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The Tale of Three Overpaid Closers

Last off-season K-Rod, Kerry Wood and Brian Fuentes were considered to be the cream of the free agent crop for closers. Wood signed for $20.5 M with an $11M vesting option if he finishes 55 games for the Tribe next year. Fuentes signed a two-year, $17.5 million contract w/2011 option. Francisco Rodriguez signed the richest deal of the three, with a 3-year, $37M contract. Other than all three pitchers becoming very rich men last winter, what else do they have in common?

They have all been, by varying degrees, free agent landmines. K-Rod’s peripherals have continued their downward decline. While his ERA looks acceptable enough at 3.36, his FIP has gone up from 2.70 to 3.22 to 3.79 this season over 65 innings pitched. That’s good for 0.6 wins above replacement, worth $2.6 million, a mere fraction of his actual salary.

Kerry Wood has thrown 51 innings and his FIP has nearly doubled from last year, from 2.32 to 4.08. His strikeout rate is still good at 10 K’s per nine innings, but his walk rate from has doubled and he’s suffered some severe bouts of gopheritis. Wood has been worth a measly .5 WAR. At least for this season, the rebuilding Indians are paying him 5 times his actual value. Chris Perez, who came over in the Mark DeRosa trade, has better peripherals and the stuff to close.

Brian Fuentes has all but lost his job for the Angels to youngster Kevin Jepsen. Fuentes has 43 saves but an awful 4.48 FIP, meaning he’s more deserving of mop-up duty than high leverage innings. He’s been worth just .3 WAR.

Meanwhile, the best relievers in the game have either been homegrown, as in the case with Brian Wilson, Andrew Bailey and Jonathan Broxton, or they have basically been freely available talent like Heath Bell or David Aardsma.

Paying a high price for a “proven” closer just isn’t always the greatest idea.