A second look at Jon Rauch

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with most of the moves that Sandy Alderson and Co. have made this off-season. Not spending a ton of money (which the team didn’t even have) on a player like Jose Reyes was a hard decision, but it was the right move. Personally, I loved the Angel Pagan for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez trade and if I were the Mets I probably would have done Pagan for Torres straight up. I don’t even mind giving $6M a year to Frank Francisco. He’s a very solid pitcher and compares well to other closers who got paid similar amounts this off-season. Maybe they could have saved a little bit if they waited out the market, but you can’t blame them for wanting to address the bullpen situation quickly and effectively.

The one problem I’ve had with the front office was the signing of Jon Rauch. It’s not that he is a bad pitcher, and personally I think he’ll do fine this year. I just believe that they jumped the gun way too early and overpaid to find a 7th inning guy. The Mets signed him to a one year $3.5M deal with incentives. So let’s see which other relief pitchers got deals between $3M-$4M this off-season and what their projected numbers are for the 2012 season:

LaTroy Hawkins ($3M) – 3.42 ERA 3.58 FIP 5.94 K/9 2.16 BB/9 .299 BABIP
Kerry Wood ($3M) – 3.81 ERA 3.87 FIP 9.87 K/9 4.50 BB/9 .309 BABIP
Kyle Farnsworth ($3.3M) – 3.06 ERA 3.44 FIP 8.83 K/9 2.21 BB/9 .296 BABIP
Octavio Dotel ($3.5M) – 3.30 ERA 3.73 FIP 10.95 K/9 3.60 BB/9 .294 BABIP
Jon Rauch ($3.5M) – 3.55 ERA 3.74 FIP 7.11 K/9 2.37 BB/9 .300 BABIP
Jason Frasor ($3.75M) – 3.67 ERA 3.69 FIP 8.67 K/9 3.67 BB/9 .305 BABIP
Jonathan Broxton ($4M) – 3.20 ERA 2.99 FIP 11.20 K/9 4.40 BB/9 .324 BABIP
Brad Lidge ($1M) – 3.86 ERA 3.88 FIP 11.57 K/9 5.14 BB/9 .318 BABIP
Takashi Saito ($1.75M) – 2.68 ERA 3.05 FIP 9.97 K/9 2.92 BB/9 .299 BABIP

Now of those guys the best projected numbers from last season belong to Kyle Fransworth, who was really one of the best closers in baseball last season. However, he was never really a free agent because the Rays picked up his $3.3M option instead of buying it out for $650K. Looking at the players on the list it looks like only Broxton would have the better projected numbers, but he was a risky move considering his injury, and you can’t really blame the Mets for wanting to stay away from that.

Also falling into that risky category is Lidge, who the Nationals signed to a one year $1M deal. He did have injury problems last season, but his past success certainly make him an interesting option. I don’t know if the Mets got in contract with him, but for a $1M deal for one year I’m sure the Mets would have been interested, especially if they didn’t really sign Rauch.

The guy who really interested me, especially for what the Mets would have been looking for was Saito. He’s not going to give a ton of innings but he’s going to make them quality ones. The Mets already have a closer and a set-up man, so what they really should have been looking for was a guy who doesn’t need to eat innings. The DBacks signed Saito to a $1.75M, which is half of what the Mets paid for Rauch.

In the end, looking at the player’s who got contracts in the $3M-$4M range Rauch’s projected numbers are right on par with the others. What I want to see the Mets do (and they still do have time to do it) is take a chance on a high risk, high award pitcher. At this point I think that there is only one spot open for the Mets bullpen, and they have another arms vying for that position. The Mets should look for some back-up for their starting pitchers and the options could be Chris Young or Brandon Webb.

So I guess the Rauch signing wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, especially for a guy who has thrown at least 50 innings in each of the past six seasons. So the most important thing Rauch might have to do this season is stay healthy.

4 comments for “A second look at Jon Rauch

  1. Brian Joura
    February 15, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Now all we have to do is hope Rauch can meet that projection!

    Rauch has never reached a 3.55 xFIP in the majors but that’s what his ERA projects to here. He has produced that ERA, thanks to some HR/FB rates that would make Mike Pelfrey blush. Last year he had an elevated 12.9 HR/FB rate and his ERA checked in at 4.85 for the year. And before you think that had to do with pitching his first year in the Rogers Centre, Rauch allowed 4 HR in 27.1 IP at home and 7 HR in 24.2 IP on the road.

    Also, Rauch has seen his velocity and K/9 numbers drop significantly. In 2008, he averaged 92.0 with his fastball and had an 8.29 K/9. Last year he averaged 89.5 and had a 6.23 K/9. I think it’s optimistic that he will post a 7.11 K/9. Here are his numbers the past three years: 6.30, 7.18, 6.23

    My issue with this deal is that the Mets are essentially paying market value for the pre-2011 Rauch. But 2011 Rauch was horrible. I see the best-case scenario being that he ends up worth his contract. But given how many options were available – both with other relievers and with other positions the Mets could have invested- and how little money the Mets had to spend this offseason – to give Rauch the contract they did was a mistake.

    • Brandon Lee
      February 15, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Yeah I agree. In terms of a regular baseball team it’s not a bad contract. In terms of the Mets, and their situation, I don’t think they could have gotten someone just as good for cheaper.

  2. Metsense
    February 15, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I liked Brian’s idea of signing Colon and Shoppach at what it cost to sign Rauch. Starting pitching depth was more important than signing Rauch. If they were hell bent on spending 3.5M on a reliever, I would have tried for Wood, Dotel or Hawkins before Rauch.

    • Brandon Lee
      February 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      Yeah, like you said I’d rather have starting pitching depth than bullpen depth. Especially when the Mets already have Francisco closing and Ramirez and Parnell as potential set-up man. They don’t really need another set-up man.

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