The Tale of Three Overpaid Closers

Last off-season K-Rod, Kerry Wood and Brian Fuentes were considered to be the cream of the free agent crop for closers. Wood signed for $20.5 M with an $11M vesting option if he finishes 55 games for the Tribe next year. Fuentes signed a two-year, $17.5 million contract w/2011 option. Francisco Rodriguez signed the richest deal of the three, with a 3-year, $37M contract. Other than all three pitchers becoming very rich men last winter, what else do they have in common?

They have all been, by varying degrees, free agent landmines. K-Rod’s peripherals have continued their downward decline. While his ERA looks acceptable enough at 3.36, his FIP has gone up from 2.70 to 3.22 to 3.79 this season over 65 innings pitched. That’s good for 0.6 wins above replacement, worth $2.6 million, a mere fraction of his actual salary.

Kerry Wood has thrown 51 innings and his FIP has nearly doubled from last year, from 2.32 to 4.08. His strikeout rate is still good at 10 K’s per nine innings, but his walk rate from has doubled and he’s suffered some severe bouts of gopheritis. Wood has been worth a measly .5 WAR. At least for this season, the rebuilding Indians are paying him 5 times his actual value. Chris Perez, who came over in the Mark DeRosa trade, has better peripherals and the stuff to close.

Brian Fuentes has all but lost his job for the Angels to youngster Kevin Jepsen. Fuentes has 43 saves but an awful 4.48 FIP, meaning he’s more deserving of mop-up duty than high leverage innings. He’s been worth just .3 WAR.

Meanwhile, the best relievers in the game have either been homegrown, as in the case with Brian Wilson, Andrew Bailey and Jonathan Broxton, or they have basically been freely available talent like Heath Bell or David Aardsma.

Paying a high price for a “proven” closer just isn’t always the greatest idea.





Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

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Dayton Moore
13 years ago

This is precisely why i want to see the Red Sox trade Papelbon in the off season. Some team will surely over pay for him.

Joe R
13 years ago
Reply to  Dayton Moore

I’d LOVE if the Red Sox did this:
Papelbon for a SS, Wagner close for a year (I know we said we wouldn’t pick his option up, but I think he’d be fine with it if the job was his). Yes, we’d be paying him $8 mil, but…13.94 K/9 Yes please.

Joe R
13 years ago
Reply to  Joe R

SSS obviously, but even if he regresses to a little below his career average of 11 K/9, gives up 3 BB / 9 and 1 HR / 9, that’s still a pretty good player to run out there.

Danny
13 years ago
Reply to  Joe R

Id see it as more likely that we go after someone in the offseason to fill the closer position than keep Wagner, but Id be more than fine with it if Theo took the plunge. Selling high on Papelbon and getting an SS or another valuable piece would be great, especially sense Bards gonna be ready to close in a year or two.

Diaz
13 years ago
Reply to  Dayton Moore

I’d love to see Theo do this. I am positive that a ballpen of Ramirez, Oki, Bard, MDC, Saito (assuming the option is picked up in this case), plus possibly the addition of one more low profile but solid reliever would still be very effective. In this case I would cash in on Paps and let Wagner walk for the 2 picks. Though I must admit, I am sometimes guilty of overvaluing draft picks, and undervaluing the importance of having a lockdown ballpen in a pennant race and then in the playoffs.

Felonius_Monk
13 years ago
Reply to  Diaz

I don’t think you’ll get two picks for Wagner. If he’s offered arbitration, it’s hard to see him saying no.