Shoutout to Smurf1000 who challenged me to revisit the off-season stuff I wrote after I criticised the front office for not signing relievers that “could have been had”.
At the start of the off-season we took a look at free agent relievers/closers that were going to be on the market and could have been possibly signed by the Diamondbacks as reinforcements for our bullpen.
The result was 3 different articles:
- Off-season stuff: Closers in Free Agency
- Off-season stuff: Relievers in Free Agency
- Off-season Stuff: Shintaro Fujinami and Kodai Senga
Note: I won’t discuss Kodai Senga in this article. He was available on the free agency market as a starter and supposed to be out of our league. In my honest opinion the Mets heavily overpaid for a pitcher that will have to make the step from NPB to MLB. On the other hand some kind of an overpay had to be made, because Senga supposedly left $40MM on the table after opting out of his contract in Japan: that amount of money had to be topped. He eventually signed for 5 yrs/$75MM guaranteed and Senga can opt out after the 3rd and 4th year.
In the article on possible closers, we presented: Kenley Jansen, Craig Kimbrel, David Robertson, Corey Knebel, Archie Bradley, Taylor Rogers and Brad Hand and then a handful of dumpster diving options. There were a lot of mixed feelings about signing one of them:
A bit more popular were the relievers we presented to you: Robert Suarez, Carlos Estevez, Rafael Montero, Trevor May, Chris Martin, Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo, Michael Fulmer, Mychal Givens and some others.
And, last but not least, the exotic option of Shintaro Fujinami:
Of all those relief options we wrote about, the Diamondbacks signed Andrew Chafin. It is a return to the desert and a surprising move. Chafin surely would have expected a better off-season when he opted out of the remaining $6.5MM in his contract with the Tigers. We are happy to see him return in Sedona red, but with Mantiply already in the bullpen and the contract he signed in Arizona, Chafin can be considered an unexpected “steal”. Kudos to the Front Office for that.
So, with that written, let’s get straight to the point and we tell you who we should have signed, but the front office didn’t do it. After that we also tell you what the rest of the relievers got and where they are now and who we can still sign.
The ones we should have signed
Well, there you have him: Trevor May. Sure, his season in New York was crap with injuries, but he looked to get back on track by the end of the 2022 season and the 1 year/$7MM deal he got in Oakland, of all places, surely could have been matched by the Snakes. Like we mentioned in our article on relievers: he was a bit rusty when he returned in August from his latest injury, but slowly regained his normal velocity and spin rates again to finish the season with 14 scoreless outings in 18 appearances. $7,000,000 and 1 year doesn’t sound like a terrible amount of money for the Diamondbacks, for a guy that could even be deployed in the closer role.
Shintaro Fujinami eventually got a Yoshi-like contract. Perhaps a bit more than we initially would have expected considering his track record, but still a rather low-risk commitment with 1 year and $3.25MM. The Diamondbacks seemed to have been a candidate, but we don’t know if it were just rumours or that they weren’t up to meet the Samurai’s asking price. If so, that seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. Again, the Oakland A’s were willing to commit the money, although they hardly spend any money at all at the moment.
Michael Fulmer was actually named quite a bit in comments on the AZSnakePit and apparently is considered an interesting bounce-back guy. He eventually got a 1 year/$4MM contract with the Chicago Cubs, more than what the Diamondbacks pay Miguel Castro. Fulmer lost -1.3 mph on his fastball in 2022, so he really is a gamble here. Personally, I would have rather bet on Miguel Castro, like the Diamondbacks did, but I will include him in this section as players to have had because of his “popularity” on this site.
Let’s poll this!
How about spending $14.25MM (or a bit more) on Fujinami, May and Fulmer?
This poll is closed
Sounds like an investment worth the risk.
Now let’s find out where the rest of the main pitchers we discussed ended up.
Out of reach for a “small-market team”
Kenley Jansen became a free agent after wrapping up a 1 year deal with Atlanta, at a going rate of $16MM. That was supposedly the money a new team had to show to the long-time closer and, yes, that is what the Boston Red Sox were willing to give: 2 years at $32MM.
Jansen was probably a long shot given the small-market behaviour of Arizona: Mark Melancon for example signed a 2 year/$14MM contract in the previous off-season.
No player represented the “typical Hazen fallen closer signing” better than Craig Kimbrel. At 35 years of age and after a season in Los Angeles that saw him getting bumped from the closer role, Kimbrel signed a 1 year/$10MM contract with the Phillies that is rather similar to what he has earned the last 8 years. Certainly not the money I would have given him and probably still somewhere below what the Diamondbacks would have had to commit.
The same contract was handed out by the Mets to David Robertson. That didn’t come as a surprise, as we expected that the bigger market teams were willing to pay that price for Robertson, deploying him in a high-leverage role. It might have been one of the riskier moves and getting Robertson to forfeit that money to play in Arizona would have probably cost the Diamondbacks more than $10MM, so he was eventually not an option either.
