It looks like Russ Springer is going to sign a one year deal with the A’s, reportedly for 1 year at $3M. MLB.com says Springer will likely setup for “dual closers” Brad Ziegler and Joey Devine. I wasn’t aware Oakland was going with a two-headed closer tandem, but regardless, bully for Springer.
Springer was a pretty pleasant surprise the two seasons that he was a Cardinal. After posting tRA’s of 3.48 and 4.41 in 2005 and 2006 with the Astros, Springer showed a lot of improvement while in St. Louis, putting up tRA’s of 2.63 and 3.30. Oddly enough, these marked improvements came between ripe old ages of 38-39.
Despite all of his improvements, Springer was under appreciated by the Cardinals. For one, they didn’t offer him arbitration and showed no interest in bringing him back. That part I can understand a little, after all, he did turn 40 and the Cardinals have no shortage of options when it comes to right-handed relief. I get the front office’s stance towards Springer, but I don’t understand La Russa’s.
I say that because Springer was the best reliever the Cardinals had two years running, but despite that, TLR never really seemed to trust him in the high leverage situations. Springer led Cardinal relievers in WPA/LI two seasons in a row, 1.65 in 2007 and 1.01 last season, yet his average leverage index was .78 and 1.05 the past two seasons. To put that into context, Ryan Franklin had a WPA/LI of .03 last season and his average LI was 1.7. McClellan had a WPA/LI of .14 and his leverage index was 1.58. Jason Isringhausen’s LI was 1.5 and his WPL/LI was a dismal -.8. Perhaps more damning is how Randy Flores had average LI’s of 1.34 in ’08 and .94 in ’07. How in the world could anyone trust Randy Flores more than Russ Springer? How could you trust anyone less than Randy Flores is probably the better question.
While La Russa pitched him more in higher leverage situations last season, he gave Ryan Franklin and Jason Isringhausen opportunity after opportunity and they blew something around 8 bazillion saves and it cost the Cardinals a chance at playing in October. La Russa had Springer all along and yet he never gave him one save opportunity.
Now Springer’s headed to Oakland and it looks like he’ll be given more of a chance to pitch in key situations. Guesstimating some, Springer should post around a 3.50 ERA over 60 innings. The average LI for a set up man is 1.3. So that makes him project to be worth 1.3 WAR, worth about $5.8 M. That would be the high end of his worth, but I think it’s at least realistic considering his new home ballpark. On the low end, let’s say he regresses and gives the A’s a 3.80 ERA and lower his leverage to 1, then he’s worth .6 WAR or $3.3 M, which is still a little less what they are paying him.
Leave it to the A’s to know a decent bargain when they see one.