Jays Pen News: Are Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain Going to Join Frasor in the 2011 Jays Pen?


Jon Paul Morosi recently linked the Jays to ex-Twin reliever Matt Guerrier, and we also know the Jays are interested in another ex-Twin and Canadian, Jesse Crain, who was born in none other than Toronto. If the Jays were to add both relievers, it would provide them with a very much needed level of experience – both during the regular and post-season – that would go a long way to rebuilding the pen into a top 10 contender. With news that Jason Frasor accepted arbitration, this trio could become the bulk of the back end of the pen, with only the closing position left to be fixed this off season.

Although it would be a great start to the rebuilding of the Jays pen to add those 2 relievers, would it make the Jays pen any better overall? After all, what the Jays want is not to simply replace those who are leaving, but it is to improve the pen so that the Jays can make a real playoff run in 2011. If we all agree that the closing position is still very much in the air despite Jason Frasor‘s 36 career saves, we can evaluate what the other 6 pen members may look like should both Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier sign with the Jays this off season.

The 2010 Jays pen without the closer included (6 spots) largely included the following:

Scott Downs; Jason Frasor; Shawn Camp; Brian Tallet; David Purcey; Casey Janssen

If we evaluate what the additions of Guerrier and Crain would do for the Jays in terms of improvement, we can clearly see that these 2 players would be replacing Scott Downs and Brian Tallet, as the remainder of the other pitchers in the pen seem likely to be with the Jays in 2011. So, let’s evaluate Matt Guerrier versus Scott Downs as a setup guy, and Jesse Crain over Brian Tallet as a 6th-7th inning guy (although I would argue that David Purcey is replacing Brian Tallet as a long-reliever and that Jesse Crain is in fact replacing David Purcey‘s role in the 2010 pen). All else in the Jays pen would remain constant, although Jeremy Accardo would have to be dealt or pas through waivers since he is out of options.

Matt Guerrier vs Scott Downs:

Age: Matt will be 32 in 2011, Scott will be 35. Edge to Matt.

FA Types: Matt and Scott are both Type A FAs, but Matt was not offered arbitration by the Twins and will therefore not cost the Jays a pick if they sign him, whereas they will get 2 top picks if Scott signs elsewhere. Big edge to Matt.

Salary: Matt made $3.1 million in 2010 and is arguably looking at a $4-5 million salary per season when he signs this off season, while Scott made $4 million in 2010 and is probably looking more towards the $5.5 to $7 million range. Slight edge to Matt, although number of years to be signed will be the key in this case, so it’s a toss for now.

Splits: Matt is a RHP, Scott is a LHP, but both are dominant against both LHB and RHB as shown by their splits: Matt kept RHB to a .210 average and .264 OBP while keeping LHB to a .236 average and .324 OBP, meanwhile Scott kept RHB to a .243 average and .283 OBP, and kept LHB to a very dominant .152 average and .247 OBP. Here, we can clearly see that Matt is much more effective against RHB while Scott is against LHB. What does this change? Well, it means that the Jays will need to depend on someone like David Purcey – who kept LHB to a meager .163 average and .309 OBP – as a lefty specialist in the pen for the 2011 season. I give a slight edge to Scott in this case, but the overall effect to the Jays pen should be a positive due to the likely use of Purcey vs lefties.

Versus AL East opponents in 2010: Matt vs NYY (.143 average and only 1 hit allowed in 7 ABs) – vs BOS (1 hit allowed in 2 ABs against) – vs TB (6 hits allowed in 18 AB for a .333 average against – ugly) – vs BAL (3 hits allowed in 3 ABs). Scott vs NYY (an incredible 3 hits allowed in 24 ABs) – vs BOS (8 hits allowed in 25 ABs for a .320 average against) – vs TB (9 hits allowed in 21 ABs – also ugly) – and vs BAL (1 hit allowed in 17 ABs for a .059 average against). We can see that both struggled vs BOS and TB, while they seemed to be able to be extremely effective vs the NYY and BAL. Matt has less experience against AL East teams, but he is younger and is close to being just as effective overall.

Playoffs: Matt’s inexperience in the AL East is also mitigated by the fact that he has playoff experience while Scott does not. He has a 0.00 ERA in the playoffs while only allowing 1 hit over his 4.2 IP.

Usage: Both pitchers have thrown a ton of innings over the last 3 season and both have proven to be durable during that span. However, Scott has thrown 177 innings over the last 3 years while Matt has thrown 217, indicating just how much more Matt was counted on during the season by the Twins in comparison to Scott. Being older, Scott is sure to be used slightly less as he moves ahead in his career, while Matt is still in his prime. Huge edge to Matt in this case since he has thrown close to or more than 70 innings over his last 6 seasons and is as available as it gets in the pen.

Analysis: Since they both have their strong points in terms of stats, I make it a virtual tie and deem them both as worthy as the other of being named the set up guy in the pen. However, due to cost, youth, and playoff experience, I give the edge to Matt Guerrier in this case and see him as an overall upgrade in the Jays pen. He has room for improvement, will cost less, and would definitely benefit from having John Farrell, Bruce Walton, and Pat Hentgen in his corner to provide some advice and support. When you consider that the Jays can get a Downs type efficiency in the pen and still garner 2 draft picks when Downs signs elsewhere, acquiring Guerrier seems like the right and most profitable move to me. He may cost more than some others on the market, but he’s worth it in my view since he’d strengthen the pen overall and help make it better than it was in 2010. Any other FA addition in the pen would be a downgrade from what Downs provided in 2010 when excluding closers as viable replacements, in my opinion.

