Reasons to Bring Brian Fuentes to Toronto

I know that the Octavio Dotel signing is not yet official, but for the purpose of this post I will assume that it will go through without any major issue. His signing would result in a pen that looks something like this:

image courtesy of prorumors.com

  • RHP Octavio Dotel, age 37, closer-setup – excellent vs RHB and horrific vs LHB (.301/.412/.582) in 2010
  • LHP David Purcey, age 28, closer-setup – excelled against both RHB  and LHB in 2010
  • RHP Jason Frasor, age 33, closer-setup, good vs RHP and mediocre vs LHB (.361 OBP in 2010)
  • RHP Casey Janssen, age 29, reliever – excelled against RHB, struggled against LHB (.283/.382/.416) in 2010
  • RHP Shawn Camp, age 35, reliever – excelled against RHB, struggled against LHB (.299/.364/.467) in 2010
  • RHP Carlos Villanueva, age 27, reliever-spot starter-long relief – good vs RHB, ok vs LHB (.232/.333/.434) but not great in 2010
  • RHP Jesse Litsch reliever or AAA starter (as things look today), I say reliever…for now simply because I think the Jays still want to see if Stewart can start as he gets more experience in AA or AAA – struggled against both LHB and RHB as he returned from injury in 2010

Other candidates for spots: LHP Jesse Carlson (30) – excellent vs LHB and horrific vs RHB, RHP Josh Roenicke (28)- horrific vs LHB and great vs RHB, RHP Alan Farina (25), and LHP Rommie Lewis (28) ok vs LHB and bad against RHB. There are others who could also surprise to take a spot, but for now we’ll work with this list.

What this tells me is that the Jays have one massive deficiency as we head towards the 2011 season: getting LHBs out when relievers are on the mound. The simplified evaluation above also tells me that David Purcey should be closing, not Jason Frasor or Octavio Dotel.

Still, even if David Purcey is chosen to be the closer, and that’s a big if, the Jays still need someone in the pen who can get LHB out consistently. They certainly didn’t put much faith in Jesse Carlson last year, so I don’t see that changing any time soon. Maybe new pen coach Pat Hentgen can get them to use a more effective strategy vs LHB, but as it stands today, the Jays are still very vulnerable to lefties.

That’s exactly why after thinking and looking over the pen as it stands today, I believe that the Jays brought Octavio Dotel in to setup, not close, and that they are one of the 11 teams reportedly chasing Brian Fuentes.

In 2010, the line for Fuentes vs LHB: .128/.222/.149

WOW!!!

And just for kicks and giggles, let’s look at his line vs RHB: .202/.293/.403

Very tolerable, and still better than most Jays relievers.

Not only is he the perfect fit for the Jays in 2011 because he provides the Jays with another great option vs LHB, but I’d be willing to say that without him the Jays pen will be mostly ineffective vs LHB in 2011 without some improvements from the majority of the RHP relievers the Jays have on board.

The only draw back I can see to bringing Brian on board is that the Jays pen is surprisingly old overall with only 2 relievers in their late 20s, all others are in their 30s.

What would he cost? Well, from what I’ve heard and read, around $12-$15 million over 2 years.

Fuentes and Purcey are the only 2 relievers at this point that I would be 100% comfortable with as closers for the Jays in 2011. Anyone else would risk having many blown saves as other teams would be able to feed off the fact that the Jays relievers struggle tremendously against LHB. That’s exactly why Scott Downs was so valuable to the Jays and to any organization that could pick him up and it’s the reason 11 teams are chasing Fuentes. Both dominate LHP and can close when needed because they also do well vs RHB.

Brian Fuentes reportedly wants to close. Well, by my count the Jays haven’t given anyone the closing job yet, so he could very well be very interested in joining the Jays.If he takes that job, the Jays end up with 2 great options vs RHB in Octavio Dotel and Jason Frasor when the late innings come around, and they still have David Purcey to use if a LHB pops out of the dugout. The other 3 relievers can be used in the earlier innings, when required.

Also, I will add that when I look at the relievers that will be available next off season as FAs, it leads me to believe that the Jays would be much better off signing Fuentes to a 2-year deal.

The Jays have a ton of money left in the bank, so money is not an issue. If they want Fuentes and offer him a more than reasonable contract with an opportunity to close, I believe he will bite.

Fuentes also does not cost the Jays a pick, as he is a Type-B FA. But, he could become a Type-A or B FA down the line, making him likely to get the Jays at least 1 sandwich pick, maybe another pick, in the 2012 or 2013 draft. As we all know, Alex Anthopoulos puts a ton of weight into those picks and knows that he may not get such benefits from signing Octavio Dotel.

If the Jays are serious about competing in 2011 and 2012, they’ll need to blow fewer leads in those seasons than they did in 2010.

In 2010, the Jays had the following blown saves:

For a grand total of 16 blown saves. Carlos Villanueva, just for added info, blew 3 of his 4 save opportunities, while Octavio Dotel blew 6 of his 28 save opportunities.

How did that stack up against other AL East big clubs? Well, the NYY had 21 blown saves, the Red Sox had a whopping 22 blown saves, and TB had 16 blown saves to equal the Jays. But, do I care about their blown saves? No. All I care about is the fact that the Jays finished 11 games back of the AL East lead, and 10 games back of the Wild Card spot, making those blown saves very costly. If the Jays can make sure that Brian Fuentes doesn’t go to one of the clubs listed above in order to lower their blown save totals, and instead lowers the Jays numbers, it’s a double win situation.

I don’t know who’s going to land Brian Fuentes and whether or not the Jays are really in the hunt right now, but they should be in the hunt and should make sure he doesn’t land in NY or TB. If the Jays really want to take a shot at the Wild Card in 2011 they’ll need to beat both the NYY and the TB Rays. Letting Fuentes slip by and sign with one of those organizations would send a pretty loud message that the Jays are still patiently waiting for 2012 to come around before putting the pedal to the metal.

The only real other alternatives I can see at this time are to have Jesse Litsch and/or Carlos Villanueva begin the year in AAA and to insert either/or both Jesse Carlson and Alan Farina in the pen in their place(s). While this would make the Jays pen cheaper and younger, it sure would bring a lot of uncertainty along with it and would still allow for the possibility of Fuentes landing in BOS, NY or TB.

Brian Fuentes would help the Jays pen more than any other because he would provide them with exactly what they need to become dominant. He would get his opportunity to earn the closing spot and would probably do so due to his effectiveness vs both LHB and RHB, as well as his experience.

Those are my reasons for bringing Brian Fuentes to Toronto and I will be fairly disappointed if he lands elsewhere.

– MG

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Tags: Brian Fuentes Brian Tallet Casey Janssen Jason Frasor Kevin Gregg Octavio Dotel Scott Downs Shawn Camp

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