When your bullpen puts up the worst ERA in the league as a unit and leads the league in blown saves, it’s safe to assume changes are coming in the offseason. Francisco Rodriguez and Livan Hernandez have already declared free agency, and now it appears Jose Veras is close to joining them.
The Brewers outrighted Veras to the minors today, taking him off the 40-man roster. Once/if he clears waivers, he has the option of declaring free agency, which his agent tells Adam McCalvy he intends to do. He’s not a free agent yet, though, because there’s still a chance Veras gets claimed on waivers. If that happens, the claiming team would have to put him on the 40-man roster, and Veras would be arbitration-eligible with that team this winter.
Veras was inconsistent-yet-fairly-effective in 2012, so it’s certainly possible another team could claim him. His 3.63 ERA was slightly higher than his 3.59 FIP, and he struck out 10.61 batters per 9 innings. Of course, as Brewers fans know, that’s the good. The bad with Veras was the 5.37 BB/9, the 7th-highest rate among MLB relievers with at least 30 innings.
It wouldn’t have been a complete shock to see Veras with the Brewers in 2013, but non-elite relievers about to enter arbitration tend to be non-tender candidates. If the Brewers wanted to cut back on salary in some areas, replacing high-priced, occasionally ineffective relievers with guys who are just as capable and making the league minimum would be one way to do it. MLB Trade Rumors projected Veras to make $2.6 million in arbitration.
If Veras does in fact get through waivers, it’s hard to blame him for deciding to test the free agent market. The Dodgers just signed Brandon League (he of the 6.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 2012) to a 3-year, $22.5 million deal on Tuesday with a vesting option for a 4th year. Veras won’t get nearly as much, but deals like that are a sign of just how weak the relief pitching market is this winter. If teams aren’t going after Rafael Soriano or post-Tommy John Ryan Madson, they’re going to look at guys like Veras to shore up their middle relief…and if the Brewers are going to wade into the free agent reliever pool, they’re going to find guys like Veras.