Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that right-handed reliever Mike MacDougal will return to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 on a one-year deal worth $650,000. The team has an option for 2013 worth $2.35 million with a buyout of $350,000, meaning he’s guaranteed a cool million dollars.
To begin, let me say that I actually like the deal for reasons you’ll read down below.
MacDougal was a good signing for the club last year, posting a 2.05 ERA over 57 innings, all for $500,000. However, his underlying skills were generally mediocre, clocking in at 4.02 xFIP and 3.80 SIERA. Given that those are the two statistics which best correlate with year-to-year ERA projections, and given that MacDougal will be 35 next season, it’s more than fair to put his ERA in the 3.90-4.00 range for 2012.
Of course, the issue with relievers is that the sample size is so small, even for an entire season, that it’s tough to predict the outcome of any one season. I could easily believe MacDougal repeating his 2011 performance, but he’s just as likely to post an ERA over six with the exact same peripherals as last year.
Despite the positive surplus value, I normally don’t like deals like this even if they end up marginally successful because they fill the roster space meant for potentially superior prospects, reduce roster and payroll flexibility, and a winning team doesn’t involve acquiring replacement level players (See: Gwynn, Tony). However, in this case, the main gripe I hear is that Nathan Eovaldi will likely start the year in the minor leagues, and while I agree he would perform better than MacDougal out of the pen in 2012, I think it’s a far better result to have him in the minors refining his off-speed stuff. This is especially true considering I don’t feel he even has a reliable second pitch yet, much less a third.
That specific line of thinking doesn’t mean it’s actually what Ned Colletti was doing (probably not), but since he’s likely on his way out, the ends simply have to justify the means in the short-term.