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Indians Add Some Relief Options

Rays sign Lance Cormier (1/650k)

The recently discussed Dewon Day era ended abruptly in St. Pete thanks to Cormier. As documented elsewhere, 2008 was only the third time in his big league career that Cormier saw less than 50% of his innings come from starting, and the second time less than 5%. In both of those seasons Cormier has posted his career best FIPs; 4.39 in 2005 and 4.04 last season. Cormier has a faint strikeout rate, walks quite a few, and allowed too many homeruns as a starter. Regardless, CHONE has Cormier at a 4.49 FIP, if that happens, it’s possible Cormier fits in as a situational reliever — a.k.a. groundball inducer — in the Rays bullpen.

White Sox sign Bartolo Colon (1/1)

If Colon pitches enough innings he’ll have a shot at three million total. It’s a nice low-risk move for Kenny Williams. Colon was swell with Boston last season, earning 2.9 million, which is roughly as much as he can earn in 2009. Colon will continue to live and die off his fastball. Naturally Colon’s going to allow a number of homeruns, but his FIP should sit around 4.5 like CHONE and Marcels project. He’ll join a rotation that has to replace Javier Vazquez.

Orioles sign Gregg Zaun (1/1.5)

Zaun’s deal includes a team option for 2010 that could see him earn two million (or a 500k buyout). Pencil Zaun’s name into the catcher spot until Matt Wieters arrives, which may or may not be early in the season. Chad Moeller is the other catcher around, and Zaun is clearly better than that. Long billed as the “perfect back-up catcher”, Zaun’s win values have been on the decline since 2005, but CHONE is still a bit forgiving on Zaun’s offensive projection, suggesting we should expect a pretty average performance next year. It should be interesting to see how Wieters’ service time is handled, especially if Zaun is better than expected.

Indians sign Vinnie Chulk and Matt Herges (minor league deals)

Chulk’s strikeouts disappeared as his homerun totals shot up, prompting the Giants to move on after season’s end. Chulk also saw a loss in velocity, which is obviously bad, but even worse when you study his usage patterns and realize he relied more on his fastball last season than previously. Chulk has a history of being decent, if not fantastic, so there’s some hope here.

Herges 2008 is a good litmus test. Ask your friends how many runs worse he was in 2008 than 2007. If they say anything higher than 0.06 then odds are they’re relying on ERA too much. The only red flag is the increased line drive rate, pitchers simply can’t give up nearly 27% liners and live to tell about it. If Herges can regain his groundball inducing ability and avoid such solid contact, he’ll be a nice find for Cleveland. Odds are, one of these two is the last guy in the Indians pen.