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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Oh, to be a Lefty Reliever

I had always thought that I would want my kids to grow up to be lefty relievers. Jesse Orosco, who pitched until he was 46, inspired that thinking. I mean, your kid could get heavily compensated for about 20 years, pitch about 60 innings per year, and then have significant freedom to do what he wanted with the rest of his life. Along the way, he could play on good teams, you would hope, and perhaps earn a World Series ring.

Pretty good theory, right? Nice wish for the kids, right?

Lefty relievers have done pretty well over the years, that's true, and a few (as this linked article reports) remain unsigned. The two most prominent names are Will Ohman and Joe Beimel, both of whom are at their primes. Both posted lights-out numbers for the Braves and Dodgers, respectively, and Beimel has only given up 1 home run in his last 154 appearances.

Both are unsigned because they didn't lock up deals early, and pitchers and catchers already have reported. Both want more than what's been offered. Ohman has three offers, none for a good team (and he has said he wants to sign with a contender), while Beimel says that the offers haven't been good enough (so he's working out with the UCLA team). Ohman also had indicated that he'd take a one-year deal to pitch for a contender.

I'm curious why the Phillies aren't in the mix, given the 50-game suspension of J.C. Romero and the fact that absent Romero the only lefty reliever they have is Scott Eyre, who pitched great for the Phillies after being put on the Cubs' scrap heap mid-season. But Eyre is in his late 30's, and the Phillies don't really have a replacement for Romero (even if uber-closer Brad Lidge has marveled at the Phillies' depth in the bullpen). Either Ohman or Beimel would make sense for one year, unless, of course, the Phillies a) have spent what they're going to spend for 2009 (which few fans should quarrel with, given that they've increased their payroll by over 30%), b) don't think that either is a good fit for their team's chemistry or c) don't want to carry 3 lefties once Romero returns and honestly believe that Joe Bisenius or J.A. Happ can fill the role until Romero returns. Any explanation is plausible.

Yet, good situational relievers are by no means a commodity -- they are a must have for a contender. Yes, the economy has changed significantly, but contenders looking to fortify their relief corps should examine these quality lefties closely.

And I suspect that they will remain well paid.


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