External Options For The Cleveland Indians Bullpen: Part Four

Are You Kidding Me With This?

With the departure of Chris Perez there will be a lot of discussion on who will be the Indians “closer” in 2014. Will it be someone in-house like Cody Allen or Bryan Shaw or will the Indians go out on the open market and sign a closer?

Ed Carroll and I see the investment in bullpen arms differently and have hashed it out over the last few winters. Rather than have a back and forth on philosophy, Ed and I are going to present a few bullpen options for the Indians and explain why they fit.

On Monday, I explained my desire for a back-of-the-pen arm (using the term “reliever extraordinaire,” which we both will often shorten to ‘RE’) and Ed wrote a manifesto on why he doesn’t believe in paying relievers, which can be found here.

Tuesday, we each had a list of five guys we’d like the Indians to target for the RE role. The names may not have been “sexy,” but we each explained why we felt these picks were good choices. Yesterday, Ed responded “blindly” to my list and today, I’m posting my “blind” response to Ed’s list – the first time he will see my comments is when this article is posted.

Now, as mentioned earlier, Ed & I do not see eye to eye as to how to build a bullpen. I like to bring kids (low dollar kids) up from the minors and fill bullpen roles as the season moves on (when needed) and usually not more than one of these types at a time. While I like to hoard these power arms in the minors I also believe in investing in back-end bullpen arms.

With that said I read Ed’s list and forgive me for using and slightly altering a favorite quote of mine from the movie Billy Madison with Adam Sandler:

Mr. Carroll, what you’ve just written is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on this interwebthingy is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

With all due respect to Ed, I lived through the 2006 bullpen fiasco and the 2008 “hey, let’s load up with guys that are low-cost but have experience” in Juan Rincon and Jorge Julio so I’m going to have to pass on most of the guys on your list! But, again — with all due respect, I’ll give an honest evaluation of each guy.

Joel Hanrahan:

Admittedly, this doesn’t solve the immediate problem, but it’s someone they should consider. He’s ugly for 2014, but gets ruggedly handsome for beyond next year, though he will pitch all of the 2014 regular season at age 32.

I have no problem keeping an eye on Hanrahan and would expect the front office to wine and dine him this winter but…..If I were his agent I’d advise him to take the Brian Wilson road and sign with a team when he is fully healthy. Look for a deal that pays him between $1M and $2M (depending on how long he can pitch) and re-enter the free agent market after 2014.

Carlos Marmol:

I’m not sure what MLB teams see here, as it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but his slider is still effective. I’d toss him a one-year $1-1.5 million dollar offer to be the Indians’ RE and entice him to pad saves with the Indians in 2014 and then go make bank from some other team because of it in 2015. But I think someone overpays him in the hopes that he turns back the clock. Marmol is 31.

Moment of Honesty – I had Marmol on my original list mainly because of how similar his 2013 season was to Fernando Rodney‘s 2011 season prior to signing with the Rays. In 2011, Rodney lost his job as the Angels closer and finished the year 3-5 with a 4.50 ERA a walk rate of 7.9 BB/9 and a strike out rate of only 7.3 K/9. Last year, Marmol lost his job as Cubs closer and finished the year between the Cubs and Dodgers 2-4 with a 4.41 ERA a walk rate of 7.3 BB/9 and 10.8 K/9.

After looking at Marmol’s career body of work I’ve come to the realization that he has to make a major adjustment to get his walk rate down to 2007/2008 levels of 4.5/4.2 BB/9 respectively. Since his career low of 4.2 BB/9 in 2008 he has had seasons with a BB/9 rate of 7.9/6.0/5.8/7.3/7.3. These are alarming numbers and for this reason I do not want to offer him a major league contract and bounce someone off the 40-man roster.  If he agrees to sign a minor league deal (which by the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement would include a $100K retention bonus and a June 1st out clause) and either prove his mechanics are more sound in spring training or in Columbus then I’d be all in.

bullpen carlos marmol

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Farnsworth:

He’s an ugly signing, and possibly about to fall off the cliff. That said, his BABIP with Tampa Bay in 2013 was absurdly high (.337) and it would be likely cheap to gamble on him (a guaranteed deal with incentives might do the trick, but no more than $1 million).

I had an opportunity to speak with Farnsworth several times over the course of the season leading up to his release from the Rays. The one common theme was his insistence that he couldn’t get into a rhythm without steady work. Joe Maddon for whatever reason had lost faith in him and with a contract bonus due with one more appearance the Rays released him.

He joined the Pirates in September and appeared in 9 games (8.2 innings) and striking out 9 and walking 3. There may be some fire left in his right arm and may be worth a major league contract and an opportunity to pitch in the back of the Indians bullpen.

Farnsworth will be 38 in April and this may cause a little concern but earlier this week I received a note from R.J. Anderson from Baseball Prospectus which said there were four relief pitchers aged 35+ who set career-highs in saves last year the highest total since 2007.

bullpen kyle farnsworth

Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Gonzalez:

I’d be willing to go out of my comfort zone here and offer a $1 million dollar deal with an easy vesting option and probably tie said option to his innings, with the rationale being if he’s more effective as a LOOGY, he won’t hit the option kicker, but if he’s effective against righties as well, he can get a little more in 2015.

If this were a post for finding a left-handed reliever to compliment Marc Rzepczynski I’d be all in for Gonzalez. The Indians do need a left-handed compliment reliever but it’s not as if the Indians have a Jake McGee (LH reliever) that can then slide into the closer position by signing him.

Darren Oliver:

He’s never really been a “closer,” induces a lot of ground balls (52% rate in 2013) and gives up the long ball (6 HRs allowed in 2013). That said, he’s been effective in limited doses against both righties and lefties and doesn’t walk guys (2.8 BB/9 rate in 2013). I could actually see a team taking Oliver home well before he falls into a price level I’d be comfortable with, but I’d be stoked to land him on (you guessed it) for a million in 2014. Now that you think of it, he is quite ruggedly handsome.

If this were a post for finding a left-handed reliever to compliment Marc Rzepczynski I’d be all in for Oliver. The Indians do need a left-handed compliment reliever but it’s not as if the Indians have a Jake McGee (LH reliever) that can then slide into the closer position by signing him.

O.K. So the last two responses were cut and paste and I would have thought that old and ugly $1M relievers could have been Octavio Dotel instead of Darren Oliver and Jose Veras instead of Mike Gonzalez. Maybe Ed and I will hash out the left-handed relief market and I can revisit Gonzalez/Oliver then? I will say that I would sign either Gonzalez or Oliver to a major league contract if they would meet the lower end of the pay scale ($1.5M-$2.25M)

In the meantime we will probably resume our hashing out the relief pitching market on Twitter. I have a higher payroll allowance and my targets are slightly higher than Ed’s. Like I said in my intro, I like the young kids like C.C. Lee, Preston Guilmet, Bryan Price, Austin Adams and believe Carlos Carrasco, Frank Herrmann, and Blake Wood are viable options to fill roles early in 2014 but I would like to add an experienced arm who could fill the 9th inning….I almost said closer but I’ll stick to Reliever Extraordinaire.

Topics: Carlos Marmol, Cleveland Indians, Darren Oliver, Joel Hanrahan, Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Gonzalez

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