We've talked a lot about preventing bullpen regression next season on an individual and staff-wide basis. Naturally, Andrew Friedman and staff have put those concerns to rest with a number of reliever additions, all baring some usefulness. It might be time to bury any concerns we had about the pen regressing to hell.
Last year the Rays signed Trever Miller and claimed Kurt Birkins off waivers as their LOOGY additions. Miller did a decent enough job when called upon, and Birkins has an abbreviated run for the Rays early in the season, although most of his time would be spent in Durham. Both are now out of the organization, with Miller signing in St. Louis and Birkins going to Colorado on a minor league deal. In their places are Brian Shouse and Randy Choate. The only similarities the pairs feature are contract types and dexterity. It's not stretch to say the Rays have improved in talent while spending less money.
Below you will see a chart with labels such as "L3YFIP", don't be confused, that simply means the last three seasons of the players career have been weighted (on a 5-3-2 scale) and the number is a representation of that statistic. I've included FIP, tRA, and pLI, but it's important to note that pitchers have next to no control over their pLI. The inclusion is simply to show how previous teams have used them, not necessarily how the Rays will use them.
First up, the major league lefty specialist:
Shouse appears to be a better pitcher despite being used in tougher situations. In equal innings the differences are quite marginal, however we should factor in Shouse's usage in Milwaukee as questionable, given Ned Yost's poor bullpen management. Miller will be guaranteed a third of Shouse in 2009 and yet might earn 2 mil based on appearances, but Shouse is actually making less than Miller did in 2008 and less than Miller's option called for.
Now we move on to Choate and Birkins.
With a lack of consistent major league spots, the above numbers are a mixture of major league and minor league performances, I'm not aware of a readily available pLI measure for minor leaguers otherwise I would list it. Regardless, Choate shows a clear advantage of Birkins. Add in a funky throwing motion and the run advantage is all the sweeter.
Necessitated by injury, Cormier's numbers look poor thanks to being a failed starter. The Rays added a number of additional groundball minor league relievers, here they are:
A wild Isringhausen appears!
The bullpen will most likely look like this:
That's at a cost of ~13 million. Which isn't too bad, although that's without Bradford's 3+ mil and Izzy's potential salary. Next year the cost should drop which is good, considering most relievers are either really good or really replaceable. The Rays have a stable of arms capable of filling in given injury or other incapacity. They also have one excellent reliever in Grant Balfour and a handful of decent types.
*For players missing a year (Nelson, Percival, ect.) I assumed a league average performance.