Bullpen turnover compares well to death, taxes, and mid-term election: inevitable and only mildly interesting. But, every year, Andrew Friedman does his best to turn a mind-numbing soap opera into No Country for Old Men. This year may be his pièce de résistance, as he endeavors to build rebuild the 4th best bullpen in the majors (according to fielding independent pitching, FIP).
The Great Unknown that is Free Agency took Rafael Soriano, Dan Wheeler, Joaquin Benoit, Randy Choate, Grant Balfour, and Lance Cormier. If Rays bullpens usually constitute seven pitchers, then losing six nearly clears the slate. Friedman has taken the challenge with relish, clearly reading DRaysBay and The Process Report every day, searching for the best bargains, poking and prodding each buy-low option like an old lady at the farmer's market.
Well, with J.P. Howell back on our very own DL, with the recent signing of Joel Peralta, and with the the bullpen's empty form has begun shifting and twisting into the seething, heartless monster Dr. Friedmanstein had envisioned all along. Several of our predictions in the UH-FISH-OL Rosterbation Thread (part 1) have come true, while many of us have seen our predictions gone unrealized.
Let us take a moment to peer through the goggles of his brilliant madness and imagine how this 'pen will play out:
Closer: J.P. Howell
Fireman: Jake McGee (Closer in Howell's absence)
Mid-Reliever: Andy Sonnanstine
Mid-Reliever: Cory Wade
ROOGY: Joel Peralta
LOOGY: R.J. Swindle
Long-Man: Mike Ekstrom
Still, there's a chance for more changes: Adam Russell could take Wade's or Ekstrom's spot if mysterious trade for Jason Bartlett ever consumates. Moreover, the Rays still yet may pursue LOOGY Tim Byrdak, sending Swindle back to AAA. Also, as a Type-A free agent, the Rays may be able to bring the ol' STFD Aussie back -- so maybe the Rays tab Balfour for the traditional closer position. It's hard to say.
There's still a lot of time left -- and Spring Training competitions to sort through -- so a lot could yet change. How do you envision the 'pen shaking out over the next few moons? Please post your predictions or hopes below.