The A’s bullpen was consistent albeit unspectacular last season. Even though the late inning relievers all saw their bouts with inconsistency altogether the bullpen was a solid group that helped out a young pitching staff. The Green and Gold saw a career year from Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle solidify their spots in the seventh and eighth in their first Major League experiences and Grant Balfour lock down the closer role after a rocky start and instantly become a fan favorite. There were some quietly successful pieces in Jim Miller, Evan Scribner, and Pedro Figueroa. The addition of Travis Blackley proved to be huge as he was the teams swingman and spot starter. And there was the claim of Pat Neshek who was a mid inning stand out.The playoffs saw some of the relievers struggle against a strong and unrelentless Detroit Tigers offense. The A’s have a lot of relievers who rely on mixing their pitches, finding their locations, and changing speeds. There are only few true hard throwing arms within the Athletics bullpen. The majority of the pitchers rely on their locations and changing speeds constantly to keep hitters off balance. These pitchers tend to pitch to contact rather than generate swings and misses. This has been the A’s philosophy in acquiring relievers for awhile since contact pitchers are cheaper than high strikeout pitchers. The only problem with this is that late in games in the postseason the hitters are better prepared to handle “contact” pitchers and thus boost their chances of being successful in their at bat. Because of this problem that the contact pitchers have pitchers who generate swing and misses have a slight advantage in value and thus cost more.
The A’s have a strong bullpen going into the 2013 season. There are not many tweaks to be made. However, one possible move that could be made would be to add one or two swing and miss relievers. The A’s bullpen struggled late in games against the Tigers because they made consistent contact. Along with constant contact the Tigers had good base running and that led to runs and ultimately a series win. To eliminate this problem the A’s need to look to acquire another high velocity, high strikeout pitcher.
Relievers that would fit this mold for the A’s will become available over the course of the offseason. Whether through trades, claims, Rule 5 draft picks, or free agency the A’s need to attempt to find a late inning reliever who can shut down a team when it matters most especially if the look to contend again in 2013. Unfortunately, price is a factor so this will limit who the A’s can acquire.
Some potential free agent fits are: Joey Devine (former A’s reliever who was recently released since he became too expensive and was too oft injured), Kyle Farnsworth, Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Núñez), Joel Peralta, Jonathan Broxton, and Ryan Madson (coming off Tommy John surgery) are all available free agents starting Saturday November 3 that could attract the A’s interest. They will all be relatively inexpensive and provide high strikeout numbers. This will help out late in games especially in the postseason.
Some potential trade candidates are: Chris Perez (even after his run in with A’s fans) and Wade Davis. They both are proven commodities and are being dangled as trade bait quietly by their respective teams. The Cleveland Indians are trying to get younger and shed payroll while the Tampa Bay Rays are trying to look for offense in exchange for their surplus of pitching.
The A’s bullpen was great last season and it should still be in tact in 2013 barring some unforeseen moves. They were one of the best in baseball during the regular season and constantly got the starters out of jams. However, they need some bolstering in order to make the postseason again and to go deeper than they did in 2012. There are multiple options to complete this task and GM Billy Beane has always made the right move to make improvements.