"Buy-Low" Free Agents, part 2: Relief Pitchers

Read Part 1: Starting Pitchers

Part 2: Relief pitchers - The relief pitcher market in particular seems to be hard to handicap for a variety of reasons. One is sheer numbers: there are upwards of 50 notable free agent pitchers available this offseason. Second is talent strength: there are about a dozen FA relievers this year who probably deserve the title "closer," but I don't think there are a dozen closing jobs available (although somebody has to close for the Pirates and Marlins, I guess). Finally, relievers tend to be older and more established than starting pitchers, so a "buy-low" option can feel downright unsexy (like Clay Condrey). But, hey, let's get to it.

Chance the Twins sign a free agent relief pitcher: Over 90%. The past couple of years, the Twins have made a large number of free agent relief signings and trades. And with only two relief pitchers under team control so far this year (Nathan and Mijares), the Twins need to reconstruct a bullpen in a hurry. Unless, that is, they go with DisasterPen ‘11.

Chad Qualls - He found a way to have a oppBABIP of .399 last season, which caused a few things. 1) His ERA was an awful 7.32, when it's usually less than half that. 2) He lost the Diamondbacks' closing job to Aaron Heilman and Juan Gutierrez. 3) He got traded to the Rays, where he pitched slightly better in a setup role. Before last year, he never broke double digits in H/9. He had 13.0 H/9 last year. He was unlucky.

Why the Twins would sign him: He is basically a cheaper Jon Rauch. Better k/bb ratio, too.

Why the Twins won't sign him: Even cheaper Jon Rauch can be too expensive.

How much will he cost?: 1 year, $2-3 million

Kelvim Escobar - Escobar has had an up and down career. He closed for Jays in 2002 and saved 38 games. Then, he was transformed into a starter over the next five years, culminating in an 18 win season for Angels in 2007. Then he lost 2 years to injury, signed with the Mets as a reliever, and lost another year to injury.

Why the Twins would sign him: Escobar could be a long reliever/5th starter. Or he could be a setup man (as the Mets were planning at the beginning of the year). He's good and versatile.

Why the Twins won't sign him: Even though he didn't pitch for the 2002 Angels, they fear the goggles. Also, he hasn't pitched since 2007.

How much will he cost?: I doubt he gets anything better than a spring training invite.

Taylor Tankersley - A former first round pick who is only 27, Tankersley has found himself on the free agent market on his first year of arbitration. He missed 2009 with an elbow fracture, and his time in the majors has been limited to under 20 innings with the Marlins in 2008 and 2010. With left-handed relievers making up about 40% of the free agent market (including former Twins LOOGYs J.C. Romero and Dennys Reyes), he's not going to get a ton of offers.

Why the Twins would sign him: He has the ability to be a pretty good left-handed specialist, limiting lefties to a .208 average and striking out a fifth of the batters he faced.

Why the Twins won't sign him: He's an extreme fly ball pitcher with a light track record.

How much will he cost?: 1 year, under $1 million

Denny Bautista - Bausista has played for 6 teams in 6 years. He strikes out a lot of players, and throws really hard. He also walks a ton of guys. Last year, the Giants seemed to cut him because of control issues. At the time, Richard Dyer at thegiantscove.com wrote:

The cover story is that Bautista is being moved off the team to make room for pitcher Todd Wellemeyer, who just finished a rehab stint after being on the disabled list. In reality, Bautista was on the verge of being declared a Federal hazardous superfund site for a dangerous inability to properly aim his 95 MPH+ fastballs.

When the news of Bautista's designation was released, medical insurance rates for all National League players immediately dropped 8%.

This is what a buy-low candidate looks like.

Why the Twins would sign him: Rick Anderson is good at limiting walks. At age 30, Bautista might still be able to reinvent himself.

Why the Twins won't sign him: They don't like walks.

How much will he cost?: A minor league deal should be enough

Kiko Calero - Mentioned by Jesse 2 weeks ago in his Twins blueprint, Calero was signed last year by the Mets, and released after pitching 17 minor league innings. Then, he was signed by the Dodgers in June, and released again after pitching 15 minor league innings. Health problems seem to be a constant worry for him, as Jason Stark reported last year:

"With Calero," said an executive of one team that passed, "the medicals are so bad that everybody's wary. It's just hard to count on him staying together [physically] for any length of time at all.

However, Calero pitched very well for the Marlins in 2009. And he seems to be doing just fine for the Criollos de Caguas after coming over in that blockbuster trade they made in August.

Why the Twins would sign him: Read Jesse's blueprint. Calero would fill an obvious need.

Why the Twins won't sign him: Calero might be so "buy-low" that he's off the map. It took me 30 minutes of research just to find that Puerto Rican baseball league link. Of course, I don't often travel in those circles, since my Spanish is rusty.

How much will he cost?: A minor league deal and a spring training invite.

Again, I open up the floor. How would you solve the Twins' bullpen issues?

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