Yesterday, Todd Jones signed a one-year $7 million deal with the Detroit Tigers. This is nearly double what I have him valued at for 2007, $3.59 million. This follows J.C. Romero’s deal, which I also think was a bit high. I’m open to the possibility that I am undervaluing relievers—I discuss this briefly in my book—but I don’t think I’m off by this much.
I don’t like giving big contracts to relievers. They pitch very few innings and there is always the possibility of injury. I prefer the shotgun approach: bring in a bunch of relievers for cheap and find a few that are at the top of their games. Use free agents and farmhands who might not be ready to start. Sometimes this doesn’t work, but you diversify your risk and the payoff of having someone blossom who hasn’t become a free agent yet is significant.
Addendum: Tom Verducci at SI.com explains Kevin Tower’s philosophy for finding relievers, and I like it.
The risk of sinking $4 million a year over multiple years for a pitcher in his mid-30s (Romero turns 32, 33 and 34 over the contract) who doesn’t start, win or close games, and has high mileage on his odometer is one you won’t find Kevin Towers taking. The San Diego general manager is the industry expert at building a bullpen on the cheap.
Towers’ philosophy is that relief performance tends to be fungible, and buying free agent relievers — who tend to be older and overworked by the time they get to the market — is the definition of buying a stock too high before the regression hits. Think Danys Baez, Arthur Rhodes, Kyle Farnsworth, Tom Gordon and Hector Carrasco.
“Free agent relief shopping is dangerous,” Towers says.