Scouting The Trade Market: Matt Belisle

Midseason Review: Exceeding Expectations
2012 Draft: Hensley expects decision to come down to the wire

The bullpen has been a strength all throughout the Joe Girardi era, but injuries have wreaked havoc on the relief corps in 2012. Mariano Rivera made just nine appearances before suffering a season-ending ACL injury, and then a few days later David Robertson suffered an oblique strain that cost him a month on the DL. With their two best late-game arms out with injury, the Yankees relied heavily on Boone Logan and Cory Wade ahead of backup backup closer Rafael Soriano.

All of that work has thinned out the relief unit even though Robertson has returned. Wade is in Triple-A after allowing 16 runs in his last six innings and Logan leads the league with 43 appearances. He’s allowed a run in each of his last four appearances. The Yankees picked up Chad Qualls to add some depth and until we see Joba Chamberlain and/or David Aardsma on a big league mound, they shouldn’t count on them for anything. New York needs to add a quality reliever to their bullpen, someone to help take the load off Robertson and Soriano. The pace these guys are going at right now puts them at risk for burning out late in the season, something Girardi has done a masterful job of avoiding in recent years.

Trading for relievers is risky business, which is why the Yankees haven’t done much of it in recent years. Kerry Wood worked out well in 2010 and Damaso Marte has his moments in 2008, but otherwise they’ve built their bullpens via internal options and the scrap heap in recent years. Digging up another Wade — last year’s version, not this year’s — is probably not something they count on, so the trade market becomes an undesirable but necessary avenue to add relief depth. Let’s take a look at a personal fave and someone who should be very available since his team is not contending: Matt Belisle of the Rockies.

The Pros

  • A failed starter with the Reds back in the day, the 32-year-old Belisle has quietly become one of the game’s most effective relievers. He’s pitched to a 2.82 ERA and 2.72 FIP since the start of 2010 (1.93 ERA and 2.27 FIP this year) with stellar strikeout (8.07 K/9 and 21.9 K%), walk (1.62 BB/9 and 4.4 BB%), and ground ball (51.7%) rates. Take out the eleven (!) intentional walks and it’s a 3.2% walk rate. That is getting it done.
  • Belisle is a true three-pitch reliever, using a low-90s fastball to setup his mid-80s slider and low-80s curve. The slider is for righties, the curve for both righties and lefties. He’ll also throw a low-90s two-seamer and an upper-80s changeup, but very rarely.
  • Thanks to those two breaking balls, he doesn’t have much of a platoon split. Belisle has held lefties to a .275 wOBA (22.7 K% and 6.9 BB%) and righties to a .294 wOBA (21.4 K% and 2.9 BB%) over the last three years.
  • Belisle is a true workhorse out of the bullpen, throwing 92 innings across 76 appearances in 2010. The Rockies scaled it back to 72 innings across 74 appearances last season, but this year he’s up to 46.2 innings in 43 appearances. He’s tied with Logan (and a few others) for the most appearances in baseball and is third in reliever innings.

The Cons

  • All of those appearances and innings may be catching to Belisle, as his fastball velocity continued to trend downward this season after a slight drop a year ago. He’s also throwing the fastball less frequently than ever before (just 46.9%), perhaps an indication that he’s having trouble getting outs with it.
  • Belisle has a history of knee problems, including a torn ACL back in 2008 and offseason surgery to repair a torn meniscus after pitching though it all last season. He’s obviously been healthy enough to rack up all those innings, however.
  • He’s not cheap. Belisle is making $3.775M this year — approximately $1.8M from here on out — and is under contract for $4.1M next season. His contract includes a $4.25M mutual option for 2014 with a $250k buyout. That’s not a ton of money, but he would be the third highest paid reliever on the club behind Rivera and Soriano.

Belisle has a whole lot to offer as a workhorse reliever capable of getting both lefties and righties out. That’s one of the biggest problems with the Yankees bullpen right now, there are so many specialists — Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Logan, Qualls — that Girardi has to use two or three of these guys just to get a handful of outs. Belisle’s a guy who has experience pitching in big-time offensive park and won’t require any sort of special treatment as far as matchups go. They could just stick him out there for an inning or two and let him go.

Reports indicate that the Rockies would have to be overwhelmed to trade Belisle, which is unfortunate. Relievers like Matt Capps and Mike Adams were traded at midseason with a year and a half of team control remaining at recent trade deadlines, giving us a pair of decent comparables. Capps fetched Wilson Ramos — an excellent catching prospect at the time — while Adams netted Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin, a pair of Grade-B pitching prospects at Double-A. Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd is probably looking to hit a homerun like the Athletics did when they traded Andrew Bailey for Josh Reddick and others.

