An Alternate History of the Diamondbacks Bullpen

As the Arizona bullpen struggles, fans' thoughts can be forgiven for turning to those we have loved (or hated) in the past for their performances in our relief corps, who are now appearing in another team's colors. The result may often be pangs of longing, regret and sighing for what might have been. Exhibit A in this area would be Jon Rauch, traded to the Twins for a player who, so far, has been basically useless - Rauch has become the Twins closer, and has six saves this season, with an ERA of 1.29.

After the jump, we'll put together an alternate Diamondbacks bullpen, using players who have appeared for the team in the past, were allowed to 'get away', and have been much better since. Thanks to 'Skins for the suggestion that inspired this article.

Obviously, this will not be a 'plausible' bullpen, for financial reasons if nothing else. But given that Bob Howry, Aaron Heilman and Chad Qualls alone earning more than $8.3m this year, we can't be blamed for looking elsewhere, at relievers who wore Sedona Red [or even Colangelo Purple] and wondering what we could have done instead. The table below shows the cost of the current bullpen, and below that, seven relievers whom the team had at one point, let go or got rid off, and have posted an ERA+ of 125 or better since leaving Arizona. As an exercise, given the same budget, just over ten million dollars, what would you put together? [All stats are up to the start of Friday's games]
Blaine Boyer
$725,000
Juan Gutierrez $411,000
Aaron Heilman
$2,150,000
Bobby Howry $2,000,000
Chad Qualls
$4,185,000
Leo Rosales $409,500
Esmerling Vasquez
$404,500
TOTAL $10,285,000
  • Dennys Reyes.
    Played for AZ: 2003, left as free-agent
    ERA+ since leaving/in 2009: 125/126
    2010 team and salary: St. Louis, $2m

    We saw Reyes in the Cardinals series, but I'm not sure anyone remembers he was once a D-back, albeit briefly. As a 26-year old, we picked him up as a mid-season free-agent, but he only played in three games, posted an ERA of 11.57, and was let go at the end of the year. Since then, he has appeared in 350 games for four different teams, and been generally solid.
  • Brian Bruney
    Played for Arizona: 2004-05, released
    ERA+ since leaving/in 2009: 132/175
    2010 team and salary: Nationals, $1.5m
    This extra from Kindergarten Cop went to the Big Apple and became an integral part of their bullpen for four seasons, though won't be on Francisco Rodriguez's Christmas card list for a while. He did pitch in last year's world series, but a 0.1 IP, 2 ER performance isn't one he'll want to remember. In a slightly odd move, Bruney was traded to the Nationals this winter, in exchange for their Rule 5 Draft pick.
  • Javier Lopez
    Played for Arizona: 2005, left as free-agent
    ERA+ since leaving/in 2009: 143/52 [in 11.2 innings]
    2010 team and salary: Pirates, $775K

    We selected Lopez off waivers from the Rockies early in the 2005 season, but he was a singularly-unimpressive LOOGY. In 29 appearances, he had an ERA of 9.42, mostly thanks to eleven walks in only 14.2 innings. Figured it out in Boston, especially in 2008 (2.43 ERA in 70 appearances), but had a bad 2009 - he ended up playing right-field in one game. Is now the LOOGY in Pittsburgh.
  • Jose Valverde
    Played for AZ: 2003-07, traded to Houston for Chris Burke, Juan Gutierrez and Chad Qualls
    ERA+ since leaving/in 2009: 149/181
    2010 team and salary: Detroit, $6.89m
    We dealt Papa Grande as a salary-dump, but in terms of performance measured by WAR, it has also been good for AZ: Qualls alone has been worth 3.2 WAR, while Valverde is, perhaps surprisingly, only at 1.4 WAR, despite a superior ERA+. With Gutierrez the most likely "closer in waiting", we can't complain. But would we rather see the Large Potato or the Equallsizer in the ninth right now?
  • Brandon Medders
    Played for AZ: 2005-08, left as free agent
    ERA+ since leaving/in 2009: 132/146
    2010 team and salary: San Francisco, $820K
    Very quietly, Medders posted four very good seasons for the Diamondbacks: among relievers with 100+ innings for Arizona, he ranks among the top five by ERA+. He has continued that with the Giants, going 5-1 with a 3.01 ERA for San Francisco last season and appearing in 61 games, though has struggled to start this season, allowing five earned runs in 6.1 innings. A perfect fit for us, then...
  • Brandon Lyon
    Played for AZ: 2005-08, left as free agent
    ERA+ since leaving/in 2009: 142/161
    2010 team and salary: Houston, $4.25m
    Seems like we are the farm team for Houston closers: first Valverde, now Lyon. Lyon spent a year in Detroit first, posting a stellar 2.86 ERA in 78.2 innings for the Tigers, though that glossy number was helped by an improbably low BABIP of .231. Regression there has bit early and hard on Lyon: his 2010 BABIP is .360, and an ERA of 7.36. But he isn't that bad, either. Unlike the rest of the Astros.
  • Jon Rauch
    Played for AZ: 2008-09, traded to Minnesota for Kevin Mulvey
    ERA+ since leaving: 276
    2010 team and salary: Minnesota, $2.9m

    This may hurt most of all. Rauch was fine in Washington (ERA+ 132 over five seasons), mediocre in Arizona (ERA+ 95), and near-unhittable since going to the Twin Cities, with a 1.59 ERA in 24 games there, and is their full-time closer, after they lost Joe Nathan. He's perfect, with six saves so far: that's the same number as the blown saves by the Diamondbacks bullpen so far. Insert gentle sobbing here.
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