Sometimes something's just too good of a deal to pass up, even if you're already well-stocked.
That's how the Matt Albers deal strikes me. He seemed as good as gone after the season, not because he failed to earn his keep, but because he pitched too well. Albers put together a nice 30-game mixtape, and while nobody would say his true talent lies in his 1.21 ERA, he did his thing by pounding the strike zone and getting grounders. He had reason to shop for better offers or bigger roles, and we had reason to think he might find ones that made him too rich of a luxury for the Sox.
That didn't happen. Instead, he's back for at least one more year and at least $2.25 million. Considering he overachieved by a large margin on his $1.5 million deal in 2015, bringing him back with a modest raise is a no-brainer.
However, it'll take some brains to figure out exactly how the rest of the pitching staff shakes out, as the Sox now have a full bullpen's worth of credible relievers.
Assuming the Sox are carrying two lefties -- presumably Zach Duke and Dan Jennings at the start -- that leaves five bullpen spots for the righties. If the Sox are only considering relievers who have track records in the bullpen, then Albers rounds out the group nicely.
- David Robertson
- Nate Jones
- Jake Petricka
- Matt Albers
- Zach Putnam
The bullpen looks a lot stronger when Putnam's unconventional strikeout stuff is a bonus and not a necessity. If this group gets to Opening Day in this order, it might not be Royals-strong, but it's not something to worry about, either.
However, if Albers takes up the last musical chair in the bullpen, then it puts Jacob Turner in no-man's land, and one would think the White Sox would want to do something with him. They claimed him from the Cubs, then signed him to a $1.5 million deal after non-tendering him, but there isn't anybody who he could naturally usurp, as Petricka and Putnam have pitched too well to be yanked around in favor of an untried experiment.
In a perfect world, Turner is an intriguing sixth starter candidate who gets time to ramp up his workload in Charlotte after injuries limited him to nine innings with the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate last year. That still could happen, but it'd require a bit of misfortune first since Turner is out of options. If a pitching spot doesn't open through injury or a transaction, then he'd have to look ragged enough in spring training to slide through waivers, start the season on the DL, or something to that effect.
It's not something to fret about, because all of those elements are in play:
- Transaction: The Sox are a couple of moves short, and one of those relievers would have value in a trade.
- Health: Turner missed almost all of last year with elbow and shoulder injuries.
- Talent: Turner's been a sub-replacement-level pitcher over his MLB career.
And that's without factoring in a random injury for other pitchers on the 25-man roster. It's good fandom to be aware of the permutations, but there are too many variables this far out to write them down in ink, much less carve them in stone. Welcome the depth, the additional backup plan, and the extra obstacle between Daniel Webb and the 25-man roster.