I wanted to take a break from looking at the teams we could trade with (Seattle is coming up next) since I was running out of good fits and start looking at some assets we could trade to possibly improve this team. This proposal is an unconventional asset to be sure. I acknowledge that this is a very unlikely proposal, but go with it, the idea is to see what the player is worth. Andrew Bailey is the first of these assets. There are many teams right now searching for cost controlled bullpen aces with deep farm systems. Both Florida teams need bullpen help, and don't have the budget room to go out and get a Kerry Wood type (valuable arm with a contract that makes his current team look to move him). I was in LA and watched two games between the Yankees and the Angels last weekend. While both are larger market teams, their bullpens, but especially the Yankees sucked it up. Texas had been rumored in pursuit of relief pitching earlier, though calling up Feliz will mitigate that. Atlanta, which is one of the reasons for doing this post, will need a cost controlled closer at the end of this season when Soriano and Gonzalez depart via free agency.
We all know about the season Bailey has had an amazing first half of a season in the A's bullpen. He was the only rookie on the All Start team. He met the President. Even mentioning the possibility of trading him drowns fluffy puppies. I get it you like him.
That being said there is a reason why he is such a good story, because no one expected him to succeed in a major league bullpen right now. Look at the AN Community prospect list which had him 28th in a deep system. Baseball Prospectus only included him in the Lineouts section of their 2009 Prospectus, and just mentioning his lack of control and secondary pitches. He was an older college arm who stalled out as a starter in AA with a good fastball and not much more with a future destined for middle relief in the majors a couple of years from now if he was lucky. A kinda dime a dozen player.
Group-think can be wrong, but usually there is a reason why it is wrong (eg. everyone assumed those AAA bonds were rated AAA because they were safe). With Bailey there are some legitimate reasons that explain why it could be. Moving to the bullpen can increase the velocity of pitches (however, I don't have Bailey's velocity readings from last year before or after the conversion to the bullpen) as a shorter outing allows more effort to be put into every pitch. The marginal increase on his fastball which currently registers 93.4 MPH on average could make a huge difference in a game of millimeters of trying to hit a baseball.
Additionally, Andrew Bailey has developed a cutter this year. This is the most logical reason for Bailey's dramatic and unexpected success. The cutter is 5 MPH slower than his fast ball and moves about three more inches horizontally and three more inches vertically according to his Pitch Fx data (a note, I am not nearly as well versed in Pitch Fx data as I should be so if who knows it better than I can double check this that would rock.) He throws it more than any pitch besides his fastball, at a 30% clip. Not only does he throw it often but it has worked registering 1.37 RAA per 100 pitches, and 2.8 RAA overall. In one season Bailey has developed the 8th best cutter among relievers in all of baseball.
The addition of the cutter and the move to the bullpen has had the effect of playing up Bailey's secondary pitches. The combination of adding a strong secondary pitch plus eliminating the need to face a batter three times a game allows for less cat an mouse trying to set up batters for the next at bat, and a more direct approach that requires less change ups and sliders. This allows Bailey to essentially shelve a bad change up that gets hit to the tune of - 4.8 RAA/100 pitches (SSS) and his slider. Additionally his curveball goes from his number two pitch that needed to heavily be relied upon, to a gotcha pitch that is shown only 15% of the time and when expecting mid 90s heat or a hard darting cutter, has been supremely effective to the tune of 4.3 RAA this year.
That being said there are some reasons to think that he is a mirage. He has never walked this few batters in any season in his pro career. Last year in AA Bailey walked 1.2 more batters per 9 innings than he has so far this year. Bailey gave up far less home runs that he did previously. Bailey's home run per fly ball percentage is flukey low 5.3% which is far lower than the 12% and the 11% that it was the last two years respectively. The Hardball Times claims that deviation from the 11 to 12% range for pitchers is due to luck rather than skill. Furthermore, Bailey has been getting lucky on his BABIP with an average of only .246 compared to a league average of .300. While, there is a small component of skill involved in BABIP (if you put me on the mound and I was pumping 82 MPH fastball and a slurvey as all get out breaking ball from my high school pitching days into the heart of the zone you would expect my BABIP to be pretty high, you also wouldn't expect me to last in the majors long, so over time outliers get weeded out that way), Bailey is due for a major regression toward the league average. If he does regress as expected look for his BAA to jump 90 points. Bailey is also stranding runners at a 14% higher rate than league average. Therefore, it is easy to understand why ZIPs rest of the season projection shows skyrocketting FIP and ERA for the rest of the season. ZIPS for first year pitchers who have changed their game as much as Bailey isn't the most trust worthy thing, but it is certainly a data point, one that projects that Bailey has a 4.98 ERA and 4.70 FIP for the rest of the year.
Finally there is a question about the value of relievers. Only two relievers were 3 WAR players in 2008 Mo Rivera and that douchebag Papelbon. Ten were worth 2 WAR. Lets face it even shut down relievers aren't that valuable. Every team has about 6 relievers at any one time on the active roster. That means that there are about 180 relievers in the bigs at any one time, and many many more that we aren't going to count that get hurt or are shuttled back and forth between the minors. 1/18th of relievers or 5.5% are worth the low end of an average starting regular position player in the bigs.
So the question becomes how much do you trust Andrew Bailey and how much do you trust regression? If you don't trust him to regress into the most valuable less than 5.5% of relievers, you could sell high now. He is an All-Star, under team control for nothing for 2.5 years and 6 years in total, and has hella good numbers. With the number of teams looking for cheap controllable bullpen help the potential for a legit B+ prospect to return is there. From the Dodgers, Ethan Martin or Andrew Lambo could be a reasonable return. From the Rays, next year's starting SS Reid Brignac. Phillippee Aumont or Michael Saunders could come back from Seattle. Brandon Wood and a throw in from the Angles. Matt Laporta from the Indians would be reasonable. Jordan Schaffer from the Braves who have need a long term solution at closer. Bailey could even go so far as netting someone like Logan Morrison or Michael Stanton (the A's would need to throw in something here).
So on to the poll: