Blue Jays Free Agent Target: Jose Veras as a relief option?
The relief role in Major League Baseball is volatile at best. Some guys can get it done for a number of years while others have shorter bursts of productivity and then fizzle out. Still, there’s another breed of reliever out there as well; the journeyman. These guys seem to find a way to get the job done without necessarily blowing anyone’s doors off with eye-popping stats either. However, there’s a place in nearly every bullpen for a guy like that, even if it’s on a short-term deal.
Jose Veras is one of those guys.
The 34-year-old Veras has the distinction of having played on 8 different Major League baseball teams during his 9-year career, and another two organizations while still in the minor leagues. He also hasn’t played more than one season for a single Major League team since being sold by the New York Yankees to the Cleveland Indians in June 2009.
However, for all of that travel, Jose Veras has carved himself out a relatively productive career as a reliever. Over the course of 440 appearances, Veras owns a lifetime record of 23-23 and 27 Saves, with a 3.91 ERA, a 4.13 FIP, and a 9.3 K/9 ratio. He’s served time as a closer, a set-up man, and a long-reliever, giving him plenty of versatility for a prospective landing spot, like the Toronto Blue Jays for instance.
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While Jose Veras is no longer the guy that comes at you with shear gas in the mid-90’s, he’s replaced that by becoming more of a groundball pitcher, relying on a heavy sinker that sat at 92.7 MPH in 2014 according to FanGraphs. He compliments that with a curve he throws at 76 MPH and a splitter which uses as more of a change-up at 83.4 MPH. With that combo,Veras forced batters into a 44.2% ground ball rate in 2014, or a 1.15 GO/AO ratio.
After a rough start and subsequent release from the Cubs in 2014, Veras rebounded strong with the Houston Astros, posting a 3.03 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 ratio in 34 appearances after returning to the American League.
Despite those excellent ground ball rates (lifetime 40.3%), and a mix of pitches that would normally make it hard for hitters to get solid contact on him, the results were quite the opposite. Veras owns a .266 career Batting Average on Balls in Play, which was right in line with what he surrendered last season. Additionally, he’s been inconsistent in limiting fly balls, as he actually got a higher career FB% (40.6%). Perhaps that is why he’s shifted to the splitter and sinker in recent seasons.
The other area that Veras struggles with is control. Over the course of his career, he owns a BB/9 ratio of 4.70 and saw that mark climb to a 5.28 in 2014. Now, that’s mitigated a bit by pitching out of the bullpen, but it can also be troublesome for a pitcher who puts a lot of balls into play as well.
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Jose Veras is not the closer you want to rely upon for a contender. His career Win Probability added of 1.71 is significantly lower than that of a typical closer (Jonathan Papelbon has a career 27.94 for instance), and he put forth a -1.03 in 2014. Additionally, the walks worry me a bit against any of the AL East teams that force their opponents to throw strikes, especially late in the game.
However, Veras could be a useful bullpen option, even in a 7th or 8th inning role. He doesn’t have the typical platoon splits some relievers have (career .216/.308/.338 vs Righties, .216/.337.376 vs lefties), so he wouldn’t be held to a specific role either. With some closing experience, he could be used for odd save opportunities as well, but it would be best to limit those.
With a 2014 price tag of $3.85 million, and the likelihood of some sort of cut in that regard, he could fit nicely on a one-year deal for the Blue Jays without necessarily breaking the bank either. There are other options out there, but given the need for multiple arms in the pen, Jose Veras could be a decent option to pursue.