Aardsma’s Command

Dave · September 21, 2009 at 8:58 am · Filed Under Mariners 

David Aardsma’s ability to lock down the ninth inning has been one of the pleasant surprises of the season, though the way he accomplished his domination wasn’t exactly worry free. Command has never been his strength, and even when he was blowing hitters away in the first half, he could best be described as effectively wild. In June, for instance, he was basically untouchable, striking out 20 batters in 11 scoreless innings, but he also walked four batters and only threw strikes 59% of the time.

Well, don’t look now, but Aardsma hasn’t walked anyone in a month, and since August 24th, he’s thrown strikes 70% of the time. He’s been perfect in that stretch as well, throwing 11 innings, striking out 11, and holding opposing hitters to a .150/.150/.175 line. He’s been a relief ace in every sense of the term.

I know it’s en vogue to suggest that the M’s should sell high on Aardsma this winter, having successfully turned a generic bullpen arm into a proven closer, but Aardsma isn’t just a generic arm who is getting inflated value by racking up easy saves. Even with an expected regression in his HR/FB rate, Aardsma would still be one of the better relief pitchers in baseball.

If the M’s are going to try and re-sign Felix, a big part of the sales pitch will be to convince him that they can win soon. While the buy low/sell high philosophy is all well and good, you have to retain enough good players to put together a contending roster. For the M’s, David Aardsma is one of their better players. Unless someone wants to offer another low cost +2 win player that could fill a hole elsewhere, the M’s should hang onto their closer. He’s not a fungible piece that could easily be replaced.

Comments

18 Responses to “Aardsma’s Command”

  1. Liam on September 21st, 2009 9:20 am

    If Felix is traded, do you then move Aardsma as well?

    Going into the season, how likely was it that a +2 win reliever would emerge out of everyone they brought in?

  2. eponymous coward on September 21st, 2009 9:53 am

    If Felix is traded, do you then move Aardsma as well?

    Sure, and trade Ichiro, too, I guess- unless you’re trading 4+ WAR talent in 2008 for something like two 3-4 WAR in 2010 players, which I think is pretty unlikely.

    If the argument is that once Beltre leaves, the 2010 team is short at least 3+ WAR player, it’s hard for me to see how trading ANOTHER star gets you any closer, and there really isn’t anyone in the M’s farm system who’s projecting to top-of-rotation status in the near future. Basically, trading Aardsma is a lesser case of “well, let’s pack it in for 2010″ than trading Felix or Ichiro. While Dave’s stressed that the jump the M’s will need to make from 2009 to 2010 is more difficult than the jump they made from 2008 to 2009, I still think it can be made, and it’s worth trying (as opposed to cashing out your ace reliever, or HOF RF, or ace pitcher).

    I also think the team needs to add a little talent to the bullpen, whether it’s converting one of Vargas or Olson to a lefty specialist role, or bringing in a reasonably priced free agent, as opposed to cashing Aardsma out for another brace of players, so that’s another reason to not trade him.

  3. joser on September 21st, 2009 9:57 am

    But what if Zduriencik can turn Aardsma and, I don’t know, White and Lopez, into the equivalent of another Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez? (But maybe infielders this time.) I realize you’re not going to nail quite a grand slam home run as that Putz trade every offseason; but with 29 other teams, not all of them (ahem) competently run, there’s always another Mets out there, right?

  4. SonOfZavaras on September 21st, 2009 10:04 am

    Call me nuts or misinformed….but I thought Aardsma was a free agent after this season?

  5. Mike Snow on September 21st, 2009 10:12 am

    No, he’s eligible for arbitration after the season, I believe for the first time.

  6. Adam B. on September 21st, 2009 10:16 am

    You can make the trade argument for any player in baseball.

    What if Albert Pujols could net the Cardinals 20 different 5WAR prospects at every position?

    The basis for trades is always the relative value of the player leaving and the players coming back.

    The bottom line is that David Aardsma (and this also applies to the previously discused Jose Lopez) is a talented player who should not be given away for nothing.
    It always amazes me when some Mariner fans think of the entire team (usually short of Felix and Ichiro, but not always…) as Yunieskyish pariahs whose only value lays in their trade value for whatever the shiny baubble du jour is.

    You trade when it makes sense to trade.

    In this particular case, Aardsma probably has more value to the Mariners for the foreseeable future (ie. 2010) then he has for another team as a relatively unproven relief commodity.

    I’m not saying don’t trade him; If another desperate Minaya type offers you something a bit more valuable then an ace right-handed reliever (a quality young middle-infielder?) then you jump at the oppurtunity and hand Aardsma’s job to Lowe or even Aumont or Fields.

    Just don’t hold your breath for that deal, and don’t be dissapointed when it doesn’t come.

  7. eponymous coward on September 21st, 2009 10:19 am

    But what if Zduriencik can turn Aardsma and, I don’t know, White and Lopez, into the equivalent of another Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez?

    Combined, those three players are going to add ~5 WAR for the Mariners in 2009. Chavez + Gutierrez will combine for about 6, and there’s pretty good reason to believe that Gutierrez’s performance isn’t sustainable, so I think the talent is actually comparable as a group (with the understanding that Gutierrez is clearly the best player out of the group, and thus you’d want the best player overall). Also, the M’s roster is full of Endy Chavez-type, good field/no hit, 1-2 WAR players. We don’t need any more of these kinds of players.

