Jose Valverde’s nearly blasphemous contract with Detroit likely developed too lately to help Octavio Dotel out. The 36-year-old was reportedly nearing an agreement with the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday afternoon in what should be a relatively low-cost maneuver assuming Neal Huntington is as smart as he appears to be.
Dotel last closed games on a routine basis with the Royals in 2007, spending time with the Braves and White Sox, both endowed with solid end-gamers themselves. Given that the Pirates non-tendered their closer, Matt Capps, earlier in the off-season, it would seem that Dotel will become their designated harbinger of finality, a job which could endear him to some team in need of pen help come July.
No matter the role, Dotel is an asset to any bullpen. Over the past three seasons Dotel has posted xFIP of 4.13, 3.38, and 3.73 while pitching mostly in the American League. Dotel’s fastball no longer zips across the plate at speeds routinely above 95 miles per hour, but he still misses enough wood while catching bats late enough to turn into harmless fouls to be a useful pitch. His contact rates have steadily been below 75% since 2007 and a move to the N.L. should help.
This is still the Pirates, though, which suggests there is a chance this deal could be the illegitimate cousin of Brandon Lyon’s ill-forsaken contract. Maybe it’s a leap of faith, but while he may save games for them, I doubt the Pirates have any illusions as to how much he is worth to their team. In five months’ time the clubhouse attendant won’t find the receipt of Dotel’s fake halo in Huntington’s trash can. Their concern right now is not about making the playoffs, but instead building a brand through player identity and by showing signs of competitiveness.
Dotel is not a bevel without a flaw, as he’s allowed at least one home run per nine in every season since 2004 and 23 total the past three seasons. PNC Park is tough on righties which will aid Doc Oct since 13 of those blasts were hit by right-handers (despite otherwise solid platoon splits). The majority of Dotel’s balls in play are put into the air – which explains the homer bug and also makes for some dramatic plays at the warning track.
I now fully expect Dotel to be paid equal to Rafael Soriano only to post a 6.50 ERA so everyone can resume mocking the Pirates.
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