Monday, January 17, 2011
Fuentes Finds a Home by the Bay
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Oakland A's and left-handed relief pitcher Brian Fuentes have come to terms on a two year deal expected to be worth around $10M with "lots of closing incentives." The deal will be finalized, pending a physical.
Between the recent signings of Fuentes and Balfour, the A's bullpen looks much stronger than it did last week. Still, I'm a bit confused by the "closing incentives" that are included in Fuentes's deal. The A's already have Andrew Bailey, who is both younger and statistically superior to Fuentes, installed in the closer role. While Bailey is coming off elbow surgery, recent reports have him on track to be fully recovered by the end of Spring Training. Unless Bailey either fails to recover as planned, or struggles out of the gate, there doesn't appear to be a lot of opportunities for Fuentes to close games.
I'm also surprised the the typically frugal A's were willing to give a $5M average annual salary to a 35 year old ex-closer. Over the past two seasons, Fuentes has been a near replacement level player. Based on his age and recent performance history, I don't see any reason to believe he'll rediscover the form that made him one of the best closers in baseball in 2008.* In all likelihood, he'll provide between 0.3 and 0.6 wins above the replacement level in each of the next two seasons, which would make his performance based value closer to $2-3M per season. When we look at it objectively, it seems like Beane and the A's paid a premium for Fuentes's name and reputation--not his recent performance.
* I want to go on record as saying that I have little faith in his 48 save performance with the Angels in 2009. His high save total was entirely a function of opportunity. There was not a closer in baseball that received more opportunities than the 55 Fuentes received that year. The Angels typically play in a lot of close games, which lends itself to a lot of save opportunities. Outside of his save totals, the rest of his numbers feel below his career norms - ERA, FIP, xFIP, K/9, BB/9, K/BB, contact rate, whiff rate, etc.
This deal rounds out a pretty active offseason for the A's. A's GM Billy Beane was aggressive in trying to sign third baseman Adrian Beltre (which didn't work out); traded for outfielders David DeJesus and Josh Willingham; signed DH Hideki Matsui to a one year contact; and strengthened their bullpen with the recent additions of power reliever Grant Balfour and lefty Brian Fuentes. If the A's starting pitching can remain healthy and produce up to expectation, they could make a serious run at the Rangers for the AL West division crown.
Fuentes split his time between the Angels and Twins during the 2010 season producing 24 saves in 28 chances, a 3.85 FIP, and a 47/20 K/BB ratio in 48 innings.