As we’ve discussed here a few times recently, the Texas Rangers are in need of a reliable left hander in their bullpen. Darren Oliver is a free agent, and whether or not he returns to Texas, there are reasonable questions that must be asked about how much of a load he can carry at age 41.
The left handed relief market isn’t exactly awe-inspiring on the free agent front, but, fortunately, there do appear to be some southpaws available via trade. According to Ken Rosenthal, the San Francisco Giants are looking for ways to free up some cash this winter and are willing to move relievers to do so, including left hander Jeremy Affeldt.
Affeldt has enjoyed great success since converting to relief work full-time following the 2006 season. The past three years have been spent as a key cog in one of the best bullpens in baseball with the Giants.
The stuff has never been a question for Affeldt, whose power repertoire would be an ideal contrast to Oliver’s more finesse package. In addition, he has shown the ability to dominate left handed batters; holding them to a .144 average and .406 OPS in 2011. For his career, the splits are a bit closer, but there is a big difference between the Affeldt that was toiling as a part-time starter in Kansas City and the one who has honed his craft as a reliever in the National League.
Affeldt, when he was younger, allowed a lot more fly balls than he does these days, which is important to note when considering ballpark factors. Going from a decided hitters park in San Francisco to a hitter’s haven in Arlington would certainly cause his numbers to slip a bit. But Affeldt has turned himself into a ground-ball specialist, improving from a a guy who induced a ground ball roughly 45% of the time in Kansas City to one who got ground balls roughly 60% of the time over the past three seasons with the Giants. Having the ability to keep the ball down is especially necessary in Texas and he would benefit from a much more athletic defense than the one that has played behind him with the Giants.
The issue with Affeldt is not performance, it’s money.
Just as was discussed yesterday with Matt Thornton, Affeldt makes a pretty good salary for a middle reliever, though not as much as Thornton earns. He signed a 2-year, $9.5 million deal with San Francisco prior to the 2009 season that also included a $5 million club option for 2012, which the Giants have exercised. Unlike Thornton, however, Affeldt’s contract will expire following this upcoming season, so we are looking at a one-year commitment. This is important given some of the other contractual questions surrounding the Rangers in 2013, most notably that of Josh Hamilton. Texas may need all the money they can get in order to keep the bulk of this team together beyond this season.
After two consecutive near-misses in the World Series, the Rangers absolutely must do everything they can to seal the deal in 2012 and a pitcher like Affeldt would be extremely beneficial to their cause. If Rosenthal is correct and the Giants are trying to move money here, the return is likely going to be a young, but close-to-major-league-ready player. Given the depth of the Texas system, the two clubs could surely come to a deal if there is interest by the two sides.