A player gets classified as a Type A free agent if, when he hits the open market, he falls in the top twenty percent at his position. Unlike Type B free agents, who, when signed, produce a supplementary pick for the team losing the player not at the expense of the signing team, Type A free agents cost the signing team when it comes to the draft. Continuing our look at the remaining players on the free agent market, we will now turn to the Type A relief pitchers. Five such relievers fit this bill, of whom two have already signed.
Brian Fuentes signed a 2-yr deal with the Angels with a third year option that will trigger as long as he remains the closer for both years. That may be tough given the dual presences of Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo, but his signing did not cost the Angels much for performance that will not be a terrible dropoff to that of K-Rod. Rodriguez is the other Type A reliever to sign, when he inked a 3-yr/$36 mil deal with the Mets. This leaves three such relievers available.
Hoffman, 41, is coming off of a relative down season. Sure, he is the leader in saves for a career, but one has to wonder how much left he has in the tank. His projection calls for 54 innings at around a 3.50 FIP. Plugging his projected runs allowed into the formula used to determine relievers value above replacement, Hoffman amounts to a .612 pitcher in a .451 league. Taking the difference, multiplying by innings pitched, and dividing by nine pegs Trevor as worth +0.97 wins next season. The leverage of these innings must be taken into account as well.
A closer will generally hover between LIs of 1.80 and 2.30, meaning Hoffman could be worth anywhere from +1.75 to +1.95 wins next season. At 41 years old, Hoffman could still command $8.5 to $9.5 mil at fair market value. Given his age and the performance decline in 2008 as well as the market favoring the buyers, I could see him signing a one-year deal in the $6 mil range, but nothing more. He might want another year to go out on top, but overvaluing him for career accomplishments would be a mistake.
His geriatric counterpart, Russ Springer, 40, has experienced tremendous success over the last two seasons as a member of the Cardinals. He has also been a workhorse over the last four seasons, with 62, 72, 76, and 70 appearances, respectively. In 2005 and 2006, Springer posted FIPs of 4.39 and 4.79, before a vast improvement to 2.83 in 2007 and 3.51 in 2008. His ERAs have improved as well, from 4.73 in 2005 to 2.32 in 2008.
Springer’s projection calls for a 3.42 FIP in 55 innings pitched. Plugging his numbers into the reliever formula places Springer at a winning percentage of .621. In a .451 league, this makes Springer a +1.05 win pitcher. Factoring in his inning leverage and Springer bumps up to +1.3 wins. Many teams have interest in Russ, and they should, given that he projects to be as valuable as, say, Ryan Madson was for the Phillies this past season. He might not receive a multi-year deal, but for one season at $4 or $5 mil, Springer could definitely strengthen a team’s bullpen.
That leaves just Juan Cruz, 30, who is coming off of three straight solid seasons. His ERA has improved from 4.18 to 3.10 to 2.61, with an FIP improvement from 4.09 to 3.70 to 3.62. We pretty much know what to expect from Cruz, given his recent track record: around 60-65 innings with a 3.30 ERA and 3.70 FIP. This makes Cruz a .623 pitcher. In a .451 league, he is worth around +1.2 wins. With leverage factored in, this bumps up to around +1.35 wins. At only 30, he should receive a multi-year deal, and the value may surpass that of Jeremy Affeldt‘s, given the level of importance placed on bullpens, Cruz’s track record, and the fact that few relievers of his caliber are available. He is not necessarily a game changer, but he definitely helps a relief corps.
In a buyer’s market like the one we are currently witnessing, these three solid relievers could be had for much lesser than they would have signed for in other years. Expect to see a plethora of teams interested in Springer and Cruz, with Hoffman either going back to San Diego or signing on somewhere else for one last hoorah.