Archive for November, 2011

K-Rod for Closer


With news coming out yestertoday that all current Type A free agent relievers will now likely not require the signing team give up a first round pick, it has brought a whole new potential market for the Blue Jays to further explore. Even though the Jays were linked to free agent closers Jonathan Papelbon (before he was signed), Ryan Madson, and Heath Bell it was fairly clear they weren’t going to sign anyone of them if it meant giving up a first round pick. Because of this we saw them look at lesser options like Huston Street of the Rockies who would have been on a shorter term and probably would not have cost much in prospects due to the Rockies likely looking for some salary relief. Though now with the first round draft pick compensation likely being taken away for Type A free agent relievers with the signing of the new CBA it allows the Jays to look at options like Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Capps, and Francisco Cordero, who likely without this change in the CBA would get little to no serious consideration.

Of this group the one who looks to make the most sense is Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod started the season as the Mets closer in the last year of a 3 year $37 million contract and finished as the unhappy setup man for Canadian John Axford of the Milwaukee Brewers. Despite his lowest save total since becoming a full time closer in 2005 for Los Angeles Angels, K-Rod’s peripheral stats were still very good in 2012. Rodriguez had a 2.64 ERA, 2.72 FIP, and 3.02 xFIP, which produced a 1.4  fWAR. All these numbers were put up despite a .321 BABIP, which is 46 points above his career average.
To go along with all those stats in 2011 K-Rod put up a career low walk rate at 3.27 BB/9 and a career high GB% at 51.8%. That relatively high GB% came along with a career low 31.5% FB%, which is a bit of a change of pace from the 49.7% that de facto closer Jon Rauch put up in 2011. Granted an infield that includes Brett Lawrie may have some issues, but if and when Blue Jays defensive wizard Adeiny Hechavarria makes it to the big leagues, it could be a big help. It seems like the only real concerns with Francisco Rodriguez and his 2011 season that have been cited are his close to career low 9.92 K/9 and his dipping velocity. From 2008-2010 K-Rod’s average fastball velocity was 92.0 mph, in 2010 it got down to 91.2 and in 2011 it went to 90.2.
I’m not going to go around and tell you that he’s a proven closer, so he can overcome that, and I acknowledge it is concerning that there has been a dip of 2 mph, but he did deal with it in 2011 and could very well do the same in the future. Granted if the velocity dips anymore it could become a problem, but it is likely not to be too much of a problem as long as the deal he is signed to isn’t a long term one. As well the dip in velocity could simply be a product of the thumb ligament injury that K-Rod incurred in the odd altercation that happened between him and the father of his girlfriend at the time as the injury happened with the thumb in his pitching hand.

Even after weighing out the pros and the cons of signing Francisco Rodriguez the eventual determiner of a K-Rod signing will be the dollars and the years. Obviously K-Rod is looking for a multi-year deal, but with the market what it is that may not be what happens. In their “Free Agent Stock Watch” series MLBTR suggested that K-Rod should get a deal around the ball park of like 1 year $9 million. Their reasoning for that estimation was essentially as a midway point between the average annual salaries that closers turned setup men Bobby Jenks and Rafael Soriano got in their respective deals last offseason. Though that deal seems pretty fair, there is a couple factors that could pull the average annual value down.

Firstly K-Rod might lower the average annual value in return for a second year, and in Anthopoulos’ case probably an option for a third year, or a one year deal with an option for a second year. Secondly as evidenced by his comments in December he obviously wasn’t happy being a set up man and will likely be looking for a job where he is the de facto and set in stone closer. Just as it did to Rasael Soriano, who eventually changed his mind, it decreases his options on the marketplace. Thirdly the free agent class that Rodriguez is in is fairly saturated and still includes options like Heath Bell, Ryan Madson, Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Joe Nathan, and Jonathan Broxton, even after the signing of Jonathan Papelbon. Finally considering that at times Francisco Rodriguez can be considered to have “makeup issues” such as when he allegedly punched his girlfriend’s father, as well when he makes comments like, “I’m not fine, they told me I’d have the oppurtunity to close some games, and we’ve had 20-some save oppurtunities since then and I haven’t even had one.”

Suffice to say all of these things are not positives and just express the many reasons why the Blue Jays may be able to take a shot at him. Taking into account the fact that according to FanGraph’s dollars stat that describes the amount of money that the player should make on the free agent market has his value at $6.4 million in 2011, I’m thinking if I was AA I would offer K-Rod 2 year $7 million with an option for a second year and maybe guarantee the second year. He would be cemented as our closer, and he would at least be have an option for a second year. The fact that there really hasn’t been much buzz with Francisco Rodriguez makes me think that this could be a possibility. Besides would you rather give $6 million to a 37 year old Joe Nathan or an oft-injured Jonathan Broxton, or would you spring the extra million or two to go after a guy who has been a consistently good reliever for his whole career.

