Olney: Tampa Bay Rays Agree to Terms With Joel Peralta

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With Bobby Jenks potentially close and a Rays-Padres deal still likely, the Rays took another step in solidifying their bullpen today by agreeing to terms with Joel Peralta to a one-year deal worth $900,000. Buster Olney suggests the deal is not official, but I would guess it’s a clean physical away.

Tommy wrote about Peralta after the Nationals chose to non-tender him. Here’s the gist:

Former Team: Washington
Age on Opening Day 2011: 35
Peralta is what we call a late-bloomer. Despite spending parts of the last five seasons in the Major Leagues (and five in the minors before that), he enjoyed his best season at age 34 in 2010. With 49 strikeouts in 49 innings, he sported a nice round K/9 of 9.00. In addition to the excellent strikeout rate, he walked just nine batters in his 39 appearances. He was one of just four relief pitchers in the big leagues to boast a K/9 greater than 9.00 and a BB/9 less than 1.75. One of the others was the recently departed Joaquin Benoit.

Meanwhile, there was a bit of good fortune that went toward his 2.02 ERA. His .219 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was a quite fortuitous as was his strand rate (LOB%) of 85%. Even though he may experience regression in both categories, his home run-to-flyball ratio and line drive rate were pretty normal – suggesting the overall regression may not be as rough.

Here’s the first rule for not wanting to bash Peralta’s car windows in by June: Don’t expect a repeat of last season. The second is to take a stoic approach to the home runs Peralta allows – and he will allow some home runs. Peralta has more than 320 big league innings with a 32.5% groundball rate. Despite the tendency to give up a home run on 10% of his flyballs (which is roughly league average), his ERA, FIP, and xFIP are in harmony about how good he is: 4.22, 4.34, and 4.31 respectively.

The third rule: Think of him as Dan Wheeler. Peralta faced 72 lefties last year and dominated them – a 2.43 FIP and a .278 on-base percentage against – but his career numbers include a FIP over 5.6 and an on-base percentage over .340. The good news is Peralta does the dirty against righties like few others can. His career line against them is .240/.276/.404 and last year he held them to a ridiculous slash line of .145/.174/.300. Maybe Peralta found a better sequencing technique against lefties, but don’t count on it.

Peralta’s utility versus righties make him a potential bargain for $900K; particularly in a market where any old middle reliever is getting three years and three-to-four million annually.

Edit: Ryan Glass takes the Wheeler comparison one step further. Basically the same guy.

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