The Yankees have the pieces to swing a deal and Belisle appears to be a damn good fit, but again, trading for relievers is always risky because they have a tendency to suck for no apparent reason and without warning. If Belisle comes in and pulls a 2007 Eric Gagne, whoever trades for him will be stuck with him at a team unfriendly salary in 2013. The upside is that he comes in an dominates and is around next year, providing some protection should Soriano opt-out of his deal after the season. There’s an obvious need for another quality reliever in the bullpen, it’s just a question of whether the Yankees want to shore it up via trade or continue to do what they’ve been doing for the last few years and finding answers on the cheap.

Midseason Review: Exceeding Expectations
2012 Draft: Hensley expects decision to come down to the wire
  • Cris Pengiucci

    I hate to think of the Yankees giving up anything of value for a reliever, especially a relatively high priced one. They’ve got good pieces on the team now, a couple more excellent pieces that may be available later in the seasson, and some more guys in the minors that can chip in.

    That being said, you can never have enough pitching. With the Rockies going nowhere, maybe they’ll come around and accept what the Yankees perceive to be a reasonable offer.

  • PJ

    When you say the Yankee’s have the pieces to swing the deal, what kind of package gets it done?

    • Ted Nelson

      Ramos was considered a better prospect than Romine (when healthy, which he’s not) or Murphy, but worse than Sanchez. Was having a down year, but still a BA top 100 prospect. Trading him for Capps is probably a good indication of why the Twins stink now after such a good run (not the only reason, just an indication of the decision making that’s gone on). So, I guess the Yankees could maybe offer Murphy plus an Adam Warren or Brett Marshall maybe to match the Ramos and Tesla for Capps deal (better P to make up for worse C).

      No real position player that I can compare to Reddick with his MLB experience at the time. Maybe Phelps is a comparable value. Maybe CoJo plus. That deal had more moving pieces, though, with Sweeney to Boston and two others to Oakland.

  • Rooting for U.S. Steel


    I always appreciate your scouting reports for the insight they provide on players I might otherwise overlook. In this case, however, I fall more on the side of in-house options.

    With Pettitte, Chamberlain and Aardsma all looking like potential September reinforcements, we do have a few potential arms coming to us within the next six weeks.

    Belisle could be thrown in against right-handed bats, leaving Logan to face lefties. Not ideal, but it would cut down on Logan’s workload. But if the goal is to neutralize righties, why not bring up Ramon Ortiz, who has been mowing ’em down in Scranton?

    And yes, I know the operative words there are “in Scranton”…

    Ortiz would be a cheaper option, both in terms of commitment and potential trading chips. And since the Yankees are apparently hellbent on not bringing him up as a starter, what would be the risk?

    If it works out, we have a right hander out of the bullpen. If it doesn’t… we’ve likely sacrificed little more than a game or two in the standings, but kept genuine trading pieces for other acquisitions. Or Belisle.

    • Ted Nelson

      I agree with the rest of your comment, but what makes you say they are hellbent on not bringing Ortiz up? Whose starts do you want him taking? Wouldn’t Phelps be the guy to take those starts?

      • yooboo

        Ramon Ortiz is 40 years old and is likely to throw no harder than 90 mph. I guess he can take over DJ Mitchell’s spot for 25 man roster.

        Thinking Ortiz has a shot for starting job in the rotation with Yanks is frivolous. He is basically a retiree who enjoys playing in the minor league.

        • Ted Nelson

          He is depth who could be in the rotation if enough guys go down.

          • yooboo

            You can say that but Ortiz was signed to replace David Phelps in AAA.

            • Ted Nelson

              Thanks for filling me in Brian Cashman.

      • Rooting for U.S. Steel

        Phelps, yes, but I would have brought Ortiz up before Warren. Thought there was a perfect opportunity when both Pettitte and Sabathia went on the D.L. The division was tighter, and Ortiz’s numbers were better.

        In addition, I’d been looking at the consistency of Ortiz’s starts (six-seven innings per, although I’ll keep chanting Scranton-Scranton-Scranton so nobody else has to). Thought he was less likely to get shelled early on and thereby chew up the bullpen.

        The Powers That Be thought differently, however… but we’re seven games up, so I’m not going to second guess too loudly…

        Not that it proves anything, but given what has happened so far I can’t see a scenario in which they’d bring Ortiz up before the roster expansion. If then. Happy to hear different takes.

        • Ted Nelson

          Issue is also that Ortiz has no options. A spot start and you either keep him up or lose him. (Was Waaren on the 40 man already or added then?)

          Warren could go up (and I believe was lined up for that start anyway), and head right back down.

          • yooboo

            Warren was added to 40 man roster.

            • Ted Nelson

              For that start or in the offseason?

              • yooboo

                For that start.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The Yankees are clearly affecting the development of a young prospect like Ramon Ortiz. How do we ever expect our young pitchers to become anything?