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The New Mr. Unnapreciated

Brian Jeroloman
Photo by Keith Allison licensed under Creative Commons

During the 2011 season in a article that was never ended up getting finished I outlined Mike McCoy as Mr. Unappreciated. The scrappy utility man played 2B, SS, 3B, CF, RF, and even pitched for the Jays this season. He played above average defense at 3 of the 5 positions according to UZR/150 (Beware the SSS) and hit at an almost parallel to the beloved John Mcdonald (McCoy .267 wOBA, Johhny Mac .269 wOBA). Yet, still Mikey Mick as the guys at Getting Blanked dubbed him, was always the odd man out. Granted he had the options and was easy to move, but still wasn’t really appreciated for the versatility that he brought the Blue Jays. His journey from Minors to Majors and back again and again is nicely illustrated in the graphic below.

A Graphic by Minor Leaguer of Bluebird Banter

But enough of Mike McCoy and on to the man who is the New Mr. Unappreciated. This man is the man who nobody thinks of when the question comes up on who the Jays backup catcher will be in 2012. Not Jose Molina, not Ryan Doumit, not Jason Varitek, not even Travis d’Arnaud, but instead the man who should be the backing up J.P. the sophomore is the only member of the Blue Jays during the 2011 season who didn’t play in a singlegame. Yes, ladies and gentlemen when asked who should back up Arencibia, I respond, Why not Brian Jeroloman.

It may not seem like the obvious first choice as Jeroloman isn’t exactly a coveted catcher, nor is he a proven veteran (not that it matters), but the Jays believed in him enough to call him up to the majors in 2011 for a cup of coffee, if you can really call it that. Jeroloman surely won’t produce in a major offensive way as evidenced by his sub .300 wOBA is the extremely hitter friendly PCL. There was the sentiment by some that he could become a fine offensive contributor after putting up a .429 OBP and .392 wOBA for the Fisher Cats in 2010, but at that point he was a little old for the league (24 at the time) and hasn’t really shown he can cut it and what is often regarded as a easier level to pad the stats.

Still despite his offensive shortcomings it doesn’t seem like he gets enough appreciation for what the guy who was “just a placeholder” on the roster could mean going forward. Brian is 25 will only make the MLB minimum salary in 2012 and provides absolutely stellar defense behind the plate. In fact as he progressed through the Blue Jays farm system there was always the sentiment that he had the defense to be a backup, if that is the direction the Jays wanted to take, but was always questionable on the hitting aspect (Unless you ask Ricciardi who called Jeroloman the catcher of the future). After over 2000 plate appearances in the minors it has become increasingly clear that the hitting just isn’t there. Fortunately for Jeroloman the sparkling defense as described in scouting reports should get him to the big leagues.

I could go on and show off the dazzling scouting reports, but this quote from Jays Journal’s Top 50 Jays Prospects List  pretty much sums it up, He has above average receiving skills, a good ability to block balls in the dirt , and he really enjoys developing a positive rapport with his pitchers, who like throwing to him. He also has a good arm behind the plate, and might not hit for a high average but getting on base through taking pitches has always been his strength.”

With the Jays pretty obviously looking for a defensively minded catcher to handle their young pitching staff the question becomes why not Jeroloman. Sure he isn’t really going to hit much at all for the Jays, but with d’Arnaud maybe pushing for a spot at some point in 2012 and the other options really only being guys like Ramon Castro, Dionner Navarro, and Jason Varitek among others, why not give Jeroloman a chance. The Jays said they viewed him as a potential backup catcher for the future when they called him up after the Kelly Johnson trade in August and I’d bet that same opinion would still hold true. Sure, there was the ongoing joke about whether or not Jeroloman would be placed in a game as the 2011 season came to a close and the final verdict gave Jeroloman a thumbs down in that category. But he did get an interesting nickname as “Moonlight Graham” named after the 1905 New York Giants outfielder by the same name. Moonlight Graham only ever played in one game in his career and so far has done Jeroloman one better, but hopefully Brian will be able to overcome his nickname in 2012. 

In 2012 even if it means putting up with a likely well below average offensive production, the defense Jeroloman provides behind the plate, his game calling abilities, and the fact that he will make the league minimum in 2012 are all the pros towards making Jeroloman the backup. The only situation that I would want to see Brian not taking that spot in 2012 would be on the very off chance that the Blue Jays re-sign Jose Molina. That very likely won’t happen unless the new CBA firmly changes draft pick compensation for the 2011-2012 offseason. So next time someone asks you who the backup will be, Why not Brian Jeroloman?

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