Let’s play a game.
If you were the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers and were forced to choose between relief pitchers Brandon Kintzler or Marco Estrada for the final spot in the bullpen for 2015, who would you pick?
Now, before we dive any deeper into my fascinating game, let it be known that there’s a very real possibility that both players return to the club next season, as neither of them are pending free agents. Kintzler is entering his first year of arbitration and Estrada will be entering his last. But, for the sake of my game, let’s make a decision anyway.
Both pitchers are coming off abysmal seasons, but we’ll start with Contestant #1 Marco Estrada.
Estrada couldn’t keep the ball in the park and was kicked out of the starting rotation in July. As a starter, he had a 4.96 ERA, 5.73 FIP and 4.25 xFIP. He also had the league’s 23rd-worst RE24 (-10.45) as a starter. It still amazes me that Ron Roenicke waited all the way until July to stash him in the bullpen. I mean, the guy gave up 27 home runs in 107 innings. Roenicke probably wanted to wait until the home runs began to normalize, but they never did. Jimmy Nelson or Mike Fiers should have replaced him in early-to-mid June. And what do you know, once Estrada got to the bullpen he started to pitch like an actual major league pitcher. His spot is in the bullpen. The starting rotation is his Mount Everest and he hasn’t conquered it yet, and who knows if he ever will.
Estrada is 31 and hasn’t done enough to keep a roster spot, but there are limited options to replace him. SB Nation’s Brew Crew Ball predicts he’ll make $4 million in 2015, a raise up from $3.3 million in 2014. But you have to decide if he’s really worth $4 million for one year. Remember, you’re the GM. It’s your call.
Next up, Contestant #2 Brandon Kintzler.
Kintzler was arguably the best reliever in 2013 before completely imploding for most of the 2014 season. But the funny thing was, he actually thought he pitched well. Here’s my favorite quote from him this past season:
“I never know where I’m going to throw, but it’s to the point that’s what I deserve,” Kintzler said, “because apparently a three-something ERA isn’t [good enough].”
Those were some harsh words he dished out in August. He actually finished with a respectable 3.27 ERA, mainly because of his superb month of September (0.90). But his FIP was a mere 4.68, and really struggled for the majority of the season. His sinker, his main pitch, decreased in value and wasn’t nearly as dominant as it was a year ago. He gave up five home runs on his sinker after allowing only one in 2013.
Kintzler is only a year older than Estrada, but will cost roughly $3 million less. If the Brewers are confident he can return to the Kintzler of 2013, the Brewers will gladly offer him arbitration and welcome him back with open arms. But where would he be used? He can’t be trusted in the seventh or eighth innings and his arm isn’t stretched out enough to be a long reliever like Estrada.
This is a tough decision.
My pick would be to keep Estrada and let Kintzler walk. Yes, Estrada is older and more expensive, but he’s had success in the long-relief role and can make a spot start whenever necessary. Those are two things Kintzler can’t do, and because of that, Estrada is more valuable.
But I’m not the GM in this scenario. You are. Who would you choose?