Adams Joins Reformed Rangers Bullpen

After weeks of rumors about the Padres and Rangers being engaged in talks for closer Heath Bell, the teams pulled off a deal… involving setup man Mike Adams.

The Rangers, fresh off of acquiring Koji Uehara on Saturday, sent pitching prospects Robert Erlin and Joseph Wieland to San Diego to bring aboard arguably the best non-closing relief pitcher in the game. Since joining the Padres in 2008, Adams has thrown 217 innings with the following pertinent numbers: 137 (!) hits, 10.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.90 WHIP, 1.66 ERA and 2.48 SIERA. He ranks towards the top in each of those categories, and his 5.2 WAR in the span is the highest among setup men and middle relievers in the National League, and second to Matt Thornton across both leagues.

Simply put, Mike Adams is one of the very best relievers in baseball, regardless of whether or not he closes out the ninth inning, and was the top reliever on the market. Right behind him was Uehara, who has been equally filthy over the last two seasons. In acquiring both pitchers, the Rangers fixed a significant deficiency: the bullpen.

Through the weekend, the Rangers had the worst bullpen in the American League at -0.7 WAR. Something tells the formidable back-end trio of Neftali Feliz, Adams and Uehara will move them out of the cellar. Plus, both acquired relievers are under contract or control for the 2012 season, so this isn’t a situation where the Rangers send a bevy of prospects away for short rentals. Relievers don’t tally much in the way of wins above replacement to begin with, but Uehara and Adams are so effective that the difference between them and the players bumped from the roster is significant.

The pitching prospects heading to San Diego were both in Double-A, but project perfectly for the spacious PETCO Park. Both Erlin and Wieland rely on their savvy and command to beat up on the opposition, but their offerings won’t appear filthy to major league hitters. Marc Hulet ranked Erlin as the 4th best prospect in the Rangers system prior to the season, while Wieland fell out of the top ten. Baseball America also ranked Erlin 4th, and placed Wieland as the 22nd best prospect in the system. The stocks of both pitchers have risen since the pre-season lists were published and each makes sense for the Padres.

In February, Hulet wrote that Erlin was an undersized lefty, but one that could turn into a 3-WAR starter at the major league level. His minor league numbers have been mighty impressive so far. Last year, he posted a 9.8 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 114 2/3 frames in A-Ball. Moving up to High-A to start the season, his strikeout and walk rates per nine innings actually improved to 10.2 and 0.8, respectively.

His performance merited a promotion to Double-A, where his peripherals have remained strong: an 8.2 K/9 and 0.9 BB/9 in 66 2/3 frames. When he catches too much up the plate, his offerings aren’t good enough to keep the opposition off-kilter, but his impeccable control should translate to the majors. Nothing wrong with a cost-controlled starter capable of a mid-3s ERA, a 6.5-7 K/9 and a sub-2.0 BB/9.

Wieland similarly relies on the combination of command and control rather than pure stuff, and his peripherals have been equally impressive. Last season he threw 148 innings in A- and High-A, with a 143/25 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In 129 2/3 innings this year at High-A and Double-A, Wieland has an even more impressive 132/15 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Primarily relying on a low-90s fastball and a solid albeit underwhelming curveball, Wieland is also developing his slider and changeup. He isn’t going to turn into a flashy starter in the majors, but he misses bats, limits free passes, and is widely regarded as having baseball smarts in his gameplanning.

The package may seem less impressive than the two major leaguers sent to Baltimore for Uehara, but Erlin and Wieland fit right in line with the Padres plans perhaps more so than Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter fit the Orioles rebuilding process. Don’t be surprised if both Erlin and Wieland occupy the back of the Padres rotation by 2013, at which point Adams and Uehara reach free agency. The Rangers might not have a window, per se, but acquiring Adams completely addresses their most glaring weakness and enhances their odds of both winning the division and succeeding in the playoffs.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

23 Responses to “Adams Joins Reformed Rangers Bullpen”

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  1. Brett says:

    Don’t forget that if these guys walk at the end of 2012, they most likely be type A free agents. Also, this opens up the possibility next year for Feliz to make his long awaited move to the rotation, although considering the way that Harrison and Holland have pitched of late, and assuming a resigning of C.J. Wilson, there might be more incentive to leave him at the back-end of the pen. Plus, Martin Perez, who JD wisely kept in the cupboard, is just about ready to take his eventual spot at the top of that rotation.

