Heath Bintliff: Orioles bullpen has been a money pit

Monday night in Boston, $16.5 million worth of relievers conspired to give up eight runs and blow a 6-run lead.

You would think that the Orioles would have learned by now. You can’t fix your bullpen by spending big buck in free agency. And trying to do so has contributed a bunch to the 13 years of losing.

A look at some of the free agent relievers over the last 10 years:

                                      G     ERA   Total Salary (in millions)
Mike Gonzalez              44     5.54                   $12
Kevin Gregg                 16     3.52                   $10
Chad Bradford           125      3.01                  $6.8
Jamie Walker             162      4.52                   $12   
Danys Baez               112      5.02                   $19
LaTroy Hawkins           60      4.48                  $4.4
Mike DeJean                37      6.03                  $1.5
Steve Kline                   67     4.28                  $2.5

That’s a lot of money spent on very spotty results.

I suppose it would make sense to spend this kind of money on a bullpen arm if you were a winning team or if you felt you could contend. The right reliever, a dependable or top flight-guy, can make a difference on a winner. While almost all relievers can be volatile in their performance, spending this way could be worth the risks involved when an extra two or three wins could mean the difference between the wild card spot or going home.

But for a team that hasn’t cracked 82 wins in 13 seasons? It’s a dangerous way to spend your money.

Think of some of the more successful Orioles relievers over the past several seasons: George Sherrill. Chris Ray, Chris Britton, B.J. Ryan, Will Ohman, Jim Johnson, David Hernandez, Jason Berken. These guys were all low-cost arms. They either came up through the Orioles farm system, were cheap guys acquired in trade or scrap heap signings with low salaries and good upside.

Don’t get me wrong, most of the guys they have acquired in that manner were not good. But that’s how they’re going to have to do it. I’d much rather have Josh Rupe making the league minimum and fail than have Gonzalez do the same thing while taking much needed salary dollars from other roster spots.

The Orioles farm system has to start producing some bullpen arms and it is starting to. Hernadez, Berken and Johnson were all good contributors last year and with the return of Brian Matusz looming, Brad Bergesen or Chris Tillman could find themselves helping the bullpen in long relief. Troy Patton could soon be added and guys like Chorye Spoone, Steve Johnson, Alfredo Simon, Zach Clark and Dan Klein will now find it tougher to crack the starting rotation and may take a quicker route to the majors as relief pitchers. There is help coming. But not soon.

But let’s lay off giving big bucks to so-called proven closers this offseason. The results speak for themselves.

Heath Bintliff blogs about the Orioles at Dempsey’s Army. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

blog comments powered by Disqus