    What you probably mean is that “what if the Mariners can WIN a trade like the trade for Gutierrez and Chavez that involves Aardsma”, which I suppose could happen, but Putz was a severely overvalued player by the Mets (Sean Green actually BEAT him in WAR in 2008), where you could look at the stats, the fastball velocity and the splitter command and think “better cash him in for what you can get”. I don’t think Aardsma is overrated the same way- his arm seems to be fine and the command’s getting BETTER as the season progresses.

    I do think that the idea of trading a group of OK talents for one player who is better IS the right idea here (since the M’s are overstocked at the 1-2.ish WAR level, and understocked at 3+)… I’m just not sure that Aardsma is the guy. He’s not going to be expensive to keep and he might just take it up a notch to the ~3 WAR level if he keeps the walks down.

  8. Liam on September 21st, 2009 10:28 am

    No, he’s eligible for arbitration after the season, I believe for the first time.

    How much of a difference salary wise do all the saves make?

  9. Mekias on September 21st, 2009 12:20 pm

    Jonathan Papelbon got $6.25 million in his first year of arbitration (this year). But Papelbon was their closer for 3 years prior to that and dominated every year. I’d think Aardsma could get 2 million with his great year being somewhat offset by his previous years’ inconsistencies. That being said, I’m not real familiar with the arbitration process.

  10. Liam on September 21st, 2009 12:34 pm

    He’s projected as being Type A, if that makes a difference.

  11. fiftyone on September 21st, 2009 1:09 pm

    Trading the DA away when his replacement is ready (yes, I’m thinking of the holy trinity of Aumont, Fields and Lowe) should be anticipated. I’d even welcome the idea of offering him 2y/6m, which keeps him attractive to other teams in the winter of 2010, allows us to hang on to him for 2011 if need be, and if he’s a complete stud, we win either way. Would he be a fool to accept?

  12. ayoon on September 21st, 2009 2:24 pm

    That being said, Dave, what would you think it would cost to keep Aardsma around for the next few seasons?

  13. G-Man on September 21st, 2009 4:14 pm

    I’d even welcome the idea of offering him 2y/6m, which keeps him attractive to other teams in the winter of 2010, allows us to hang on to him for 2011 if need be, and if he’s a complete stud, we win either way. Would he be a fool to accept?

    I don’t think he’d be a fool, but I may be in the minority. From a financial standpoint, $6 million could set him up for life, while, say, 2.5 million for 2010 and a blown-out arm or a big dropoff* would leave him hanging for 2011. If he keeps up his performance next year and in 2011, he’ll get a huge payday at that point.

    *I guess I should ask what a mediocre 2010 would mean in arbitration in 2011, but let’s make it 7 mil instead of 6 if necessary.

  14. mark s on September 21st, 2009 11:35 pm

    The winter meetings could be really exciting. I don’t think the front office will just give anyone away. If Aardsma goes in a trade it will be for a reasonable upgrade somewhere else.

    The big question with the bullpen will be if the team does invites every pitcher under the sun to camp like last year?
    I like to think of the bullpen as Jack Z’s side project he will always be working on. Like a guy with an old car he is always restoring in the garage.

  15. eponymous coward on September 22nd, 2009 8:18 am

    Trading the DA away when his replacement is ready (yes, I’m thinking of the holy trinity of Aumont, Fields and Lowe) should be anticipated.

    Funny story- Aardsma was drafted in about the same position as Fields was, as an ace college reliever.

    He really worked out well for the Giants, didn’t he? I mean, the Cubs. Er, the White Sox. No, rather, the Red Sox…

    Anyways, maybe we should see if our draft picks can do well at AA ball before we project them as relief aces.

  16. eponymous coward on September 22nd, 2009 8:22 am

    The big question with the bullpen will be if the team does invites every pitcher under the sun to camp like last year?
    I like to think of the bullpen as Jack Z’s side project he will always be working on. Like a guy with an old car he is always restoring in the garage.

    God, I hope not. Our bullpen isn’t all that good and could use some reasonable investments, rather than sticking it full of a ton of RHP with plus fastballs and mediocre to bad command, plus the occasional veteran washout with a boat anchor of a contract.

  17. G-Man on September 22nd, 2009 8:32 am

    A better pen would be fine, but I like the strategy of dragging a bunch of cheap question marks to camp and seeing if one or two turn out to be pleasant surprises that can fill out the pen behind your late-inning guys. It’s a nice way to conserve salary money, and the term “fungible relievers” is almost redundant, IMHO.

  18. eponymous coward on September 22nd, 2009 9:01 am

    A better pen would be fine, but I like the strategy of dragging a bunch of cheap question marks to camp and seeing if one or two turn out to be pleasant surprises that can fill out the pen behind your late-inning guys. It’s a nice way to conserve salary money, and the term “fungible relievers” is almost redundant, IMHO.

    Sure, nobody’s saying “spend $20 million on the bullpen this offseason”, and even Bill Bavasi figured this one out, but the M’s bullpen isn’t very good, and I think an investment in some talent would put it in better shape.

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