Solid bullpen options still available
With Spring Training days away, there are some interesting veteran arms on the free-agent market
The free-agent market started off quickly for relievers this offseason. David Robertson signed a four-year, $46 million deal with the White Sox, and Andrew Miller was guaranteed for $36 million over four years with the Yankees. The White Sox also signed Zach Duke to a three-year, $15 million deal, and Luke Gregerson received $18.5 million over three years from the Astros.
Even with the early interest in the late-inning pitchers, there are some interesting relievers looking for work despite the fact pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training this week.
Ten relievers of interest who are still looking for work:
They shut the door
Right-hander Francisco Rodriguez converted 44 of 49 save opportunities last year for the Brewers, but teams have been cautious of a 33-year-old closer who struggled in the final four-plus months. He opened the season with 19 scoreless innings -- and 15 out of 15 in converting saves -- but allowed 23 earned runs in 49 innings after May 10, giving up 10 home runs.
Right-hander Rafael Soriano dominated in the first half of the season, holding batters to a.153 average and converting 22 saves with a 0.97 ERA before the All-Star break. In the second half of the season, however, he had a 6.48 ERA, allowed a .305 average and was 10-for-16 in save situations. At the age of 35, Soriano might be a spot closer, but he has splits that give an indication he can handle a setup role (.218 average for left-handers and .227 for right-handers last year).
Left-hander Phil Coke doesn't dominate hitters and had his problems in the opening months of last season. However, he was solid in the final four months and still had an above-average fastball, averaging 93.7 mph. Coke allowed 13 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings his first 15 games, but from June on, he had a 2.43 ERA in 48 appearances.
Left-hander Joe Beimel turns 38 on April 19, and he missed the 2012-13 season with arm problems. However, he returned with the Mariners last year and was dominant against left-handed hitters. Beimel allowed them only a .188 batting average and issued two walks in 85 plate appearances.
Right-hander Joba Chamberlain was strong the first four months, but he wore down when the Tigers were battling to hang on in the American League Central. He allowed 10 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings the final two months of the season. Chamberlain, however, still hit 93.5 mph on average with his fastball, and he is only 29. He is a survivor who figures things out. Remember, Chamberlain was cut from his high school team and couldn't make the squad at Wayne State, but he wound up pitching at Nebraska and being a first-round Draft pick.
Left-hander Joe Saunders has made his living as a starting pitcher, but he would be worth a look as a left-handed situational reliever. Don't look at the fact he was 0-5 with a 6.70 ERA in 14 games -- eight starts -- last year. Consider that Saunders allowed left-handed hitters a .241 batting average, .288 on-base percentage and a .617 OPS. He averaged 3.39 strikeouts to each walk issued to left-handed hitters.
Right-handed Dustin McGowan split time between the rotation and bullpen with the Blue Jays last year, and he has scouts thinking he could handle middle-inning chores. His ability to make 53 appearances and work 82 innings eased concerns about injuries that limited him to 46 2/3 big league innings the five previous seasons.
Left-hander Franklin Morales has bounced around the bullpen throughout his career, even being given a chance to close for the Rockies at one point. He's still only 29 and has a plus fastball and a hard breaking pitch.
On the mend
Right-hander Matt Lindstrom is 35 and missed the middle three months last season because of left ankle surgery. He did a solid job before the injury, appearing in 19 games with a 3.32 ERA, 2-1 record and six saves. Lindstrom had a 7.70 ERA in the 16 appearances after his return, but he is always in shape and with a winter of work, the ankle shouldn't be a concern.
Right-hander Mike Adams had his season shut down because of recurring shoulder problems, although he did make three September appearances. He did, however, pitch well before going on the disabled list, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 19 appearances. A Minor League contract would be a minimal gamble for a team wanting to get a spring look at a proven reliever who could provide a strong influence on younger pitchers.