As the offseason began, we heard something that is oh so familiar for Yankee fans. Brian Cashman is looking for rotation help and left-handed relief pitchers. With Boone Logan as the only lefty in the bullpen, Cashman is at least expected to explore the market, both through free-agency and trades, in search of a second lefty. Considering it will be a miracle if Pedro Feliciano pitches for the Yankees at all next season, the Yankees could use some outside help.
Over the next week or two, I’ll be looking at the free agent market for lefty relief pitchers...
• Oliver, a seasoned veteran at the age of 41, has played 18 seasons in the MLB. Because of his age, a one year contract is just about as close to a guarantee as it gets. Considering the Yankees past history with multi-year contracts for relief pitchers, a one year deal might be a nice change of pace. Plus, he’s maintained some pretty nice numbers of late, including 4 straight seasons with an ERA in the 2s.
• He does a very good job versus lefties. In 51 IP in 2011, Oliver held lefties to .227/.269/.318, with a 5.75 K/BB ratio, which is quite good. He’s showed that skill against lefties in other recent years as well.
• Oliver, with a 7.76 K/9 in 2011 doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, but with a stellar 1.94 BB/9 to go along with that, he manages pretty well.
• He’s always been good at getting ground-balls (career 44.7 GB%), except for in 2011 where he had only a 37.9 GB%. More importantly, his GB% against lefties specifically, was much better at 42.9%.
• At 41 years of age, Darren Oliver is very far from a sure thing. At his age, he is much more prone to injury, and he is probably one significant injury away from retirement. You also have to figure his numbers will decline from 2011 to 2012, so don’t be expecting another 2.29 ERA / 2.77 FIP / 3.24 xFIP season.
• In fact, Oliver showed decline from 2010 to 2011. There was a significant drop-off in both his strike-outs, ground-ball, and swing-and-miss rates. Not a good sign if you’re holding out that Oliver will have another great season next year.
Overall, I wouldn’t mind if the Yankees signed Darren Oliver to a one year deal. It’s a relatively low-risk signing, but you simply can’t expect a whole lot out of him. He showed significant decline in 3 very important stats from 2010 to 2011, so there would be no surprises if this trend of decline continues. If Oliver, can stay healthy, and (close to) maintain his 2011 numbers, he would be helpful to the Yankees in 2012. Could he be that extremely dominant, Randy Choate-like, lefty specialist next year? Odds are, no – but he could be of use.