Bullpen Prognostications

This from Buster Olney:

Boston’s signing of Julian Tavarez is a perfect example of this. He could be an asset for Boston: Over the last two seasons, Tavarez has issued just 38 walks in 131 innings for the Cardinals, and over the 2003 and ’04 seasons, he surrendered only two homers.
But look more closely. After the All-Star break last season, Tavarez posted an ERA of 5.13, and after striking out 35 batters in 39.1 innings in the first half, he managed just 12 whiffs in 26.1 innings in the second half, with opponents batting .317. It’s been a decade since he last pitched in the AL (in 1996), and that year he accumulated a 5.36 ERA. He’s arguably among the five most temperamental pitchers in the majors, and a high-stress place like Boston would not seem to be a place for that kind of personality.
Is it a bad signing? Not at all. He could be pretty good, considering that the Red Sox aren’t going to be asking a lot of him as a middle reliever. And he could be a mess, a typical Jekyll-Hyde thing that both the Sox and their opponents must deal with next year.

The numbers he throws in the first section are excellent to say the least, while the latter is sobering. I’m not against this move, I think he’ll be fine with us and in a relief pitching market such as this, we did pretty well. There are rumors afloat we were about to trade David Wells to the Dodgers for Yhency Brazoban, but that fell through and hence, Julian is a Red Sox.
He’s a pretty temperamental guy. I was thinking about this last night and there’s both positives and negatives to this. The negatives are quite easy to imagine via Buster’s words and our memories of Crazy Carl. However, the positive that I’ll draw away from this until I’m forced to otherwise is that it’ll bring some “fire” to the team. We’ve got a lot of competitive people on our team (just like on every team) but I don’t see a fiery guy on the Red Sox and I haven’t for a while. You know the type – always angry, one hell of a competitor, doing everything possible to win whether it’s cheating or chin music or getting involved in fights. You know, like Gabe Kapler. Kapler’s the kind of guy I’m talking about, but he was not around for a long period of time last year and won’t be next year because of his injury, so I can’t really see him having a massive impact other than the clubhouse impact he seems to have.
Tavarez may help rectify that, who knows. But we need a fiery guy in the bullpen, and Tavarez seems to be the only person in our bullpen fitting that.
This signing of Tavarez to me represents a few things. First, we would be going with an all righty bullpen which scares me. Right now, our pitching staff looks to be such:
Curt Schilling, David Wells, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement.
Keith Foulke, Mike Timlin, Julian Tavarez, Guillermo Mota, Bronson Arroyo, Rudy Seanez, Jonathan Papelbon, Jaime Vermilyea, Lenny DiNardo, Jermaine Van Buren, Craig Hansen, Manny Delcarmen.
The latter three are certain to open the season at Triple-A, which leaves us with 11-12 spots, and 14 candidates.
Schilling, Beckett, Wakefield, Clement, Foulke, Timlin, Tavarez, and Seanez are all rock-solid, no-question-about-it, definite locks. That means there’s 3-4 spots with 6 candidates left – Wells, Mota, Arroyo, Papelbon, Vermilyea, DiNardo.
1) David Wells
We don’t have to trade him. He signed a contract which he will have to honor. He requested a trade, and we’re trying to accomodate him. He may shoot off in spring training about it, but that’s Wells for you. He’ll continue to take the ball as our lefty in the rotation and give us solid numbers as he did last year. The signing of Tavarez because of the fall through of the Wells/Brazoban trade means a few things to me, because what we wanted in return for Wells (a reliever) is now meaningless.
ONE: We trade David Wells for a prospect and keep him.
TWO: We keep David Wells.
THREE: We trade David Wells for a SS/CF (perhaps a prospect, perhaps not, but young enough) to then start. But of course, this SS/CF is not a world beater, so he’s only filler at these positions, and we have filler.
FOUR: We trade David Wells for a CF prospect and dangle Arroyo, said prospect, and a couple of other names to Seattle for Jeremy Reed.
PREFERRED: Option Four. MOST LIKELY: Option Two.
2) Guillermo Mota
We acquired him in the Josh Beckett trade, and while he has had quality seasons, has not been super-quality the last year. He can still give us value, but the question is with our stockpile of arms, is Mota on the way out? There’s been way too much talk of him on the way out to mean nothing. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
