With names like Chad Qualls, Miguel Batista, Scot Shields, and Trevor Hoffman still looking for a job on the free agent market, the list of available closer candidates for the 2011 Blue Jays is very slim. The thin free-agent market makes you almost hope that the rumors are true about the Jays being close to a deal with former Pittsburgh Pirates closer Octavio Dotel.
If this tweet by Jon Heyman, from about one hour ago, is true, and the Pirates, Rays, or another club come in and “steal” Dotel away from the Blue Jays, here are two names that fly under the radar that the Jays could consider as their stop-gap closer for 2011.
Sure Saito’s Opening Day age will be 41-years-old, easily making him the oldest member on the Blue Jays roster, but he still has the ability to sit down opposing hitters with ease. Saito was non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves back in October, and there hasn’t been any mention of him since.
He was one of Bobby Cox’s dependable arms this past season, where he posted a 2.83 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, and 1.074 WHIP in 54 innings for the Braves. He also struck out 69, good for a 11.5 K/9, which was a mark he hadn’t hit since the 2008 season. His numbers against left-handed hitters weren’t terrible, but he was particularly nasty against right-handed hitters, limiting them to just a .172/.220/.293 line.
Saito can throw a total of five pitches, but primarily uses his fastball and slider to strike guys out, while mixing in a curveball as well. His 43.6% ground ball rate would fare a lot better in the AL East (where he has experience from when he pitched for Boston in 2009) than Octavio Dotel‘s 31.7% rate.
Saito also had a 2.83 xFIP this year (a fielding independent pitching stat that calculates future ERA more accurately, or a pitcher’s “true” ERA in a season), whereas Dotel had a 4.27 xFIP in 2010.
He could easily be signed to a one-year contract, perhaps with a club option in 2012. If he is used in the closer role again, and pitches as well as he normally does in the first-half, GM Alex Anthopoulos could move him at the trade deadline in July if needed.
Farnsworth spent time between Kansas City and Atlanta in 2010 after the Royals shipped him to the Braves in the Rick Ankiel deal. Statistically, he pitched a lot better in the American League with the Royals, but his strikeouts were a lot higher in the National League with the Braves (go figure).
In 64.2 innings between the two clubs in 2010, Farnsworth posted a 2.6 BB/9, 8.5 K/9, and 1.144 WHIP, to go along with a 3.34 ERA. He has experience in the AL East as well, when he did an adequate job with the New York Yankees from 2006-2008.
Although Farnsworth hasn’t notched more than one save since the 2006 season, he, along with the majority of “non-closer” relievers not named Jason Frasor, could easily step into the ninth inning role and close out a game.