M’s Sign Tyler Walker
So, the “piece of the puzzle” guy that Zduriencik referred to having an offer out to was not Jerry Hairston, as I guessed, but instead Tyler Walker. The Mariners announced they had signed Walker to a one year deal this afternoon, and while terms were not disclosed, you can bet that it’s for between $1 and $2 million. The relief pitcher market has cratered, so there’s no way Walker is getting more than a modest contract for 2009. (Update: Hickey reports the deal is for $750,000)
Walker actually had a pretty successful season last year, coming back after having Tommy John surgery in 2006 and having barely pitched in 2007. His 8.27 K/9 was the highest of his career, and while he continued to show below average command, he got enough swinging strikes to offset the base on balls. His groundball rate jumped up as well, but over just 226 batters faced, that could easily just be small sample size noise.
Overall, he posted a 4.24 FIP as a fairly high leverage reliever (his gmLI was almost the same as Brad Lidge), and he was worth about .25 wins over a replacement level reliever. Yea, .25 wins. Relievers are just so easy to find that a good performance by one isn’t very tough to come by. So, Walker’s a nice arm, and his strikeout rate and experience in high leverage situations gives him a chance to add some depth to the ‘pen. So, for about 1% of the payroll, it’s a nifty little move. If he ends up taking the closer job, he could do some decent enough work for a few months and be a trade chip at the deadline – it’s that kind of asset building that this organization needs to be in the business of.
However, this makes a crowded pitching staff just that much more full. You can now add Walker to the mix with Aaron Heilman, Roy Corcoran, Miguel Batista, and Mark Lowe as right-handed relief options. Add in Ryan Rowland-Smith, Jose Lugo, Jason Vargas, Justin Thomas, and Cesar Jimenez from the left side and you’ve got 10 arms for six or seven bullpen spots. The M’s just have too many pitchers on the roster right now. Quantity is a good thing, but it doesn’t help if you don’t have room for them all.