Maybe it’s still arguable on a quantity basis, but going strictly by quality, Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in major league history. The game’s all-time saves leader, Rivera has a 206 ERA+ in 1,219 2/3 career innings. The only reliever anywhere near shouting distance of that is Billy Wagner, who came in at 187 in 300 fewer innings. The only pitcher besides Rivera with even at 150 ERA+ in at least 1,000 innings is Pedro Martinez, who finished up at 154.
That’s just one way of trying to describe how awesome Rivera was statistically. There are more. In his 17 seasons going into 2012, Rivera finished with a sub-2.00 ERA 11 times. His postseason record is ridiculous: a 0.70 ERA in 141 innings. Because of the way the game has changed, is should be nearly impossible in this day and age for a pitcher to make a dent on the all-time performance lists, but there’s Rivera 13th all-time in ERA and second in WHIP among those to throw at least 1,000 innings. The next best post-WWII pitcher on the ERA list is Hoyt Wilhelm at No. 45.
After Rivera at 2.21, no active pitcher with at least 1,000 innings has a career ERA under 3.00.
Fairness dictated that Rivera set his own path for leaving the game. It looked like he had done so; even though he hadn’t made it official, expectations were that this would be his last year.
But life is rarely fair. Rivera is a big long shot to make it back from a torn ACL this year, though what a story it would be if he could return in October. It’s doubtful he’ll rush into anything, but he’ll now have to decide whether to come back at age 43 next year. His arm will likely be up to the task, but this matter will come down to his head and his heart.
It’d be a huge shame if we’ve seen the last of Rivera on the mound at Yankee Stadium. He’s been a rock, completely unflappable, and the absolute greatest of all time at nailing down leads in the ninth. Life without him in the bullpen won’t be quite the same.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.
Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.
Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.
Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.
Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.
The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”
Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.
Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.
On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.