    Not a fleecing, but a good win-win deal for both teams. The deal with Baltimore also benefitted both teams, with props to JD for being able to frisk the Orioles for an extra 2 mil.

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    • Welp says:

      Uehara won’t be turning down an arb offer after 2012 and barring an implosion I expect the Rangers will just resign Adams.

      Adams is the better pitcher, but the Uehara deal was much safer than this one.

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      • Jono411 says:

        you mean the uehara with an 11.6 k/9 and 1.3 bb/9 since being moved to the bullpen last year? pretty sure that’s better than 10.0 k/9 and 2.4 bb/9. also, he’s done that in the AL East, not the NL West. Any way you put it, Uehara is in the running for best reliever in the game.

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      • Welp says:

        “Any way you put it, Uehara is in the running for best reliever in the game.”

        Unless you put it in terms of FIP, sure. Like I said before, Adams is the better pitcher.

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    • joe says:

      I’m not sure you can assume the compensation system as it currently exists will be the same in the new CBA

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  2. Slats says:

    Win-win for both teams.

    Well done to Texas for going with Adams over Bell.

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  3. Mariano Rivera says:

    Jono411, I believe that you mean that Uehara is in the running for second best reliever in the game.

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  4. Adam D says:

    I really enjoy the fact that Wieland threw a no-hitter against the Padres AA affiliate the San Antonio Missions on Friday, then two days later was asked to switch dugouts and join the team he had just no-hit as they play the team he just left.

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  5. PadresFuture says:

    Solid pick up for the Padres. 2 cost controlled middle to back of the rotation starters is not a bad pick up. These two may not have high ceilings, but they certainly have high floors as they have very impressive control for pitchers at their age. If just one of them ends up a 4th starter for 5 or 6 years at even just 2WAR, that will be a huge value for the Padres over 1.3 years of Adams. I like Adams a lot, but this was a wise move for the Padres.

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  6. Phantom Stranger says:

    Does anyone think Adams will be significantly affected moving from the best pitcher’s park to one of the best hitter’s parks? I don’t watch the Padres enough to know the answer, but lots of pitchers seem to have magic powers that vanish once they leave Petco.

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    • jim says:

      could always check his splits yourself, you know

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      • Kevin says:

        The best thing about pitching for the Rangers is you never have to face them. The rest of the AL West isn’t all that scary as far as offense goes.

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      • t ball says:

        Kevin is on to something. Not only are the other AL West offenses not exactly overpowering, their home parks are all not too bad, either, all 3 featuring HR and overall wOBA suppressing tendencies. And I think Adams’ repertoire will play well in Arlington. Regress the numbers however you want, Uehara and Adams are just plain good.

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  7. Eric says:

    I thought Daniels was going to be done after adding Uehara, and frankly I would have been okay with that. Now we add Mike Adams to the mix?? Plus, Darren O’Day-who had been pitching hurt at the beginning of the year-is pitching and dominating (11.77 K/9 and 1.38 BB/9) in AAA and will hopefully be back in the majors soon.

    It’s a pretty good feeling to know that I won’t have to be so worried about the inevitable meltdown when the Rangers have a lead in the 7th inning and beyond anymore…

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  8. DeManiac says:

    Is there any chance that Texas made this deal to support trying Feliz in a starting role? They’re obviously thinking playoffs and depth, but they’d previously shown interest and he could wind up being of those postseason relievers that shines as a starter in a limited capcity… just curious to hear other’s thoughts.

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    • todmod says:

      It definitely increases the odds that Feliz moves to a starting role… next season. It just would take too much time to stretch him out as a starter midseason, especially when he hasn’t even been all that great as a reliever this year.

      But with Uehara and Adams under control in 2012, the flexibility to make Feliz a starter next season is a nice bonus.

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    • Jacob says:

      I reminds me of how Wilson had failed as a closer before he became a starter

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  9. utb says:

    To me, the extra year of control for both Uehara and Adams makes this a great two day span for Texas. Not only did they turn a weakness into a strength this year, they have two of MLB’s best relievers locked up for 2012.

    That gives Texas a ton of flexibility, not only with Feliz, but also with potential offseason trades/free-agent signings. Instead of spending big money on FA relievers, Texas can focus their sights on other areas. And if Scheppers could somehow stay healthy, he (or one of Adams/Uehara) could be a nice trade chip.

    Jon Daniels is a smart guy.

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