Yeah, I know I'm supposed to be falling all over myself impressed with the Nationals' reported offer of 8 years and $160 million for Mark Teixeira. Well, you know me. Everyone else zigs, I zag. Or something like that.
No, I'm talking about the one actual piece of real news today--the Nationals tossing aside Jesus Colome.
I understand that Colome is clearly not a huge loss. He was really the epitome of the mop-up man this year, logging a pitcher's leverage index (pLI) of 0.65, the third lowest in the NL (LI is a measure of the importance of the innings pitched, with average leverage equaling 1.00 and the typical closer around 1.7 t0 2.0).
But Colome is not a bum. Yeah, he's slow as molasses on the mound. But if he's the sixth or seventh man in your bullpen, you're doing ok.
Last season he finished with a 4.31 ERA, respectably close to the NL reliever average of 4.09. He was a touch lucky, with a BABIP of .275 and a fielding independent ERA was 4.50, but he's always been able to miss bats, striking out 6.97 per 9 in 2008 (career 6.94). Without a doubt he walks too many (4.94 per 9 in '08), but if he didn't he'd be a set-up man, not a mop-up guy.
And let's look at the Nationals bullpen: it's Joel Hanrahan, Saul Rivera, and... Bueller? Bueller??
OK if things work out maybe Mike Hinckley and Steve Shell fill two more spots. You're still short three arms in the typical seven-man bullpen. Garrett Mock could be another reliever, but he really deserves a shot at the rotation. Bergmann could be another, but we may need him to start too, especially if Redding and Perez aren't back and we really aren't in the market for any major-league SPs. Marco Estrada? Come now. And if Rivera finally breaks down and/or Hanrahan regresses, things could get real ugly real fast.
Like him or not, Colome would have been one of just three relievers going into the 2009 season with any kind of major league track record. If seven guys can beat him out in spring training, great. But there's no reason to just show him the door.
Except money. Colome earned $1.25 million this past season and was arbitration-eligible, meaning he was guaranteed a raise of probably another half mil or so. The major-league minimum is around $400k, so you can basically chalk this move up to Mark and Teddy tossing aside a perfectly useful relief arm for about a million bucks, which, in the economics of major league baseball is chicken feed.
I understand as well as anyone that middle relievers are incredibly erratic and rarely worth getting worked up over. Jesus Colome is no exception. And there's a reasonable chance that we'll find someone on the same scrap heap where we found Colome who will put up numbers similar to what Colome will do in '09. But are we going to find four or five more guys who will do as well as Colome in 2009? I wouldn't bet on it.
Bottom line, Colome is no savior, but if we really intend to dip 2-3 arms deep into our stock of replacement arms, we're playing with fire and setting ourselves up for another 100-loss debacle.