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Free Agent Reliever Valuation

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Wins Above Replacement is a little iffy for relief pitchers, but nevertheless here is a rudimentary WAR valuation of some of the more attractive free agent relievers. The '5-3-1 WAR' is a weighted average of the past three seasons.

Player 2010 Age WAR 2009 WAR 2008 WAR 2007 5-3-1 WAR WAR $
Rafael Betancourt (A) 35 1.4 0.2 3.2 1.2 5.4
Rafael Soriano (A) 30 2 0.1 0.4 1.2 5.4
Trevor Hoffman (A) 42 1.5 0.1 1.3 1.0 4.6
Kiko Calero 35 1.4 0.1 0.2 0.8 3.8
Jose Valverde (A) 32 0.7 0.8 1.4 0.8 3.7
Brandon Lyon 30 0.7 0.7 1.5 0.8 3.6
Mike Gonzalez (A) 32 0.9 0.1 0.3 0.6 2.6
Russ Springer 41 0.4 0.5 1.2 0.5 2.4
J.J. Putz 33 0.1 0.6 2.3 0.5 2.3
Chan Ho Park 37 0.7 0.3 -0.1 0.5 2.2

It's hard to justify giving up a high second-round pick (somewhere around #45-50 overall) to sign any relief pitcher, let alone a setup man, so while Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez may be two of the better relievers available, their price tags combined with the compensatory draft pick penalty renders them far less appealing than they might otherwise be. Of course, if the Mets sign another Type-A free agent -- Matt Holliday, e.g. -- then they'd be forfeiting a third-round pick instead.

Brandon Lyon, Kiko Calero, and, yes, even Chan Ho Park, are reasonable alternatives to the Type-As on the board. Lyon in particular is intriguing for his effectiveness against lefties (career .766 OPS against righties; .765 against lefties). He's not a great pitcher, but he's pretty good against everyone. Calero has more dramatic lefty/righty splits, but has far better strikeout rates (albeit with worse walk rates) than Lyon.

Park was very effective coming out of the bullpen for the Phillies last season, posting a 3.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38 appearances, allowing just nine extra-base hits -- all doubles -- along the way. The zero homeruns were probably an aberration for Park, who has been an extreme flyball pitcher throughout his career.

Any of these three -- Lyon, Calero, Park -- could be a reasonable addition to the 2010 bullpen on a 1-2 year deal at $2-3 million per, give or take.