Toronto Blue Jays sign Francisco Cordero

Before the offseason, the Toronto Blue Jays were looking shaky in the ‘pen and lacked quality options in the late innings. The Jays acquired closer Sergio Santos in a trade and signed relievers Darren Oliver and Jason Frasor to overhaul their bullpen. Toronto has one of the better bullpens in the league now, and they have just signed former Cincinnati Reds closer Francisco Corder0 to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million to add to their haul. Cordero lost his job after the Reds signed Ryan Madson to a bargain of a deal, and the 36-year-old with 327 career saves will be Santos’s set-up man next season.

Alex Anthopoulos should be commended for what he has done this offseason for the Jays. Arguably the best GM in baseball, Anthopoulos transformed a horrible bullpen into a fearsome one that includes the four new relievers and Casey Janssen. The late innings are no longer a nail-biting affair for Jays fans, because their relievers- including the new pitchers- were worth 4.9 WAR last season, which would have been tied for the sixth-best total in the league. Anthopoulos’s most recent move is a tad disappointing, because his newest addition is, frankly, overrated.

Francisco Cordero, however, was worth just 0.1 WAR last season and is a 37-year-old reliever with a strikeout rate that is steeply declining each year (7.83 K/9 in 2009, 7.31 K/9, 5.43 K/9). Things should get better for Cordero next season, but he had a 3.91 SIERA last season and isn’t an awful reliever despite the age and low strikeout rate. He will never- and should never- be regarded as a good high-leverage reliever, and Cordero will most likely regress to his 0.5 WAR in 2010.

When viewing Cordero’s statistics, it is important to look past the 2.45 ERA and 37 saves, because they are as flattering as it gets. Cordero’s 4.02 FIP last season is a better indication of his ability as a pitcher, because a .214 BABIP is unsustainable and is an extremely lucky total.

The issue for Cordero is his fastball velocity, which has declined in each of the past three seasons. He was averaging 95 miles per hour on his fastball in 2009, but that has pummeled down to 93 mph. That’s not awful, but it is a significantly lower velocity that has undoubtedly affected Cordero’s ability to strike out hitters.

Cordero has combated this by increasing his changeup usage from 6.7% in 2010 to 18.8% last season. This has made the right-hander much more effective against lefties, but it doesn’t do him any favors against right-handed hitters. Cordero has added a decent curve to go with a slider that is still effective, but a decline in fastball velocity definitely hurts.

A simple Marcel calculation using the past three seasons of data values Francisco Cordero as a 0.5 WAR reliever. That’s not poor, but it isn’t worth $4.5 million (about 1 WAR). Cordero is worth half that amount, and this was a rare slip-up made by the Blue Jays front office. He will definitely help out this bullpen, but they spent too much on a mediocre reliever who had a thin market. Most relievers are overpaid, but this deal didn’t make sense for the Jays; even if they made another upgrade in the ‘pen.

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Tags: Alex Anthopoulos Casey Janssen Cincinnati Reds Darren Oliver Francisco Cordero Jason Frasor Ryan Madson Sergio Santos Toronto Blue Jays

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