January 22, 2013 by Matt Musico
Scott Boras has had a much longer winter negotiating deals for his front-line clients than he thought he would. Rafael Soriano recently agreed to a two-year/$28 million deal to join the Washington Nationals bullpen, but he still has quite a few other high profile free agents without a home yet for the 2013 season. Some of those include Michael Bourn, Kyle Lohse, and Jose Valverde. My question is, who the heck is going to want Valverde after his implosion in the post-season?
There is no doubt that the former Tigers closer has been very effective for Detroit throughout his three-year tenure (7-12, 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 110 saves, 192 games finished in 206 appearances). However, Boras has eluded that his client’s ineffectiveness in the playoffs could be due to the fact that he was “used a lot.” Therefore, the 9 runs he allowed in 2.2 post season innings happened likely because the Tigers used their closer in too many non-save situations. Plus, now that Soriano is off the market, he expects interest in Valverde to heat up. While there will likely be more interest, I think using the term “heat up” is a bit much.
Seeing how many appearances a reliever has racked up over the years is an important statistic because even if they only come in for one out, they have to spend typically between 15-20 pitches warming up in the ‘pen and 8 more on the game mound. So, there is significant stress on the arm for a small amount of game action. However, the amount of innings Valverde threw in his last two seasons (72.1 IP in ’11, 69 IP in ’12) are not out of the ordinary for him. Since 2007, the righty has appeared in at least 60 games five times, while throwing at last the same amount of innings five times. The only year he didn’t was in 2009, when he threw 54 innings in 52 appearances.
As a potential team looking for a late-inning reliever, it wouldn’t be his use that would have me concerned, it would be his performance in big games. Outside of not allowing a run against the Cubs in three appearances against them in the 2007 NLDS for the Dbacks, Valverde has pitched in six other post-season series and hasn’t been able to record an ERA lower than 5.40. In his entire career during October, he’s sports a 9.82 ERA and 2.11 WHIP in 14.2 IP. To add to that, he said back in October that he was unsure whether he’d be closing games this season or not.
If I’m a team searching through the free agent market for a reliever such as Valverde, I want to know that I can count on him to come up big in October, when it really counts. Although he had a solid year in 2012, all anyone can think about is the awful postseason he had, as it’s the last thing anyone remembers. That’s why I don’t think anyone will want to take a significant chance on him. If Boras is able to get any more than a one-year deal with a low-base salary, than he’s truly the best agent in all of sports.
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