      • Rooting for U.S. Steel

        You seem to be discounting the 50-game suspension Ortiz served when he tested positive for Geritol, which also affected his development.

        Besides, chasing those damned kids out of his yard keeps him fit, and helps him maintain his sub-3 ERA.

  • Bubba

    Why would the Yankees trade for an expensive (both in $s and prospects), overworked reliever to help lessen the load on an overworked bullpen?

  • G

    Simple solution: if he hasn’t been used in a trade by the deadline, move Betances to the bullpen.

    • Ted Nelson

      I don’t see how that is a solution. You also have to get guys out in the bullpen.

  • jjyank

    Sounds like he’d be a good fit, but I would be very uncomfortable giving up anything significant. So unless Colorado’s price comes down considerably, I say pass.

  • Ted Nelson

    I would not consider dealing a piece in the Ramos/Reddick relm for Belisle. You’d be talking… Romine (probably not since he’s hurt) or Murphy or better for Ramos or maybe CoJo or better for Reddick… I like Belisle and all, but I don’t see the pen problem as big enough to justify a major move. Joba could be back in a month (if he has a set back, would be more likely to support a makor move) and Aardsma could be right behind him. Qualls is perfectly acceptable in middle relief against RH. Give Mitchell some semi-leveraged work to see how he responds. Maybe try a Ramon Ortiz or Juan Cedeno or Ryoto or whoever the next guy to hit the scrap heap is.

    If the Rockies want to give Belisle away reasonably, sure. Otherwise I’d work the internal options and scrap heap. And I’m one who usually touts the merits of RP. I just think the need does not justify giving up a major piece for maybe a 5th very good reliever this season (Soriano, DRob, Boone, and Joba), and a 6th one for next year. Especially not with all the other internal options they have.

    • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

      I’m totally with you. It always sort of feels like you can catch lightning in a bottle with relievers, and so you’d might as well try what you’ve got in the farm rather than give up a useful piece for one. After all, they just need to throw their best stuff for 20 pitches or so. It seems you can make someone fit that role.

  • yooboo

    Those number 1 and 3 in the cons column are reasons why Yanks wont get him.

    Move on.

  • DM

    With Gardner out until 7/27 (at least), I’d be scouting the trade market for an outfielder. DeJesus?

    • Chad Gaudin the Friendly Ghost

      Am I the only person whose troll brain automatically translates David DeJesus’ last name into ‘Of Jesus’?

    • Ted Nelson

      You want a 5th OF for 2 weeks?

      Seriously, not sure I’d give up much of anything to eventually replace Ibanez with him. He’s better, but not a ton. If he’s being given away I might replace Ibanez with him.

      • DM

        Nah, I’d be interested in a hedge against Gardner not being able to contribute this season and beyond. Gardner’s ETA keeps getting pushed down the road, now to the 27th at the earliest. DD is also signed thru next year. As for what you might trade for him, you always try to strike the best deal. So, no I’m not trading for a 5th OF for 2 weeks. I’m trading for a better player than DW, who can serve that role at least, and fill in for Gardner if he goes “ouch” with that elbow again — and be in the OF mix in 2013. Gardner won’t be given much time to prove he’s fine going forward before the deadline expires.

        • Ted Nelson

          When Gardner comes back you’re cutting either Dejesus or Ibanez…

          • DM

            You cut DW — like you would if Gardner came back tomorrow.

            • Ted Nelson

              And when Gardner comes back–which we have to assign 50/50 odds unless you have inside info–who do you cut then? You have a 50% chance of making this trade for about 2 weeks, objectively speaking. (Subjectively I would say far greater than 50%.) You keep denying this and taking a hypothetical I used if Ibanez got hurt out context, an I’m the dumb one? You are too much.

              Who is your backup CF when you cut Wise?

              • DM

                No “we” don’t “have to” assign odds using your TEDuctive reasoning. And nothing of what you state about any of these subjects should be coined “objectively speaking”. What an absurd notion?!? 50% chance of making of trade for “about” 2 weeks, huh? And you call what you do “analysis”?? You retrofit everything to a conclusion you held from the start. And your lame attacks use the same painfully obvious sequence of dropping context and engraving labels that were never mentioned nor suggesting from “DeJesus?” — all to create a contrarian position b/c I’ve rubbed your nose in your own ignorance so many times in the past.

                If your pea brain can’t find any merit in the idea that with an injured Gardner — who is SUPPOSED TO come back on the 27th AT THE EARLIEST — after being shut down again when he was SUPPOSED TO come back over a month ago — that maybe some better OF depth might be a good idea, I can’t help you.

                Like maybe one who can play all 3 OF positions, who plays on a team that might be sellers, who is signed at a relatively reasonable price thru 2013 — all for a Yankee team that lacks OF depth even when everyone was healthy — and has control only over 2 of their current OF going into 2013 — and has budget concerns for 2014.

