In the wake of the Octavio Dotel signing, it had been hypothesized that Ryan Perry would have his work cut out for him to earn the seventh spot in the Tigers ‘pen over the likes of Duane Below and David Pauley in spring training. Turns out, Perry was never likely to even make it that far. Now Perry has been sent to the Washington Nationals in exchange for fellow righty reliever Collin Balester. If ever anyone wondered ‘does the Tigers’ pursuit of Dotel mean they’ve given up on Perry?’… Yes, yes it does. It definitely does.
I’m no expert on arbitration clocks or options, so any fellow blogger or commenter is welcome to chip in here – but I do wonder whether part of this decision comes down to those two issues. Apparently, since he has been shuttled between AAA and the big leagues Balester has less time on his arbitration clock than Perry despite making his debut a year earlier. There is a good chance that either one of these two would have been spending some time in Toledo, so if Balester has more options (and I have no clue if that is or is not the case) remaining that could also have been a factor.
I’m not sure that those contractual details are the driving force here, though. Assuming Alburquerque is healthy, Ryan Perry was only going to be in the running for the 7th spot in the bullpen – a spot that ought to go to the so-called ‘long man’ or ‘garbage man’ who could pitch 3 2/3 if Porcello gets chased with one out in the 3rd. Perry has never done that and probably wouldn’t be any good at it – he’s always been viewed as ‘closer material’ rather than a swingman, and remember that even Zumaya made a fair number of starts in the minors. Perry also has enormous L-R splits, and while that is excusable in a power reliever it does make it difficult to envision him going through the entire batting order even once with any degree of success. Balester was once a starter and a fairly highly regarded one as a prospect, in that he did at least crack the BA top 100 list. He didn’t have much success as a starter in 2008 and 2009 and has been used almost exclusively as a reliever in AAA and the majors over the last two years, but he presumably has the ‘makeup’ necessary to throw multiple innings or make a spot start if necessary. Balester relies on a curve and a change that he has rarely thrown as a reliever while Perry is heavily dependent upon his slider. He also, of course, has much smaller splits than does Perry – since most righties aren’t going to use a slider to get other righties out.
That’s probably the biggest factor, but there is another: when Dombrowski has made deals for pitchers without much of a track record as opposed to dealing them away (like getting Eichhorn and Robowski for Galarraga) he seems to like to get the guys with good peripherals but little to show for it as opposed to the flashy ERAs built on garbage. I like to think of that as trauma from the Jarrod Washburn deal. If you are a true believer in DIPS and the like and you don’t think a pitcher has any control over his BABIP allowed or his HR/FB rate then Balester is your guy. He hasn’t looked all that great – all together – as a minor league reliever (due to an extraordinary BABIP) or a major league reliever (due to an extraordinary HR/FB rate) but he has been missing a lot of bats and getting a lot of ground balls. Two good things, no doubt. The Nats are evidently turned off by his ERA and inability to keep the ball in the park and find Perry’s potential and pre-2011 track record appealing. Lets see how this one turns out, I for one am optimistic that it’ll look better in a year than the Purcey acquisition has.