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 Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.
Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.
The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.
It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.
Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.
The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.