5 Available Free-Agent Steals That Are a Good Fit for the Chicago White Sox
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Chicago White Sox general manager Rick Hahn is now dealing with a shallow pool of available free agents. Not so thin, however, that the White Sox cannot find a free-agent steal among them.
As Hahn wades through what free agents are left, there are two areas the White Sox must address.
The first thing the White Sox need is a left-handed hitter. The only two that have any value, though—Adam Kennedy and Kelly Johnson—don't appear to improve the team.
So, that means a left-handed stick will more than likely come in the way of a trade. Gavin Floyd’s name is still being mentioned as someone who is available and Jason Kubel has emerged as a rumored target for the White Sox.
Now, the other position Hahn has stated needs to be addressed is in the bullpen. With the departure of Brett Myers likely, the Sox are going to need another set-up man.
Good news on that front: there appear to be five strong free-agent relievers who may accept short-term deals with the White Sox for less than they earned in 2012 and become steals in the process.
Let Me Get This Straight
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In order to compile a list of free-agent relievers who would fit—from both a pitching and cost perspective—several factors were taken into account.
After a cursory survey of available relievers, FanGraphs.com was used to identify each player’s strength such as pitch selection, velocity and placement.
Then, BaseballReference.com (BBR) provided the framework for a statistical analysis. Particular attention was paid to their performance in 2012—including first and second-half splits. BBR also provided each pitcher’s 2012 salary.
Next, the competition for each player’s services was identified using MLBTradeRumors.com (MLBTR). Simply put, the more teams bidding for a players services, the less likely he would be to accept a short contract.
After a bit of research and number crunching, five relievers stood out.
CBSSports.com’s 2012 fantasy rankings were used to sort the five free agents in descending order.
5. Jason Frasor
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
2012 salary: $3.75 million
MLBTR noted that Jason Frasor had a “generally strong 2012 season" which “will be enough to generate modest contract offers.”
Frasor did pitch quite well last season, compiling a 4.12 ERA while striking out 53 in 50 appearances covering 43.2 innings. And while he allowed 4.53 BB/9—which is rather high—he averaged almost 11 K/9 and held right-handed hitters to a .245 BAA—which is rather good.
Frasor, who pitched on the South Side in 2011 (albeit poorly), is realistic about his future and the amount of money he may be able to earn. He told MLBTR that “there are only so many spots to go around."
He mixes in a near equal amount of sliders (13.5 percent) and split-fingered fastballs (11.3) with a plus four-seam fastball he can locate.
The Milwaukee Brewers appear to be pursuing Frasor so a modest one or two-year contract for a guy who can consistently hit 93 on the gun and had 13 holds last season would be a great deal for the White Sox.
4. Mike Gonzalez
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2012 salary: NA
Lefty Michael Gonzalez, 34, is coming had a very productive year for the Washington Nationals in 2012.
The 10-year veteran posted a 3.03 ERA, .237 BAA and held opponents to an OPS under .700 over the course of 47 relief appearances.
His best asset is his pitch selection. See, he only threw his fastball 55.1 percent of the time while relying on a plus slider to keep hitters off balance.
Right-handed hitters did have a .297 BAA, but part of that can be attributed to a dramatically increased workload during the second half of the season.
He is a left hander, and it appears the White Sox are looking for a righty, but he faced an almost equal number of batters from both sides of the plate and left 74 percent of total base runners stranded.
MLBTR did note that there are a couple of other teams after Gonzalez. That would indicate that Hahn may have to offer a two-year contract, but the 34-year-old shows no real signs of wearing down.
Just a guess here, but a contract with a total value of around $4 million may be all it takes.
3. Jon Rauch
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2012 salary: $3.5 million
Jon Rauch is a familiar name for many White Sox fans. After all he was drafted by them in 1999 and pitched for parts of two seasons on the South Side.
Rauch was a horse last year for the New York Mets. According to BBR, he appeared in 73 games, finished the season with a 3.59 ERA and had a WHIP of just 0.988.
Much like Gonzalez, Rauch uses his slider to keep hitters off balance, but also sprinkles in a curveball for added effect.
His single greatest strength is how effective he is against right-handed hitters. Over the course of 139 plate appearances, he held them to a .176 BAA and had more strikeouts (31) than hits allowed (23).
As of last week, the Milwaukee Brewers were the only team that MLBTR reported had shown an interest in the 6’11” Rauch.
He would probably come at a very reasonable price and the White Sox may only have to commit to one season in order to secure his services.
2. Kyle Farnsworth
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2012 salary: $3.3 million
After opening the 2012 season on the DL, Kyle Farnsworth was very effective. Over the course of 31 second-half appearances for the Tampa Bay Rays, the right hander posted a 3.28 ERA and held opponents to a .217 BAA.
He does throw some form of fastball 66.8 percent of the time, which can be problematic, but averages over 93 mph and changes the batter’s eye level fairly well.
CBSSports.com noted that “Farnsworth may be searching for the opportunity to close games.” While Addison Reed is the closer at the moment, it would seem that Farnsworth would provide some protection, should Reed struggle.
If Farnsworth signed a one-year deal with the White Sox and pitches well, he may set himself up for one last payday in 2014.
1. Matt Capps
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2012 salary: $4.5 million
Matt Capps, 29, missed most of the second half in 2012 due to inflammation of his rotator cuff. Prior to going on the shelf, however, he was quite effective.
He converted 14 out of 15 save opportunities for the Minnesota Twins last year and held opponents to a .241 BAA, while finishing the season with a 3.68 ERA and a 1.091 WHIP.
One area of concern for the burly right hander is how well right-handed batters fared against him. They hit a combined .305 in 2012. Conversely, Capps dominated left-handed hitters, who hit a paltry .175 in 59 plate appearances.
Probably due to his sore shoulder, Capps threw an unusually high percentage of off-speed pitches (29.9) in 2012. He did come off the DL for an appearance in September, though, so he shoulder should be fine for the start of next season.
Much like the others on the list, look for Capps to sign a short-term deal with the hopes of cashing in on a larger payday for the 2014 season.
He is also familiar with the Central, which should help.