Jays Acquire RP Merkin Valdez, or is it Manuel Mateo?


The Jays sent some cash to the Giants today in order to grab 6’5″ 230 lbs RP Merkin Valdez, who was going to be lost by the Giants due to the need to make a spot for Aubrey Huff on their roster. It’s unclear how much cash the Jays sent the Giants, but it’s likely to be a small amount as Merkin has little chance of cracking the 2010 bullpen.

Things you need to know about Merkin (Mola) Valdez.

  • He was signed by the Atlanta Braves in 1999 when he was still known as Manuel Mateo. How you get from being called Manuel Mateo to being named Merkin Valdez is beyond me, but I have a feeling that “the artist formerly known as Prince” is a big influence in the Caribbean since many of the players from there seem to want to change their names. It couldn’t have anything to do with lying about their ages….could it? Never, they wouldn’t dare lie about that. So we don’t really know how old Valdez really is, unless you trust what is reported now – 28 years old.
  • He was dealt to the Giants along with Damian Moss in 2002 in return for Russ Ortiz – pretty good trade for the Braves.
  • His best year in the minors was in 2004 when he threw 15 games between HiA-AA-AAA as a starter for a total of 82.1 IP, 80 Ks, 24 BB, a 3.82 ERA and 1.154 Whip. So he has experience as a starter with limited success.
  • 2005 was also a decent year for Merkin as he had similar stats in AA over 19 starts. 107 IP, 96 Ks, 3.53 ERA, 1.346 Whip.
  • 2006 is the year the Giants converted him into a reliever and he went downhill from there. Although his Ks remained constant, his ERA shot up to 5.80 and whip to 1.832. It seems to me that he may be trying to blow guys away as a reliever and is throwing to hard instead of pitching since he believes that’s what’s required out of relievers.
  • Merkin got his first real shot in the majors in 2008 as a reliever and 16 innings, with 13 Ks, a 1.69 ERA and 1.313 Whip. He followed that in 2009 with 49 IP, 38 Ks, 5.66 ERA and 1.723 Whip – essentially falling out of favor with the brass in San Francisco as a result.
  • Felipe Alou once said that he would become “a heckuva closer. He’s hungry now and wants to get out of the Minor Leagues”. If true, it would a major steal for the Jays.

If you ask me, it seems like Merkin was progressing well before they turned him into a reliever and the Jays may look at extending him slowly and using him more in the extended relief role in order to stretch him out a little – if he even makes the team that is, and that’s a big if with the Jays.

The additions of Merkin Valdez, Josh Roenicke, Zechry Zinicola, and Dick Hayhurst to the pen in 2010 beg the question – who’s going to stay and who’s going to go? I guarantee that the phones are busy and that Alex is listening to all and any offers for Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, and Brian Tallet, who are all creeping up there in terms of salaries and will be FAs after 2010. He’s also acting on his wishes to have some real competitions at each position, which bodes well for 2010. It’s the 3rd time the Jays have looked at the Giants for depth in the last 4 years, previously acquiring both INF Brian Bocock (10)  and RP Jeremy Accardo (06) from the club. I like this move by Alex, as Merkin does have some real upside and throws lightning. If they can teach him how to be a reliever without trying to break the catcher’s hand, they may get real value here at a very low cost. It does make trading other relievers that much easier to do.