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Blue Jays: A look at 8 non-tendered free agent pitchers

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Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Al Alburquerque (29)
2015:  62.0 IP  |  4.21 IP  |  1.548 WHIP

In Alburquerque we have a more traditional non-tender free agent arm. Someone with undeniable flashes of talent, but an unpredictable track record of success coming off a down season. After earning $1.725 million with the Tigers in 2015, Alburquerque was non-tendered ahead of a $2.1 million projected salary.

The future was bright for the right-handed slider machine after a breakout rookie campaign in 2011 at age 25. He quickly emerged as one of the top young strikeout arms in the game, pairing a 1.87 ERA with 13.9 K/9 over 43.1 relief innings. The Dominican native posted an ugly 6.0 BB/9 alongside it, but was able to clean up the majority of his messes.

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It hasn’t always been the case since. Following that season Alburquerque underwent surgery on his pitching elbow for a stress fracture, which would limit him to just 13.1 innings at the MLB level in 2012. He’d then struggle to a 4.59 ERA in a full-time 2013.

The 2014 campaign would be a bounce back with Alburquerque posting a 2.51 ERA and limiting his walks to 3.3 BB/9, a career outlier for him. Then, the pendulum swung back the other way with an ugly 2015. He’s not an unfamiliar bullpen story, really.

By the end of last season, his K/9 had dropped to 8.4, a level that doesn’t sustain his control issues as well as those strikeouts once did. Strangely enough, his PITCHf/x data shows that his slider usage dropped significantly in 2015 to 55.6%, a full 12.0% down from the year prior. While the value of the pitch remained a relative plus, his fastball continued a slow regression in velocity and became a negative pitch.

Herein would lie an opportunity to catch an iffy arm at the right time and the right price. Steamer Projections have Alburquerque coming in at a 3.66 ERA in 2016 with a WAR just barely above replacement level, but in terms of “boom” potential, he’s a prominent name. The “bust” comes along with that, of course, but such is the nature of shopping in the discount aisle.

Next: Alburquerque's teammate hitting the market at the wrong time...

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