Relief Pitchers and Building Bullpens


It’s funny you’re most likely going to see one or two relief pitchers that get traded here at the deadline strickley based upon their ERA. Take Jamey Wright for example, Jon Paul Morosi has repored that teams have already made a few calls to the Mariners concerning Wright.

Now, Jamey Wright is in no way a “bad” reliever, he’s decent at his job. He gets a ton of ground balls, he strikes a few guys out and the only reason why people consider him “not as good” as say David Pauley is the crazy amount of home runs he gives up.

Still, a team could very well make a deal for him to help with their play off run. The thing that’s so funny about this is that there is now a freely available a better pitcher that teams will consistently skip over who has with a better xFIP and is being given away… you know, FOR FREE.

Aaron Heilman reached the last straw with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The man who was apart of the J.J. Putz trade what feels like so many years ago and then a few days after showing up for the Mariners fan fest was dealt to the Chicago Cubs for Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Olson. He’s “struggled” with Arizona and his ERA reflects that, right?

Well, out of the 656 pitches he’s thrown hitters are swinging and missing at 12.1%. It’s not tops in the league or anything but it’s certainly among the first page leader boards. He’s also issuing less free passes, giving up only 2.80 walks per 9/innings this year while throwing 35.1 IP. Again, not best in show, but certainly respectable. In fact as of right now he’s throwing less pitches in the strike zone, seeing people hit them less often and is still issuing less walks.

That problem, for all I can see, are his days of getting ground ball outs apparently stopping for whatever reason and that appears to be his down fall. Not that those former ground outs have become fly ball outs but rather the fly balls that don’t turn into outs. He is currently running the second highest home run per 9/IP in all of baseball in a ball park that is widely known to be a very good hitters park.

Now, his LD% has gone up and it’s showing that his above average BABIP (.360) is probably right on the mark. Meaning he’s missed with a lot of pitches and when people have gotten a hold of his pitches they’ve hit them and they hit them hard.

So what does this have to do with the Mariners?

Before I get into who it applies to the Mariners and their bull pen let me share another cutesie little story. See, there are transactions that are made all the time. Such as you have a problem with your shortstop. You can’t afford him, you have a younger and cheaper version, he’s an internal problem, he doesn’t pay attention whatever the case maybe there are situations that occur. During these types of trades (really any type of trade will do) it seems like most of these moves always include a good hard thrower, usually a future reliever.

Take Dan Cortes for instances. The guy was hoped to be a starting pitcher but we all had a sneaky suspicion that he could become a reliever (same as Mauricio Robles, though he still has time). He’s been a frustrating case this year as we thought that he’d be pitching most of the year up in the big leagues. Instead he took a step back, is down in Tacoma and has seen his control continue to vex him.

This isn’t an issue now or maybe ever-but hypothetically-there may come a time in which the Mariners need a roster spot and Cortes is the most expendable. He’s not going to be able to waste away in Tacoma forever. Ask Luke French about how quickly it takes for the shine to come off…

This is kind of what is happening to Adam Russell.

Russell was one of two pieces in the package from San Diego to Tampa this off-season involved in the Jason Bartlett trade. He’s run into some issues this season and at this juncture the Rays needed a roster spot and he was just the most expendable. Though I’m sure they would like to keep him around.

R.J. Anderson had a good post on him a couple months ago. Encouraging fans that he could still be a solid fixture in the years to come in the Rays bullpen. But due to needed roster spots, lack of production and now a needed move. He’s now basically free.

Now, you maybe thinking how does this apply to the Mariners?  Jon Paul Morosi writes that the Mariners are taking a “high number of calls” on League. Seattle fans in general I think are some what pre disposed to giving away good players and recieving little in return. Thus most are inclined to want to keep a guy like League who, despite our attachment, are replaceable.

There are few players (short of possibly Felix alone) that are truly irreplaceable on this roster. Bullpen guys are even more so than just about any position on the field. Yes, we gave up our “failed” 1st round pick in Brandon Morrow, who has done pretty well over in Toronto, to acquire League in the hopes that could help “long term” in the bullpen.

The thing about it is plans change and if a situation is brought to the Mariners they could get receive more in value than what League is worth to this organization over his remaining time here.

Heilman and Russell are just example of guys that are consistently available through out the year baseball. Guys that are cast aside due to some bad luck and the inconsistent nature of pitching two or three times a week for one or two innings at a time. While still having plenty in the tank.

Remember David Aardsma was acquired for Fabian Williamson, Kazuhiro Sasaki was a free-agent, we got Eddie Guardado in exchange for Travis Chick. Not to mention JJ Putz, George Sherill, Rafael Soriano and Matt Thorton were all home grown.

The Mariners have plenty of youngsters (Dan Cortes, Josh Lueke, Josh Fields, Bobby LaFromboise, Brian Moran, Willy Kesler, Stephen Pryor, Tyler Burgoon, Fray Martinez ect…) that are potential bullpen cogs and there are plenty of pieces around the league that can be had for cheap exchange pieces or even cash.

If a team is stupid enough to give up a valuable piece for what can be had for relatively cheap more power to our front office. I’m not advocate for trading League or to keep him. I’m just giving examples of cheap, easy to acquire bullpen pieces.

P.S. Jack if you could DFA Matt Tuiasosopo and pick up Adam Russell, I’d be much obliged.

*late minute addition note: you can add Jerry Blevins to the list of cheap free decent arms*