Jesse Crain versus Brian Tallet:

Do I really need to go through this? Well, maybe I should, just to provide an indication of just how much better the Jays pen would be with this move.

Age: Jesse will be 29 in 2011, Brian will be 33. Big edge to Jesse here.

FA Types: Neither one cost the acquiring team a pick.

Salary: Oddly enough, both made $2 million in 2010. The difference is that Brian was in his last year of arbitration eligibility before being released and signing with the Cardinals, while Jesse is a full-fledged FA. Jesse may demand more yars to be committed and therefore he may cost a little more, but at a younger age and with his proven track record, it may be well worth it. Still, I make this a tie.

Splits: Brian was absolutely crushed by RHB who hit .320 against him with a gaudy .415 OBP against him and a whopping 16 HRs given up in slightly over 200 batters faced. He was, however, extremely effective against LHB who hit a measly .176  against him and .228 OBP. Why he was ever used against RHB is beyond me and perhaps someone other than Cito Gaston may have recognized this and used Brian appropriately – against lefties only. Jesse, on the other hand, was just about as effective versus LHB as he was against RHB. The RHB hit .228 with a .304 OBP against him, while he was just as dominant as Brian against LHB with a .196 average against and .281 OBP. Massive edge to Jesse in this case since he provides his team with a viable option against both lefties and righties.

Versus AL East Opponents in 2010: Brian vs NYY (.348 average againstwith a .434 OBP – aweful) – vs BOS (worst .467 average against and .471 OBP) – vs TB (oddly effective with a .224 average against and .291 OBP) – vs BAL (.238 average against, but a ton of walks as shown by the .360 OBP against). Jesse vs NYY (in 6 AB, 2 hits for a .333 average against and .429 OBP) – vs BOS (ugly .500 average against over 10 ABs) – vs TB (.222 average against over 9 ABs, .462 OBP) – vs BAL (.000 average against over only 3 ABs). To tell you the truth, neither one looked great against the AL East and Jesse’s numbers could take a beating if the majority of his outings come against the AL East. Having said that, Jesse was so effective against the other divisions that it does mitigate some of those fears. So, I’ll give a slight edge to Jesse in this case.

Playoffs: Neither has a ton of experience in the playoffs as Jesse only has 1.2 IP in the playoffs and Brian has none. It’s a tie in this case as a result.

Usage: Jesse had a ton of injury issues in 2007 (at 25) but has been durable since then with more than 50 IP each season. Brian, on the other hand, has been used as either a long-reliever or starter part of the time as well, so his innings pitched had a major blip in 2009 when he threw over 160 innings. The remainder of the last few years, Brian has thrown fewer than 80 innings and has been durable overall, but I still question whether or not “something was not quite right” in 2010 due to that innings count jump in 2009. It would explain some of his struggles since his ERA has been well above 5.00 ever since his starting experience began while it was well below 4.00 before that. Since Jesse has dealt with his injuries and Brian may be nearing his, I will give a big edge to Jesse here.

Analysis: It really is no contest here. Jesse is not only Canadian, younger, and recently more effective than Brian in the pen, but he also provides a more balanced option in the pen against both LHB and RHB. While his effectiveness in the AL East can be brought into question, he had limited experience against their hitters and may do better with the help of John Farrell and other Jays coaches who could provide a better game plan against their hitters. It could be that the Twins attacked AL East hitters in a different way that was less effective overall. Who knows? But, I do expect that if Jesse does in fact replace Brian in the Jays pen in 2011, it will make it a much deeper and better pen overall and could help ensure it moves closer to being a top-10 pen in all of MLB.

The possible 2011 Jays pen without the closer included (6 spots) would look as follows:

Matt Guerrier; David Purcey; Jason Frasor; Shawn Camp; Jesse Crain; Casey Janssen

Talk about a well-balanced pen. Janssen and Purcey can be used as long relievers, all of them can be counted on and some provide shut down against either RHB or LHB, and Frasor and Guerrier would provide some closing experience with 41 saves between them. Shawn Camp has 9 saves to his credit in MLB, while Casey Janssen adds 6 saves of his own while Jesse Crain has 3 and David Purcey has 1. All-in-all, the Jays pen would be very mature, experienced, and would contain pitchers who are mostly entering the primes of their relief careers.

I would be very comfortable heading into 2011 with this group as the core of the pen in 2011. I do believe a closer needs to be added to it, but with Merkin Valdez, Josh Roenicke, Alan Farina, Jesse Carlson, and possible the injury returning and recently signed Dustin McGowan moving to the pen and providing depth for the Jays in 2011, the pen would look very strong and deep overall. The total cost may be as much as $8 million per season to sign both pitchers, but it would be money well spent when we know the importance of a strong pen to winning championships.

I say add both of them Alex and you’ll effectively have 1 hole to fill in the pen and perhaps the most important of all – the closer. I’m not sure what Jason Frasor will cost the Jays, but the Jays have enough budget room to add any closer they want. Who that winds up being is unknown as we’ve had no hints at all up to this point, but heading to the holidays with only that critical hole to fill is much better than rebuilding a pen with 3 holes in it. Alex will have to move fast, as a ton of teams are in on both relievers and will be even more so as other options sign elsewhere.