Kevin Towers is a man on a mission when it comes to upgrading the Arizona Diamondbacks’ pen. After acquiring two relievers via trade, Towers turned around and signed the team’s prospective closer in the form of J.J. Putz. Ken Rosenthal reports the deal to be worth $10 million over two years, although $1.5 million of that is in the form of a third-year buyout; the maximum value of the deal is $15 million.
Saturday marks a year since Putz signed a one-season pact with the White Sox. That deal was to reestablish his value as one of the league’s most fearsome relievers. This deal is a reward for accomplishing the feat, as Putz appeared in 60 games and maintained a 2.52 FIP. More importantly and perhaps unexpectedly is that Putz managed to stay healthy. The 2010 season marked the first time Putz had topped 50 innings in a season since 2007 (although he sniffed the total in 2008; finishing at 46).
The common refrain about relievers being risky applies here twice over. Ignoring Putz’s inveterate propensity to land on the disabled list; is Arizona really a team that should commit $10 million to any reliever? As San Diego proved last season, sometimes a stellar bullpen and a group of position players that look unspectacular can sometimes result in zaniness. Commend Towers for reserving the option on a third year, especially in a market where Joaquin Benoit received three guaranteed years on a whim.
The WAR-to-dollars exchange means that Putz will need about two wins to be worth the $10 million. When healthy – and that really is the key to the entire deal – he should exceed that threshold – even one healthy season could earn the money. What’s more, the deal is signed before Rafael Soriano presumably sets the market for free agent closers (non-Rivera division). Given that Soriano made $7 million last season, it’s not inconceivable to think he’s heading for a new contract worth $10 million a season.
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