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Lefty Relievers: Only Four Left

Remember when we broke down the five remaining left-handed relievers about a week ago? Times change quickly when you're headed toward Spring Training, and now there are four. And, judging by the increased interest in free agent Will Ohman, there will probably only be three available, at most, by the end of tomorrow.

I talked to a source close to Ohman yesterday, after the Rockies agreed to a minor league deal with Randy Flores, and he said that the reliever has received four contract offers from NL clubs in the past two days. Interestingly, none of those offers are from the Phillies or Mets, who have been in hottest pursuit of Ohman for much of the past couple months. We couldn't get confirmation of who those teams are, but we're willing to bet that a couple come from the NL Central, where there are some teams that have one or no left-handers in the bullpen.

The source said Ohman would like to have everything wrapped up in time to report to spring training, which essentially gives him two more days, maximum, to make a decision. It seems like he's trying to wait out a last-minute offer from New York or Philadelphia, but the two sides may be playing a game of chicken that won't end well, particularly as Odle notes that recent offers are "getting in line" with Ohman's asking price of somewhere between $1-2 million, likely on the higher side of the scale.

As for Flores, he took himself off the table by agreeing to a one-year minor league deal worth $600,000 with the Rockies, according to the Denver Post's Troy E. Renck. As we've noted here before, Flores is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward case. When he's healthy, he's an incredibly effective lefty specialist. However, he's coming off shoulder surgery for a fraying labrum and a cyst.

The Flores deal may also streamline negotiations for one of the other left-handers: Joe Beimel. The former Dodger has probably fielder more inquiries than any other lefty specialist on the market, partially because the Dodgers never offered arbitration to the Type B free agent. Yet, now that the Rockies have officially pulled out of the running for him, things may heat back up with the Dodgers. The two sides were reportedly in negotiations last week, so it probably won't take much to get things started again.

If Beimel did reach an agreement with the Dodgers, that would leave just Dennys Reyes -- who's reportedly been talking with the Dodgers and A's -- and Ron Villone, who seems to be off the map entirely, looking for teams at the last minute.

Regardless of where they all end up, here's how we broke down the advantages and shortcomings of each of the lefty specialists, though we'll only focus on the guys who are technically still out there:

  • Joe Beimel - A Type B free agent from the Dodgers, Los Angeles didn't even offer him arbitration, so he comes free of draft-pick compensation. There are always plenty of questions about Beimel's control, a particularly poignant concern since he doesn't strike out many batters, either. Still, he's been doing something right; just check out his line against left-handed hitters last year: .278 average/.330 on base percentage/.311 slugging percentage.
  • Will Ohman - If Beimel's received more interest than any of the other guys on this list, Ohman is a very close second. The Cubs dealt him to the Braves in the 2007-08 offseason as part of the Omar Infante trade, and he's performed admirably in Georgia, to the tune of only .200 ba/.257 obp by lefthanded batters against him. Atlanta extended him a contract offer back at the start of free agency in November, but he hasn't taken them up on it. The was a lot of smoke coming from supposed interest in Philadelphia, too, but that seems to have cooled off as well.
  • Dennys Reyes - The most established of the group, Reyes is a Type B player who was actually was offered arbitration by the Twins, so he'll cost a draft pick. Still, whoever signs him will know what they're getting: lefties struggled to hit a meager .202 against him, with a .250 on base percentage.
  • Ron Villone - Was the Cardinals' best lefthanded option in 2008, holding lefty bats to a .176 average. He still has a tendency to issue some walks, but then again, so do most loogys.

By Cameron Smith  | February 12, 2009; 4:03 PM ET
Categories:  Athletics, Braves, Dodgers, Mets, Phillies, Rockies  
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Next: Brewers Sign Braden Looper


There are four, not "there's four."

Just sayin'.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 12, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

How did I almost miss my chance to say "Sign Reyes"?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 12, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Wow, you changed it just for little old me. It's just a stupid pet peeve of mine. Everything you do is so good, Cameron, that it's really unfair of me to complain about something so silly.

Posted by: JohninMpls | February 12, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

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