Wednesday, 15 December 2010

My New Obsession

Here's what we know.

The Baltimore Orioles have committed over a million next year to Jeremy Accardo. Earlier in the year they re-upped the impressive Koji Uehara who finished 2010 as their closer (and has a 5:55 BB:K ratio) for a $3 mil deal with a 2012 option that should vest pretty easily. In addition, there are strong rumors they have a 2 year, $8-10 million offer out to Kevin Gregg.

NO ONE is talking about the relief pitcher the O's committed $12 million over 2010 and 2011 to LAST winter.

I want to talk about him. His name is Mike Gonzalez.

(See what I did there?)

Mike Gonzalez, you might recall, blew 2 of his first 3 save opportunities and was yanked from the closers job by the manager Dave Trombley and within a week found himself on the DL with a strained shoulder (which some had whispered he'd been trying to pitch through for much of spring training). While Gonzalez and his 18.00 ERA rotted on the DL until Mid-July, Alfredo Simon closed fairly well for three months (he had a 3.03 ERA on July 23) before falling apart over three weeks before finally losing the job.

But instead of giving the closing job back to the guy they were paying $6 million to do it, new manager Buck Showalter handed the ball to former starter Uehara, who, in fairness, did a fine job (after the All-Star break Uehara had a 2.57 ERA and 45 K's in 35 innings - to go with TWO WALKS!) and Gonzalez was regulated to a set up role.

The MLBTR blurb on Gregg says that the O's didn't promise the closer job to Uehara and that they could still give it to Gregg if he accepts there offer (that right there, if true, shows you the level of thinking we are dealing with here)

So - are the O's really going to pay Gonzalez $6 million to be a middle reliever? I sense opportunity here!

Let's consider Mike Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a 32 year old (33 in late May) LHP who arrived in Baltimore with a 2.57 career ERA pitching for Pittsburgh and Atlanta. He'd won the closer job in Pittsburgh before being dealt for Adam LaRoache and for the Braves he settled in as a set-up man to equally impressive Rafael Soriano. For those two teams he compiled a 168 ERA+ and posted a 1.22 whip over almost 300 IP. He was in many ways an 8th inning closer.

In Baltimore, after that injury impaired beginning, he managed to become a bit of a pariah with O's fans, who got a terrible first impression and those are often hard to overcome (witness the number of jays fans who are sure despite the stats that Jason Frasor can't handle pressure). Even after he was healthy and back in the majors, Showalter didn't seem to be interested in putting him back into the closer role (and with Uehara pitching like that, who can blame him really?).

The mythology, then, has been built up that Gonzolez sucked in 2010. that he can't handle the AL East. that turns out to be bullshit. Remember Gonzalez's career stats I mentioned above?

Here's what he did after he came off the DL last year for comparison:

2.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 10.58 K/9
July 22-end of season, 2010:
2.78 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 11.12 K/9 (oh, and .165 BAA, .512 OPSA)

In short, he had a perfectly excellent second half. He is EXACTLY what the Jays need. So much so that not only would I try to take advantage of the O's and deal for him but I'd see if i could get him to add some time to that contract. Six million might be at the upper edge of what a closer ought to be paid, but the Jays can afford it and he would be the lockdown guy that AA wants.

With Frasor and presumably Purcey setting him up, and Shawn Camp back, the back of the Jays 'pen would be one less thing for the team to worry about.

And don't think the Orioles don't have several ideas of where they could spend the money they would save in such a deal - if you think they wouldn't deal Gonzalez, ask yourself this question - why would a team with this guy, AND Uehara . . . still want to spend $10 million over the next two years on Kevin Gregg??!!?

Gonzalez is a better pitcher than any closer still on the free agent market except Soriano - and e won't cost us our first round pick (in fact, he might very well GET us one in 2012).



John_Northey said...

Makes one wonder just how much Baltimore can blow on their pen. $5 mil here, $6 mil there, $3 mil here, $1 mil there = $15 million for 4 relievers who probably all want to close. That same amount could get you a good starting pitcher or solid everyday player or Mariano Rivera.

Meanwhile Baltimore was a last place team last year and has been sub-500 for over a decade and is playing in the toughest division in baseball. Blowing the wad on your pen does not seem the brightest move. Of course, that would land right within their history wouldn't it?

As to taking one of them, I'd require Baltimore to pay part of the salary if they want anything in return.

chill said...

I'm down with this new obsession if the price is right. As for what the O's are doing...their starting pitching is awful and their best hitter is a gun loving nut job, if they want to win more than 20 games next year they'll need a kick ass, lock down bullpen (Greggggg notwithstanding)

Anonymous said...

I guess it all depends on how the O's front office sees him, whether it's the same way the Braves soured on Escobar or whether they're equally aware that he's damn good regardless of the inning he's pitching in.

DawsonBergmann said...

Or, adversely, you could sign the 30 year old Bobby Jenks, who produced a FIP of 2.59 and a WAR of 1.5 last year. His ERA was bad, so you get him for presumably 3-4 million.

Anonymous said...

I have a phobia of ex-Oriole, left-handed closers. It's completely irrational I'm sure - but I just can't shake it.....

mathesond said...

Don't worry, Anon, lefty ex-Oriole closers are really good their first year