Randy Wolf’s stint with the Brewers came to an abrupt end today, with about a month and change left on what was a 3-year, $29.75 million deal.
— Mike Vassallo (@MikeVassallo13) August 22, 2012
Wolf has struggled in 2012, putting up a 5.69 ERA (4.74 FIP) in 142.1 innings. Some of that has to do with BABIP — as he was carrying a H/9 of 11.3 this year thanks in large part due to a .340 BABIP — but he’s struggled with command for much of the year, and his 1.33 HR/9 rate is the highest it’s been since 2005. The performance likely warranted a release — his $10 million option for next season was unlikely being picked up weeks ago — but it is a bit surprising Wolf is getting released now, when Mark Rogers and Mike Fiers are a couple weeks from getting shut down. Today also happens to be Wolf’s 36th birthday.
So … how will Randy Wolf (or perhaps more accurately, the Randy Wolf free agent signing) be remembered among Brewers fans?
Whenever Wolf has had a bad start in the past 2.75 years, the popular thing has been to compare him to Jeff Suppan. That’s not entirely fair.
Suppan made more money than Wolf did for less production. For the $40 million the Brewers gave Suppan over four years, he gave them 1.6 fWAR, with 2.5 fWAR coming in the first year of the contract (the only year he provided the team with positive value). Wolf, on the other hand, gave the Brewers 2.7 fWAR for just under $30 million over the past three years. That’s not great. That’s not even all that good, to be honest. But unlike Suppan, Wolf never had a season of negative value in terms of fWAR, and unlike Suppan, Wolf played a major role in a postseason series — his Game 4 start in last year’s NLCS was one of the few pitching bright spots for the Brewers in the postseason. The postseason memory we have of Suppan is the doomed feeling we had in Game 4 of the 2008 NLDS against the Phillies.
Thus, looking back, was the Wolf signing a good one? Probably not. But it’s not an all-time bad decision, either. Wolf isn’t going to go down between Suppan and Jeffrey Hammonds in Brewers infamy. He was paid based on past production, and like every other pitcher signed as a free agent in baseball, underperformed his next contract. He provided the Brewers 200 innings a year as a solid #4 pitcher at a time when they had no one in the minors capable of filling that role. Now, the Brewers do have the arms to fill those spots, and with no postseason aspirations to finish the year, they won’t be pressured into having a “veteran presence” in their rotation. They can give Wolf a chance to latch on somewhere else — maybe even a contender, who knows — and since it’s still August, he’d still be eligible for a postseason roster.
Shortstop Jeff Bianchi was called up to take Wolf’s spot on the roster, and it would make sense for Shaun Marcum to take Wolf’s spot in the rotation when he comes off the 60-day DL over the weekend. Wolf’s release means Marcum will be able to slide back into the 40-man roster with no further moves.