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Bullpen Sanity

March 31, 2014
March 31, 2014

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March 31, 2014

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Bullpen Sanity

One of baseball's oddest trends is the handing out of long-term deals for lefty specialists, or LOOGYs (Lefthanded One-Out Guys). Boone Logan (left), who faced six batters a week for the Yankees last year, is the latest beneficiary, getting a three-year, $16.5 million contract from the Rockies. Since the end of the 2012 season Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez (Giants) and Sean Marshall (Reds) have all received three-year, eight-figure extensions as well.

This is an article from the March 31, 2014 issue Original Layout

There's no reason to give these pitchers that kind of job security. LOOGYs are made, not paid, as proved by the track records of the ones who are getting rich. Logan was a 20th-round draft pick converted to relief in the low minors in 2005; it wasn't until '10 that he was a good major leaguer. Affeldt is a former top prospect for the Royals who at 28 found himself throwing a handful of pitches a week for the Rockies. Lopez was drafted in 1998, converted to the bullpen in 2001 and was with his third organization in '03 when he finally stuck in the majors.

Shortstops are valuable, because they can't be created out of broken parts. The same goes for centerfielders and starting pitchers. LOOGYs are fungible: They're just southpaws who, in many cases, are willing to throw from an arm angle that makes life hard on lefthanded hitters. (The A's even turned a Triple A first baseman, Sean Doolittle, into a good lefthanded reliever.) Take Brian Matusz. The Orioles' 2008 first-round pick was washing out of the majors (5.51 career ERA) when the team sent him to the bullpen in 2012. He has a 3.08 mark in 83 relief appearances since, averaging three batters for each one.

Every organization has a Matusz or six floating around in its minor league system and big league rotation. Better to identify them and spend $16.5 million elsewhere.

PHOTOGREGORY BULL/AP