In addition to the rumors surrounding the Blue Jays and free agent reliever Brian Fuentes, it was reported by SI.com’s Jon Heyman yesterday that the Jays are apparently interested in mammoth free agent right-hander Jon Rauch.
It is indeed quite a wild market for relievers this year, as it’s interesting that Rauch still remains unsigned. I touched on him as a notable Type-B bullpen option in my very first post way back on October 26th, and Mat ranked him as his third favorite option in his bullpen article back on December 16th.
Rauch, 32, has been pitching his best ever since he returned to the American League when he was acquired by the Minnesota Twins from the Arizona Diamondbacks on October 28th, 2009, and the Twins decided to keep him after the 2009 season by exercising his $2.9M club option for 2010. In 76 games with the Twins dating back to the trade, Rauch has gone 8-2 with a 2.82 ERA, 2.5 BB/9, and 7.4 K/9 in 73.1 innings.
The 6’11, 290 pound Rauch is also durable, as he has pitched at least 70 innings every season from 2006-2009. He dealt with minor injuries this past season though, which limited him to 57.1 innings.
Rauch has had an FIP over 4 only once in his last seven seasons, and he posted the second highest ground ball rate of his career in 2010 (37.7%). As Ben Nicholson-Smith from MLB Trade Rumors points out though, Rauch has always been a fly ball pitcher, which could have mixed results at Rogers Centre.
Rauch racked up 21 saves this past season with the Twins, and could compete with Octavio Dotel for the closing job on the 2011 Blue Jays. Like Dotel, Rauch’s performance against RHB is stronger than LHB, but it’s nowhere near as lopsided as Dotel has been in that regard over the last two years.
Rauch would be a welcome addition to the Jays’ bullpen, even though southpaw Brian Fuentes would seem like the better option to complement Dotel, who the Jays already have in the fold. Rauch will likely come cheaper than Fuentes though, and he could sign for less than the three years Fuentes is rumored to be asking for, say 2-years/$7.5M.
Rauch has above-average control, and could really be a good fit for the Jays given pitching coach Bruce Walton’s emphasis on improving a changeup and using it more often in games.