Many corners of the baseball world seem to be doing a lot unnecessary hand-wringing over the number of free agents departing from the 2010 Rays bullpen. Obviously, Rafael Soriano seems headed for more expensive waters (Jerry Crasnick tweeted the Angels may give him $33MM — or $17MM less than the Rays anticipated 2011 payroll). It also wasn’t surprising to see that Joaquin Benoit is getting interest from big market teams (in this case, the Phillies).
Now, in this morning’s paper, comes word that Randy Choate and Grant Balfour have non-Rays suitors after joining Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler in the world of free-agency.
Even Buster Olney named rebuilding the Rays bullpen the biggest personnel challenge in baseball.
Look, I understand that we reflexively fear change, especially mass change. That fear is compounded by the belief that this turnover in the bullpen is driven by payroll and not by performance. I mean, we DID win the AL East last year. Why dynamite a third of the team? Because the bullpen players are all replaceable and teams that don’t attempt to get better, end up getting worse (just ask the Indians — who were one out away from the 2007 World Series — how standing pat worked out).
Luckily, our man Pip over at Sweet Spot member Fungoes, has been through the list of Type A and Type B free agents compiled by Elias and identified the best and worst values based on each player’s two-year WAR. Notice anything? Dan Wheeler is the worst value among the Type A free agents currently on the market and Grant Balfour is the 7th worst value. Randy Choate is the 8th worst value among the Type B free agents and Chad Qualls is the 15th worst value.
What does that mean? These bullpen guys were serviceable the last few years but, outside of Soriano and the 2010 version of Benoit, they are really replaceable. I know the Mrs. will be sad if her Ray-crush (Balfour) signs with another team but I’d rather see the Rays save some money by replacing the overpriced Balfour, Wheeler, Choate, and Qualls, and use that money to replace Soriano (let’s be honest, outside of Mariano Rivera, closers are a dime-a-dozen) and get some bats.
Besides, we simply cannot bring back Balfour and Choate because Joe Maddon apparently cannot tell them apart.