Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Arbitration Signings 1/18

The signings to avoid arbitration have been coming fast and furious the last few days, and that's likely to continue for a few more days. We had a bevy of signing the past few days, but instead of addressing them each with their own article, I'll simply do them as a group. Of course, I reserve the right to diverge from that...

- The White Sox reached an agreement with long-reliever Tony Pena on a one year deal that will pay him 1.55m. Pena is in his first year of arbitration eligibility and coming off a season where he gave the Sox 100 innings of 5.10 ERA ball, but he wasn't quite as bad as one would think at first blush, he posted a 4.63 FIP but suffered from a 65% LOB rate.

I'd imagine the Sox aren't particularly concerned about the quality of innings, but rather are happy to have someone they can consistently hand the ball to when they need someone to do mop-up work. And in the event they'd need a spot-start from him, he's not a complete disaster.

Indeed, his 2010 season was probably his worst since his rookie season with the Diamondbacks. Pena saw his strikeout and walk rates drop off somewhat dramatically in 2010. If he can regain his old form, he should be able to give the Sox both quantity and quality from the long-relief spot as he's the proud owner of a solid 4.17 career FIP.

- The Indians have reached an agreement with super-two eligible closer Chris Perez on a one year deal for 2.25m. Perez was acquired from the Cardinals in 2009 and is known as a high strikeout, high walk pitcher. He registered a 1.71 ERA last year but saw a drop in his strikeout rate to 8.71 from 10.74 the previous year and his career rate of 9.52. Perez has poor command with a career walk rate of 4.29 and he doesn't get ground balls so he'll need to right the strikeout ship to have continued success as a high-leverage reliever.

The 2.25m deal topped my estimate by just 250k and should be a good value next year. However, it sets a frightening precedent. Perez is a good pitcher, but he's not an elite closer and by getting 2.25m this year, he's put himself on the track for big money via arbitration over the next few years an could price himself out of the Indians plans by the time his final year of arbitration comes around.

- The Royals and Kyle Davies have reached a one year agreement for 3.2m and avoided arbitration. Davies will help provide depth at the back-end of the Kansas City rotation. He performed poorly in 2010 and his career metrics suggest there isn't much room for improvement. His signing leaves Billy Butler as the only remaining arbitration eligible player not under contract. I'm guessing they might be working on hammering out a multi-year extension that could buy out his arbitration years and perhaps a year or two of free agency.

- After inking closer Chris Perez earlier in the day, the Indians have also come to terms with left handed setup man Rafael Perez. It's a one year deal for 1.33m. Perez was once a setup monster who paired big strikeout rates with good walk rates and very good ground ball rates. Essentially, he was the ideal reliever.

Unfortunately Perez's game fell off a cliff after the 2008 season and he's now more of a fringy setup man who relies on his still strong ground ball rates. His once sterling strikeout rate has been cut in half, largely due to the deterioration of his slider and he registered just 5.31 strikeouts per nine last year. He simply isn't the dominant force he once was, and on most teams he'd be a 7th inning option at best. He'll continue setting up for the Indians in 2011 however until better options make themselves available. 

- The Twins have come to terms with Matt Capps - who they acquired last year for Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa, after missing out on Cliff Lee - on a year deal worth 7.15m. Capps had a very good year in 2010 posting a 2.47 ERA with 42 saves. He did so with his typically impeccable control, decent strikeout rates and a ground ball rate that was nearly 10% better than at any other point in his career. We'll have to see if that ground ball rate - which registered 49.1% last year - will hold, but if it does he should continue to be a very good late inning option for the Twins.

I've been an outspoken critic of the Capps acquisition since it was made and it's unlikely that Capps could do anything to change that opinion. However, it's important to understand that the move was made with an eye not only toward helping the team in Joe Nathan's absence last year, but also with providing insurance for the team should Nathan not be ready or effective in 2011 following Tommy John surgery.

While every injury and rehab is different, there's a better chance than not that the Nathan of 2011 will bear little resemblance of the Nathan of old. In that case, Capps would once again take the mantle of closer for the Twins on a team that on paper at least, looks frighteningly thin.

The signing also marks Capps final year of arbitration so he has plenty of incentive to have a strong season as he could be looking at a significant multi-year contract following the 2011 season if he could duplicate his performance of 2010.

- The Twins have also agreed on a one year pact with reliever Glen Perkins who had a horrible 2010, posting a .584 ERA. Perkins was once considered a strong candidate to start but his stuff never really translated in the upper minors and he's more of a mop-up man at this point. He's posted solid walk rates and he does get some ground balls, but he doesn't miss bats and he's not even a candidate to be a LOOGY given that his splits against lefties are actually worse than against right handers.

Perkins will provide depth for the Twins in 2011, but he has essentially zero upside and is the definition of a replacement level player.

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