ONE: We keep Guillermo Mota.
TWO: We trade Guillermo Mota for a prospect to stack in our system or flip in a future trade.
THREE: We package Mota along with David Wells and/or Bronson Arroyo to get what we want.
PREFERRED: Option Three. MOST LIKELY: Option One.
3) Bronson Arroyo
Because the Wells/Brazoban deal fell apart, I have to imagine Arroyo has a lot more value than David Wells. Arroyo has started talks with the Red Sox on a three-year deal as well. The talk of Arroyo being traded has been much less than Wells, but it’s still out there, and if we keep David Wells, Arroyo moves to the bullpen while effective, is not really that much of an upgrade to bury him among the power arms we have just gotten. His trade value would depreciate way, way too much.
ONE: We keep Bronson Arroyo and start him.
TWO: We keep Bronson Arroyo and put him in the bullpen.
THREE: We trade Bronson Arroyo for a SS/CF.
FOUR: We trade Bronson Arroyo for a prospect to be used for a SS/CF.
PREFERRED: Option Three. MOST LIKELY: Option Four.
4) Jonathan Papelbon
Okay, where does he fit in now? We want him to be a starter, but we have six starters ahead of him on the depth chart. I’ve predicted Arroyo goes and Wells stays, so now he’s our first starting option out of the bullpen. That would be perfect to have Papelbon be in the bullpen and occasionally draw the start – I think it’s perfect for his growth. What’s not perfect for his growth is his situation right now. If the Red Sox are looking to him as a fulltime reliever, then fine – but they’re not, at least not yet.
ONE: Jonathan Papelbon is kept as a reliever.
TWO: Jonathan Papelbon is demoted to AAA to start.
THREE: Jonathan Papelbon is used as a reliever/spot starter once Arroyo is traded.
PREFERRED: Option Two. MOST LIKELY: Option Three.
5) Jaime Vermilyea
Selected in the Rule 5 draft from Toronto, Vermilyea lacks a high ceiling and enough effectiveness to truly deserve a roster spot. Brilliance the last two years has enabled us to keep DiNardo and Stern, but these two were excellent pickups and everything I’ve heard about Vermilyea thus far has been lukewarm at best. Again, our bullpen has gotten so vaunted, there’s just no spot for him anywhere, and I’d much rather return him to Toronto then go through the headache of phantom injuries and what not.
ONE: Vermilyea is a reliever in the bullpen.
TWO: Vermilyea is returned to Toronto in Spring Training.
THREE: Vermilyea gets “injured” in Spring Training and miraculously gets healthy once someone in the bullpen goes down.
FOUR: His rights are acquired from Toronto (cash).
FIVE: We trade Vermilyea to another team.
PREFERRED: Option Four. MOST LIKELY: Option Three.
6) Lenny DiNardo
He’s ready. Period. One of the best AAA starters last year who impressed in a short stint in the major leagues. It’s time for him to come into the majors. He’d also present a different look, for he’s a lefty. I don’t care if he has reverse splits or not, I care about at least one lefty in the bullpen. Appearances matter almost as much as effectiveness (and he’s quite effective to boot) for pitching. If they didn’t, why would Wakefield be slotted in between power pitchers purposely in the last few years? If we have Lenny DiNardo available to us, let’s use that opportunity to get Papelbon more experience as a starter in AAA.
ONE: Lenny DiNardo reports to AAA.
TWO: Lenny DiNardo is traded.
THREE: DiNardo is a reliever in the Boston bullpen.
PREFERRED: Option Three. MOST LIKELY: Option Three.
Your 2006 pitching staff (MOST LIKELY staff, not PREFERRED):
1. Curt Schilling
2. David Wells
3. Josh Beckett
4. Tim Wakefield
5. Matt Clement
CL Keith Foulke
SU Mike Timlin
SU Rudy Seanez
MR Julian Tavarez
MR Guillermo Mota
MR Lenny DiNardo
MR Papelbon/Vermilyea
That’s an 11-man staff, which leaves us room for one more if we really want it – Arroyo, Papelbon, Vermilyea, Van Buren, Hansen, Delcarmen. Using the first two as backend bullpen relievers is negating their value and progress. With the question marks in our rotation and bullpen, I think a 12-man staff is on the way, which opens up a spot for Vermilyea (unless he gets injured waking up in the morning), and our other top three arms waiting in Triple-A. Or of course, give the slot to Papelbon.
As I’ve demonstrated, there’s a number of ways to go about constructing our staff, and there is a difference between what I prefer and what I think will happen. Certainly there’s an array of options available to us, and I believe that using my preferred happenings would be beneficial to the club, but trades always fall through or never amount to much, and you’ve got to factor that in.