Monday, March 29, 2010

The Suitors For Bullpen Help Will Come

Aaron Hill Exceeds “Potential”

Great article today about the scouting and drafting history of
Aaron Hill. It is evidence to me about how tough a scout’s job is not only from a geographic coverage standpoint but also from a perspective standpoint. Just imagine how difficult it is when you’re traveling a lot and away from your family, but you’re sent to see several games in which there are lots of players but only 1 or 2 which you’re targeting. If you don’t go with a broad view and an open mind, you can miss a player of Hill’s caliber and potential. Now that is a real talent that must take years to develop and it’s why teams value the really exceptional scouts so highly.

Bullpen by Committee Seldom Works

Minnesota Twins have decided that for the time being they are going to attempt to replace Joe Nathan with a “bullpen by committee” arrangement in the hopes of avoiding having to trade for a legitimate closer. Many teams have attempted this experiment, some with limited success, but most with disastrous results. The best example I can think of regarding the need for a full-time undisputed closer is the Blue Jays themselves.

From their inception in 1977 until Henke become the undisputed closer in 1986, the Jays didn’t have any choice but to go with a bull by committee approach. They didn’t have the talent or depth to give someone the job and let them run with it, and tried on occasion (Bill Caudill) to trade for a legitimate closer to solve their problem.

The Jays had some pretty good teams in those days logging 89 wins in ’83 and ’84 and then 99 wins in ’85 to win their first division title. Yet in those 3 years they had a bullpen by committee with 5 pitchers recording saves in ’83, 6 in ’84, and even 5 in ’85 when they had their best year ever. From 1986 through 1992 when Henke left as a free agent, it was left to Henke and Mark Eichorn and then Henke and Duane Ward to do the closing, with dramatically better results.

This is why teams give such big contracts to free-agent closers like Billy Wagner, Francisco Rodriguez, and our own B.J. Ryan. All GM’s know that a strong closer can put those marginal games in the win column and enhance your chances of post-season. The Twins know this too and will finally resolve themselves to trade for a closer long before the trade deadline.

Unless Brad Lidge gets healthy and asserts himself, the Phillies will be in a similar position. There are other teams with playoff aspirations such as the Cubs who don't have the depth in relief they'd like to have. This doesn't even count the teams we can't identify yet who through injury or performance haven't experienced a need yet. The deeper into the season get, the better the trade options for the Jays.


  1. Totally agree that closer by committee is a hard sell, but if anyone can do it, it's the Twins. With Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney and others waiting in the wings to grab a spot in the pen, they have lots of options and can sustain it for a decent amount of time.

    The Cubs and Phillies should be the first to come knocking. Since the Phils have a built up relationship with AA already, and they have Phillipe Aumont and a Canadian OF prospect in Tyson Gillis who may also interest the Jays, I fully expect them to swoop in a grab one of Scott Downs or Jason Frasor. The Cubs just don't want to win badly enough. How else can you explain their moves (or lack there of) this off season? They'll be better simply by losing Milton Bradley, but it isn't Xavier Nady or Chad Tracy that will push them over the top. I see them as a better potential fit for Jason Frasor or Brian Tallet, should they ever decide that they want to win in 2010. The question is, for what return? Josh Vitters?

  2. Mat, I love your thoughts as always.

    I hope it's the Phillies that come calling because they still have a ton of talent on the farm that would interest us. Tyson Gillies in particular seems to be raising lots of eyebrows and we could use a talented outfielder with speed on this team.

    I don't like our odds of getting Josh Vitters but I'm sure he is the second guy he asks the Cubs about after Castro. What I do think is that Alex needs to make the next trade one for a high end guy like Vitters and expand the deal if he has to like he did in the Brandon Morrow trade.

    The reality is that it may take a month or two for the dust to settle and other teams determine what their true needs are and if they are likely to be competitive enough to challenge for the post-season. Then AA will have a slight edge in trade talks.