Just when Alex Anthopoulos’ bullpen transformation looked complete, he added what appears to be the final piece, signing free-agent closer Francisco Cordero to a one-year, $4.5 million contract.
After turning down an apparent two-year, $12 million deal from the Reds earlier this winter, Cordero failed to see a bigger payday materialize. That’s when Anthopoulos, moments after being denied by Koji Uehara via the trade route, was able to capitalize on the lack of interest in Cordero and ink him to a low-risk, one-year deal.
Some of Cordero’s 2011 numbers–notably his career-low strikeout rate, .214 BABIP and highest FIP in 10 years–turned me off of him when closers were priced at a premium near the beginning of the offseason, and that was still the case a few weeks later when it was mentioned that he could be an option for the Jays given that he had the same agent as Jose Bautista, Bean Stringfellow.
But after Anthopoulos got his closer in Sergio Santos, signing Cordero to possibly be a setup man makes much more sense. And after continuing to look at his stats while also keeping an eye on next year’s trade deadline, he could prove to be a solid signing for the Jays.
After pitching well for the Rangers for most of his career before being lights out as the Brewers’ closer in 2007, Cordero was able to ink a lucrative four-year, $46 million contract with the Reds that winter. He saw his strikeout rate drop in each year of that deal, though, culminating in a career-low 5.4 K/9 in 2011.
Cordero is certainly not the pitcher that he used to be, but he’s been able to make adjustments to remain effective. Seeing the average velocity on his fastball drop to a career-low 93 MPH this past season and realizing it didn’t have the same life as it used to, he increased the use of his slider, added a curveball and tossed his changeup at a career-high frequency.
While Cordero’s decision to throw his changeup almost exclusively to left-handed hitters in 2011 didn’t turn out as well as he would have liked (.736 OPS against), the refinement and increased use of his slider, though, made him devastating against right-handers this past season, as he limited them to just a .159 average and .465 OPS — both career lows.
Having pitched at least 63 frames every season since 2003, one thing is for sure with Cordero: he’ll eat innings. He’s aggressive early in the count, throws first-pitch strikes, and his ground ball rate has increased in each of the last six seasons, including a career-high 50% mark in 2011.
Add in the fact that teams are always looking for bullpen help at the trade deadline, especially ones that are in need of a veteran with closing experience, and Anthopoulos could very well parlay Cordero, by himself or as part of a package, into something else this coming July.
Since the Jays’ 40-man roster is currently full, there will have to be a corresponding move when the signing is officially announced following a physical and Cordero is added. Leading candidates for the move would be Trystan Magnuson, Danny Farquhar, Alan Farina or Darin Mastroianni.