Why Is Matt Guerrier Worth More Than Jon Rauch, Grant Balfour, Kyle Farnsworth & Brian Fuentes?

A few weeks ago, I wondered if the Dodgers should look for another lefty for the bullpen. In the initial version, I completely forgot to include Matt Guerrier. Yesterday, Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts put together his initial 25-man roster and did the exact same thing – he forgot about Guerrier.

Why are we all having such a hard time remembering that Guerrier is a Dodger? Perhaps it’s because the signing, which most of us disapproved of at the time, isn’t looking any better as the winter goes along. In the last week, four free agent relievers signed multimillion dollar deals with teams that hope to contend in 2011. (I’m excluding Rafael Soriano from this conversation, as that deal wowed even Yankee fans used to excessive spending.) Jon Rauch left Minnesota to sign in Toronto, while the A’s snapped up both Grant Balfour and Rauch’s former teammate, Brian Fuentes. Earlier, the Rays signed Kyle Farnsworth, in part to replace both Balfour and Soriano.

All four signed deals that were less in total value than the Dodgers gave to Guerrier earlier this offseason. You can make the argument that all four are better pitchers, too.

No, really:

Guerrier’s the only one who hasn’t managed a FIP below 4 in either of the last two years, and he’s also got the highest tERA (which is similar to FIP, but includes weights based on batted ball types) as well. He’s next to last as far as K/BB ratio goes to Fuentes; however, Fuentes was superior in OPS allowed in 2010 (.607 to .625) and is also absolute murder on lefties, which is exactly the need I was contemplating in my post about lefty relievers.

The argument here isn’t that Guerrier is a lousy pitcher (he’s not, really) or even necessarily that the Dodgers should have signed one of these pitchers instead of Guerrier – I’ve long argued that a team with offensive problems as big as the Dodgers do probably have more important areas to spend their money than in the bullpen.

But if you have to sign a reliever, and you hand out the most years and dollars amongst a group of rough comparables, shouldn’t you be confident that you got the best of the group? And if not the “best”, at least not “possibly the worst”?

You’re going to have a hard time convincing me that Guerrier for 3/$12m is a better deal than Rauch for 1/$3.75m (with a club option!), much less better than all of these deals. It seemed obvious from the start of the offseason that relief pitching was going to be the position that was grossly overvalued this year, and it seems clear now that the Dodgers would have been far better off waiting to fill that need.