR has Jenks signed with the Red Sox.

  22. theyankeewarrior says:

    this off season just keeps getting more annoying

  23. Ed says:

    Reality is that Mariano is 41 years old. At that age even Mo can get injured or see a rapid decline in his effectiveness. With Jenks apparently off the board and what looks to be a shaky rotation, I think Cash needs to splurge in the ‘pen. Sign Soriano and Feliciano/Fuentes. If more $/fewer years works for all involved, all the better.

  24. theyankeewarrior says:

    So we’re either giving up a first round pick in a stacked draft for a reliever, or we’re going to sign Pedro Feliciano and call it a pen?

    Awesome.

    2/12? For Jenks?

    I was thinking 2/18 or 3/21.

    • Ed says:

      Uggh, I forgot about the draft pick for Soriano. You’re right, seeing Jenks go to Boston for 2/12 is pretty disappointing.

    • Ed says:

      That.

      But imagine how satisfying it will be if the Yankees win this year anyway….

      In some respects it will be refreshing to be the underdog. Not since ’96 I think…

      • That is very true, and the Yankees have just as good a chance of winning it all as the Red Sox, Phillies, etc. Sure those teams look scary, and they win on paper, but both teams still have several holes, as the Yankees do.

  25. theyankeewarrior says:

    I didn’t think he was going to sign with us, but I also didn’t think he was going to sign for 2/12 with the fucking red sox.

    That’s what makes this annoying. No one else would give him more? The guy is a legitimate fucking closer.

    • The Big City of Dreams says:

      damn the sox pen now has Jenks, Pap, and Bard from the right side. If Pap and Bobby get on the right track…..

      • theyankeewarrior says:

        That whole thing just doesn’t make sense to me. How does he know he’s not going to be behind Pap AND Bard?

        And how is he getting less years than guys with half his resume?

        And why weren’t we in on him for that money or more?

        But we are in on type-A Soriano… and Feliciano.

  26. joe says:

    They could sign Soriano for 36-40M/3yr or they could sign Rauch at close to 18M/3yr…Rauch looked very strong at the end of the season and the post season! Will the Yankee’s put up with his tat’s?

    • Dave says:

      They’ll put up with it. AJs got some tattage (admittedly not that degree). But as long as Rauch keeps it to Clooney in ‘From Dusk ti Dawn’ and doesn’t go Tyson “I’m gonna eat his children,” he’ll be OK.

      Gotta say though, Soriano (commanding 3yrs at $9M+ per and losing 1st rounder) Feliciano (ughh) and Rauch (wasn’t he the Natties ‘closer’) aren’t options I’d consider inspiring.

      In fact, with the options remaining Ww’re gonna end up badly overpaying.

      Somehow, someway, Cashman needs to pull an 11th hour Houdini with Kerry Wood.

  27. http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/.....-wood.html

    Wood wanted 2 years/ $12 mil, and signed for one year, $1.5 mil? Must’ve really, REALLY wanted Chicago.

  28. JerryT says:

    Cashman needs to make some moves NOW.. Paralysis by analysis .. At this baseball dance the pretty one’s are almost all taken.. The way he is dealing he will be going home from the dance with the morning newspaper.
    WAKE UP…

  29. Greg Davenport says:

    Jaba, the starter ruined jaba the reliever. A great kid, even though he looks like fred flintstone with that hat but his problem is like aj burnett nothing shows on the MRI but every 10th batter puts a lot of wood on the ball. If grienke could be stolen for jaba and nova please do it. I’ll pay $12. for a diet pepsi. Phil Hughes is another trade for his own welfare player.New surroundings may help phil and he does have value for another team

  30. Xstar7 says:

    They sign Soriano to a ridiculous contract, he sucks, then gets injured and misses several months, but by the time he gets back we will have been begging for him because of how depleted the bullpen has become.

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