UPDATE: Cameron expands on his analysis of multi-year deals for relievers here.
6:09 AM: It always takes a while for teams to turn to the bullpen during the offseason, but when they do, they tend to do it all at once. And it was certainly a big day for relief pitcher signings and rumors yesterday. Matt Guerrier, Kerry Wood and Jesse Crain signed. There’s action on Bobby Jenks and Octavio Dotel. I’m sure this will continue for a while.
Of particular note: Crain and Guerrier signed three-year deals. As did Joaquin Benoit and Scott Downs recently. Three-year deals for relievers seem kind of nuts to me given how up-and-down almost every reliever’s performance tends to be. I hadn’t realized how up-and-down until I saw this tweet from Dave Cameron yesterday:
List of relievers who have signed 3+ year deals since 2006 and been worth the money: Rivera. That’s it. That’s the list.
He means free agent relievers, not necessarily young ones locked up by their teams during arbitration years such as Joakim Soria, but it’s still a pretty startling observation. And even though Cameron doesn’t define “worth the money” in his tweet, it’s hard to come up with a single non-Mariano exception to the observation, even if you’re generous about what “worth” is.
The Jayson Werth deal signaled that baseball’s recent run of relative austerity was over. The fact that setup guys are getting three-year deals like this is pretty darn good supporting evidence.
The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.
Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.
The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.
After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.
Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:
The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.
The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.