State of the Bullpen
Right now, the current “winning pieces” for Texas are Neftali Feliz closing and then whoever Tim Bogar picks from a hat and feels best with handling the other late innings. Generally, it’s been some sort of combination between Neal Cotts, Roman Mendez, and Shawn Tolleson. However, Spencer Patton, Alex Claudio, and Jon Edwards have also been getting their chances at getting big outs. The job from Bogey (he’s managing for a permanent job) is to win, but also try and see what he currently has to use in his bullpen next year. While the current ERA’s look nice and Feliz hasn’t blown a save yet, I’m still hesitant to say that I have confidence in our current assets maintaining the success next year. If you look at just the ERA’s and opponents batting average of our staff, you may conclude that we have a nice pen. I’m going to exclude Neal Cotts, because I assume that he will not be back next year.
I know everyone seems to love Mendez; his stuff appears to look good when using the old eyeball test. His average fastball velocity is sitting around 95, and he has a decent slider to go along with it. However, according to Brooks Baseball the whiff percentages for his pitches this year are as follows:
So the question becomes, who do we take into next year from this current group and feel good about, and who do you add to it? Tony Blengino of Fangraphs mentioned in his latest piece that “[t]he very best pens are quite often very inexpensive, featuring multiple cost-controlled 0-3 year players. A hammer, top-of-his-game closer seems to be a necessity, but more often than not, an elite bullpen features an elite closer who isn’t yet paid elite dollars.” I use the examples of teams I mentioned above in Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Seattle. Those team’s closers make a combined 14.3 million in 2014, and the rest of the bullpen is made up of young pitchers and cheap veterans. That’s the best way to go about building one. There are some upcoming Free Agent relievers that I have interest in because frankly, this team needs some guys that can miss bats. I am going to assume that David Robertson will get the richest contract of this upcoming core as he’s a current 29 year old reliever racking up saves and dominating while doing it. He’ll likely want close to Craig Kimbrel money and certainly want equal to what Joe Nathan received with probably an extra year or two. Unless money is no issue for the owners, I would pass. The guy I would look into strongly is Andrew Miller. He won’t turn 30 until May of next year and he’s been absolutely fantastic over the last two years since he was converted into a reliever. His numbers in 2013 and 2014 are listed below:
I also would look into a few older reclamation projects that either had “down” years, coming off injury, or are just simply older. Guys like Koji Uehara, Sergio Romo, Luke Hochevar, Jason Grilli, Luke Gregerson, or Pat Neshek. Koji would probably cost the most as he’s been a closer and is still pretty good. Romo lost his closer’s role but he’s still 31 and strikes out a decent amount and still has a 3.35 xFIP. Hochevar is coming off Tommy John and could be a Joakim Soria stash type. He was dominant in 2013 as a setup man for KC. Jason Grilli is a pure dart throw at the right price. Gregerson could be a good buy as he has not been collecting saves. Neshek has been a wonder in STL. He does not walk anyone or allow homers. I wouldn’t mind him either.
So to put it all together, if I had my choosing of anyone I just mentioned. I would sign Andrew Miller to be my closer. I would also sign Neshek to a dirt cheap deal (that he will likely take) of around 2 or 3 million. Then, I carry over Feliz by default. Hopefully his recent uptick in velocity is a positive sign of things to come. I also carry over Tolleson and Patton. My LOOGY would be Alex Claudio. Finally, you bring back a healthy Tanner Scheppers and go to war with that. I haven’t forgotten about Corey Knebel. If he’s healthy at Spring Training, hopefully he beats out Tolleson for the last spot and dominates. I’m just assuming he’ll have to prove health and likely start 2015 at Round Rock.