According to Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore via Steve Adams of MLBTR, right-handed reliever Jon Rauch is on the open market again after opting out of his minor-league deal with Baltimore. All Rauch really wants, we can assume, is a team that will keep him on the major league roster.
The Tigers bullpen – though they helped the Tigers win that 7-6 contest yesterday – remains suspect. Rauch’s ERA for the 2013 isn’t good, but there are still good reasons to figure that he can help the team through the middle innings – particularly if Alburquerque’s control looks iffier than usual.
Rauch pitched well in AAA in the Orioles organization – with a 2.89 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. The 7.56 ERA for the Marlins this year was driven by a .393 BABIP allowed – his 2013 FIP is a much more reasonable 3.48. His velocity is about the same as his career average, his strikeout rate was actually a bit up. If you look over the long term, he has featured a good fastball and a good slider (and a bad curve and change). Though that mix certainly makes him more effective against righties, his splits aren’t so big (about 100 points of OPS) that you’d think of him as a ROOGY rather than a whole-inning reliever.
That’s relevant because Jim Leyland doesn’t seem to like to bring in guys for matchups, unless we’re talking playoffs. If you’re going to bring a guy in to start the 7th, and keep him in there until 3 outs are recorded, Rauch has the right sort of pitch mix for that job. Another reason to figure Rauch is the right kind of guy for Detroit is hit trajectory: Rauch has typically been (though not in 2013) an extreme flyball pitcher. Comerica Park helps keep HR/FB rates down a bit – and as far as defensive range goes the Tigers outfield is significantly better than the Tigers infield. If Rauch would come at the cost of a decent prospect, I’d say no to that deal – but that’s not the case. Rauch would come basically free – costing only a spot on the 25 and the 40 – and I’d say he’s worth it.