Because One New Reliever Isn’t Enough for Oakland

It wasn’t too long ago the Athletics added Russ Springer to perhaps the best pen in baseball. Naturally, Billy Beane decided that wasn’t enough, and traded two minor leaguers to the Chicago Cubs for Mike Wuertz.

Since 2005 Wuertz has been solid, posting a FIP over 4 only once, naturally that came last season. Wuertz strikeout rates were down substantially in 2008 as his fastball usage dropped 12%, down to a measly 29%. On average Wuertz fastball remained where you would expect it to be, between 90 and 91 miles per hour. Josh Kalk’s player cards suggest Wuertz fastball moved “up” and in to righties more in 2008 than 2007.

Wuertz was demoted to Triple-A during mid-season, and as he returned, so did some of his strikeouts. The pattern was strikingly similar to 2007, as you can see below.


Over the last three seasons Wuertz has earned win values of 0.2, 0.7, and 0.5, an average of a little more than 0.4 wins per season, successful for a middle reliever. Wuertz’ stuff has generated more than 40% ground balls since 2005, including ~54% in 2006. He’ll make 1.1 million in 2009, and will be eligible for his third year of arbitration following 2009, but will still be two seasons from free agency thanks to achieving Super-Two status after 2008.

In return, the Cubs receive Richie Robnett and Justin Sellers. Neither is much of a prospect, although Robnett is a former first round pick, for whatever that’s worth. Sellers went undrafted in the Rule 5 draft, suggesting he’s not an overly desirable player either; as a middle infielder in Double-A, one would think a team like the Pirates or Royals could use him as their utility infielder.

The Athletics bullpen continues to get deeper. Again, we just reviewed the Springer deal, but the A’s now have Joey Devine, Brad Ziegler, Springer, Santiago Casilla, Jerry Blevins, Wuertz, and probably one more reliever (Josh Outman?) at their dispense on a nightly basis. There’s not a bad pitcher amongst the bunch.

Meanwhile the Cubs bullpen should have a slot for Angel Guzman available and increased leverage situations for Aaron Heilman and who have you. Of course, the way Jim Hendry has been working it lately, he may swing him out in a deal for Miguel Batista tomorrow.

We hoped you liked reading Because One New Reliever Isn’t Enough for Oakland by R.J. Anderson!

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It seems that Billy Beane is again thinking outside the box. From my perspective he is trying to assemble a pen where any given releiver has a pretty low chance of screwing up, rather than relying on one or two big arms at the back of the bullpen. Some might call it a closer by committee, but I think he’s taking that to a whole new level. While I’m sure this is a much more cost effective way to construct a bullpen, I’ll be interested to see how it plays over the course of the season.