I’d go on a limp here and say Taylor Rogers was a bridge too far as well, although the 3 yr/$33MM contract the Giants offered him doesn’t seem out of league for a player who was rather successful until he moved to San Diego, only to completely fall out of gratitude in Milwaukee. San Francisco believes in him, for the Diamondbacks it is probably too much money.
The powerful arm of Robert Suarez landed himself into a new contract in San Diego worth 5 years and $46MM, with two possible player opt-outs. Not the kind of money I would have committed to a guy that was never really used in high-leverage situations and posted a career-high strikeout per 9.
Rafael Montero was certainly the reliever we all wanted to sign, but was probably never an option, signing a 3 year/$34.5MM contract in Houston again. Arizona would have had to go way over that to lure him to the desert.
The 2 years and $13.5MM the Los Angeles Angels have paid for Carlos Estevez must be an overpay. The man was basically forgotten in Colorado, especially in Baseball Fantasy land, but quietly had a good season, right before ending on the free agency market. A powerballer, but probably not much more than that, and not my kind of money.
Why San Diego was willing to spend $7.5MM AAV on Seth Lugo beats me. He just isn’t all that as a reliever and if you want to spend money on a reliever, than you should think he can be all that, right? Lugo doesn’t get righties out and what he does, other relievers do, and for less money.
Maybe too much of a risk
I was obviously wrong about Chris Martin, as I thought he still had an arbitration year remaining. Martin was incredibly good for the Dodgers and that got him a 2 year/$13.5MM contract in Boston. The Red Sox is the kind of team that is able to make such a move, although the peripherals definitely supported Martin. Perhaps too risky for the Diamondbacks, although they did hand out such a contract to Mark Melancon, who wasn’t as good as Chris Martin in Los Angeles.
The same can be said about NL West friend Adam Ottavino. The former Rockie enjoyed a terrific 2022 and earned a 2 year/$14.5MM contract with it, again with the Mets. The Diamondbacks would have had to go well over that to motivate Ottavino to move west again. That might have driven up the price too much (you don’t want to be in a bidding war with the Mets) for a reliever who lost velocity and just turned 37.
Mychal Givens essentially signed a 1 year contract for $5MM with the Orioles, where he enjoyed most success in his career. There is a mutual option for 2024, but since those are hardly ever activated, he’ll join the free agency market again in little less than a year from now. The contract he signed seems acquirable, but I would never sign Givens unless it is almost for free so I will categorise him here under the too risky poppers.
Some other free agents we mentioned briefly in our articles also signed contracts (like Aroldis Chapman) but we won’t pay special attention to them today (nor tomorrow).
Still out there
You can read back on these guys here.
Corey Knebel is still out there on the free agency market. He had a tear in his right shoulder which cut his 2022 season short in August and ever since it has been rather quiet around Knebel. He made $10MM in Philadelphia last year, but given his current unknown health status and late arrival in training camps, the guaranteed money will probably be a lot lower.
The same can be said about the status of Archie Bradley. After resigning Andrew Chafin, why not turn to Archie as well? Archie has had a miserable 2022 in Anaheim, after losing an entire season because of a broken elbow after tripping over the dugout railing because of a stupid brawl. Archie wants to go back to his house. Our house! Bradley signed a 1 year/$3.75MM contract last season with the Angels, so certainly will have to settle for less, maybe $2-3MM? This is more of an emotional signing than a rational signing by the way.
Brad Hand is one of those relievers that is also still out there. A risky move as well: he earned $6MM last year in Philadelphia with so-so results. The Twins were apparently interested in adding him to the bullpen mix, the Diamondbacks won’t be looking out to him with Mantiply and Chafin in the reliever corps.
There are also some others “out there” we mentioned in our articles, like Will Smith or Trevor Rosenthal, but we’ll pass on them too.
The Diamondbacks signed:
- Andrew Chafin, $6,250,000 (+$7,250,000 in 2024 - club option)
- Miguel Castro, $3,500,000 (+$5,000,000 in 2024 - vesting option at 60 games)
- Scott McGough, $2,500,000 (+$3,000,000 in 2024)
A total of $12,250,000 with commitments for 2024 as well.
An alternative option could have been:
- Trevor May, $7,000,000
- Shintaro Fujinami, $3,250,000
- Michael Fulmer, $4,000,000
A total of $14,250,000 with no commitments for 2024.
This poll will be a bit weird, because we could basically swap one player in and swap another out as we please to get the three relievers we actually like, but just for fun: what option do you prefer, considering pitchers and money invested?
What bullpen reinforcements do you prefer?
This poll is closed
I’ll take Chafin, Castro and McGough.
I prefer May, Fujinami and Fulmer.
I want them all.
In any case, please feel free to put on the hat of Captain Hindsight and give us your take. For example, Chris Martin could have been an interesting reinforcement as well, right?