After the idea of the Blue Jays adding Octavio Dotel had been kicked around by everyone with an interest in baseball or the Jays on twitter off and on for the last month, it finally went down today. The deal is another inexpensive move by GM Alex Anthopoulos following on the heals of signing Edwin Encarnacion, trading for and releasing Miquel Olivo, and sending Shaun Marcum to Milwaukee for a prospect. Dotel is guaranteed, according to Fox Sports, 3.5 million dollars between a 2011 salary of 2.75 million and another 750,000 if his 3.75 million 2012 option is declined.
Unlike a good deal of Anthopoulos' moves this year, in season and off, this one brought in a player well past the age of thirty, Dotel will be thirty-seven on Opening Day. But like all of his moves it does have implications for the future should Dotel pitch well enough to bring draft pick compensation upon becoming a free agent. Hopefully, and surely, there is more to it than that because counting on any reliever approaching forty years of age to do anything is always a big question mark, except for that guy the Yankees have. The Jays might be better off getting compensation for him by spinning him at the trade deadline instead of waiting to see if he holds up all season.
Something should be said about the state of player movement in baseball when newly signed players having their exit from the club discussed before they even put on a uniform. Dotel will certainly pitch for the Jays for some length of time in 2011 turning the question to what should be expected of him. First off, he has the over glorified title of being a proven closer, proven and former are quickly becoming interchangeable when talking about relievers who've made lots of appearances in the ninth inning of baseball games when his team is leading.
Dotel has just one season with more than thirty saves and three overall with ten or more. That does include last season when he saved 22 games in 28 chances while pitching for no less than three clubs. Turning to numbers of more importance Dotel pitched 64 innings in 72 appearances last year, his third consecutive year logging over 60 innings. That of course followed three straight years of pitching no more than 30 innings.
In those 64 innings he set down 10.55 batters per nine innings and issued 4.50 walks per nine. The walk rate was an improvement, if you can call it that, from 2009's 5.20 BB/9 but both marks came in well above his career rate of 4.09 and 2008's 3.90. It's unlikely to expect much improvement moving forward. The impressive strikeout rate will need to stay impressive to mitigate the free passes, making his ability to miss bats more of a necessity than a luxury.
His three year average ERA, from 2008-2010, is 3.72 with a FIP of 4.11 in that same time. Last season his ERA was 4.09 with a FIP of 4.20, not great numbers for a reliever but good enough, if repeatable, to help shore up the bullpen for 2011. Dotel instantly becomes the favorite to close games for the Jays and should serve as a decent place holder until someone substantially younger comes through and pushes Dotel out of the role.
However superficial the title of closer or the burdens of being labelled as such may be it can cause confidence issues with young relievers thrust into the role. Many closers have started off their careers setting up someone just like Dotel as a ways of easing them into a future closing role. Between his actual pitching, potential future value to other teams, and, in theory, being perfectly fine with the closer tag Dotel's services should be worth the price paid. Since that price isn't all that large, especially compared to other releivers' deals this off season, if he can't stay healthy or pitches horribly the Jays won't be on the hook for any amount of money worth getting upset about.