                But maybe you are that stupid since your suggestion was to drop Ibanez — the LF who took over for the injured Gardner — to add Branyan/Cust to be a 4th string 1st baseman/DH. Just the remedy for an already weakened OF depth chart! And of course Branyan/Cust fill that HUGE gap in the Yankee offense, a HOMERUN hitter that strikes out a lot! And maybe if Garcia pitches well they can implement another aspect of your master plan — Pettitte as 8th inning guy when he returns! Less innings you know! (except he may have to warm-up and pitch 3 days in a row — great for the 40 yr old elbow of a career starter.) What’s next you budding GM?? Stretch out Wise to pitch in long relief? Or if Garcia pitches poorly, maybe have him shag some fly balls in center?

                Or maybe you’re just dishonest. I’m guessing a little bit of both.

        • Ted Nelson

          So… You are trading for a 5th OF for a year and a half… To cut your slightly worse 5th OF… Great plan! People may get hirt, but that doesn’t mean you trade assets and cut productive players for back-up plans.

          • DM

            You dubbing him a 5th OF limit him to that role (except in TedLand). AJ, RI, NS are all free agents at the end of the season. The only guys under control are control are Granderson and Gardner — and Gardner’s one-handed lefty swing has had a problem for months now. And how do you know what assets would be required to get him? As usual you have nothing to contribute except strawmen — and an occasional Ted Special, like some nonsense about dropping an OF to add a 1st baseman like Branyan. Your stupidity and short-sightedness knows no bounds.

            • Ted Nelson

              You think Dejesus is a good option to start in the Yankees’ OF, and I’m stupid? LOL Depth can be had cheaper, with less risk. Ibanez an Jones are prime examples.

              I know he would cost something plus his salary, which is more than I’m willing to give up to marginally upgrade the 5th OF position.

              • DM

                You’re referring to Ibanez as a prime example of cost-effective, quality OF depth??? LOL is right! Boy, times have changed since you dubbed him as a waste who can’t hit or field, huh? And I’m sure an astute follower of the game such as you knows that both AJ and RI have PA incentives beyond their base salary, right? And of course it’s preordained from the baseball gods that this cheap, less risky OF depth — or any other kind of player — will always be available to the Yankees. There was so much of it last season that they had to settle for that horrible Ibanez who can’t hit or field — oops, I mean he’s a prime example of the opposite of those bad things. Ridiculous.

            • Ted Nelson

              The Yankees should trade for Dejesus with Gardner expected back in about two weeks and I have nothing to contribute? LOL

              • DM

                Yes, you have nothing to contribute — except Gardner’s return in “about” 2 weeks – which you claimed was only 50/50 (as if that means anything) just before. So yes, LOL.

                And tell me why the Yankees spent 4 mil on Garcia in early December. A HEDGE against Phil’s mystery ailments of 2011? A hedge against under performance from others? A hedge against not being able to acquire anything better at the price you want? Nah, the Yankees would NEVER do that — and they NEVER acquire players that might overlap the roles of other players at the trading deadline in effort to squeeze another win or two, right? They should never have given Garcia 4mil to be a 6th starter, odd-man out — just use Warren, Phelps, Mitchell, Ortiz or any experienced AAA arm — cheaper, right? It’s only depth, so why did they do that? Remember, Cashman’s a great GM, like you said.

    • The Ghost of Joe Dugan

      DeJesus is one of those guys who seems destined to become a Yankee eventually. I remember people talking about Johnny Damon coming to the Yankees for years before he finally did.

  • Tom

    Mike (and admittedly I’m too lazy to go to Cots)…Is the mutual option for 2014?

    You say he is under for 4.1mil next season (’13) and then has a mutual option for 4.25mil…. I assume you mean 2014 on that option?

    • yooboo


  • Robinson Tilapia

    The price for a middle reliever is higher than a bag of balls, you say? Pass.

  • Fernando

    Belisle would definitely help. If you want to trade, I would prefer someone like Grant Balfour, who has a team option for next season at a 350K buyout. No need to commit long-term to a reliever.

    However, I would prefer to not spend assets on relievers, especially ones that will not be cheap in terms of salary. Guys like Igarishi, Del Carmen and maybe even Ortiz should be given a chance to help in that area. The whole point of signing those vets was to provide depth, so let’s see what they can do. If they want to go with a younger guy, they could take a look at Chase Whitley.

    If they decide to promote Ortiz, it would also help clear up a SP spot at AAA. The team could then promote Nuno, so they could evaluate him at the higher level.

    • yooboo

      trading usually changes club’s option to player’s club.

      • yooboo

        player’s option.

  • MattG

    Yankees need a reliever? Maybe, but not from outside the organization.