Thursday, December 2, 2010

To Tender or Not: Todd Coffey

With less than 24 hour before Thursday's 11 PM CT non-tender deadline, the Milwaukee Brewers have an interesting question to answer. Should they tender a contract to Todd Coffey?

Coffey was a Cincinnati castaway during the 2008 season. With a bilegured bullpen, the Brewers quickly snatched up the righty and never looked back. Over the final weeks of the '08 season and all of 2009, Coffey was arguably Milwaukee's most consistent reliever. During that year plus, Coffey logged 91 innings while posting a very strong 2.67 ERA. His peripherals also suggested this was no fluke.

Over that time, Coffey's K:BB ratio was nearly 3.5:1. Coffey always excelled during his career as a groundball specialist, which followed him to the Brew City. His GB:FB rate check in strongly at 1.25. There was little to suggest a fall off was coming. Well, in 2010, those peripherals didn't really fall off at all. In fact, Coffey was able to check in with a career high 8.1 K/9. Problem for Coffey was that also came with some regression in other areas. He walked nearly one more batter per nine innings and watched his groundball rate go from 52.3% to 47.6%. Making matters worse, his HR/FB rate increased to his highest since arriving in Milwaukee. Coffey surrendered the same amount of dingers in 21 fewer innings between 2009 and 2010.

In the end, this all lead to a lofty 4.76 ERA for Coffey. By anyone's account, one can assume luck wasn't on Coffey's side in 2010 (His FIP was more than a half run less at 4.20). The real question for the Brewers is what do they do now?

Todd Coffey made just north of $2 million last season. If the Brewers offer him arbitration, he is likely going to see a raise despite his troubles. For sake of keeping it simple, let's assume that if offered, Coffey's 2011 salary would check in right under $3 million. So, is Todd Coffey worth that figure next season? Many say no, I say yes.

Although bullpen help can come cheaply from the minor leagues (i.e. 2010 Milwaukee Brewers), there are just too many unanswered questions for the Brewers to non-tender Todd Coffey. Despite his poor performance in 2011, Coffey is still a workhorse out of the bullpen. The past couple of season's, the Brewers bullpen has been extremely overworked. Is it really worth saving the $3 million we could give to Coffey just to watch the same problem happen year in and year out? Sure a lot of blame lies with starting pitching, but once in the bullpen, a team needs guys who are able to go multiple innings, or pitch in back to back games. If there is one thing Coffey has proved in his time in Milwaukee, it's that he is always ready to take the ball.

I fully expect Coffey's number to revert back to normal. Does that mean a sub-three ERA next season? Maybe not, but I highly doubt that a 4.00+ ERA is in store in 2011. I fully agree wasting money in the bullpen can be a huge mistake. Maybe I'm missing something here, but tendering Todd Coffey would hardly be a waste.

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