Now that the Tampa Bay Rays are no longer in contention in 2014, it is time to start looking towards what the roster might look like in 2015. You can be sure that the Front Office is already looking at players internally and externally who can help the team return to their usual winning ways in 2015. One area they can look to improve is the bullpen. There are several good internal options the team can look towards, but many of them are very unproven. While it is unlikely the Rays will spend big on a free agent reliever, there are definitely some intriguing low-cost free agent options that might pique the team’s interest. One of them is Ernesto Frieri.
Ernesto Frieri was recently a great reliever, finding success while primarily throwing a mid to upper 90’s fastball. With the San Diego Padres in 2010, Frieri appeared in 33 games while throwing 31.2 innings and compiling a 1.71 ERA with a K/9 of 11.65 and a BB/9 of 4.83. He followed it up with three straight solid seasons when pitching with the Padres and Los Angeles Angels, throwing at least 63 innings each year with a K/9 rate never dipping below 10.86 and ERA’s of 2.71, 2.32 and 3.80.
After those three solid seasons, 2014 turned out to be a disaster for Frieri. He pitched in 48 games (41.2 innings pitched) for the Angels and Pirates, compiling an ERA of 7.34 and allowing 47 hits. He would eventually be released by the Pirates and is now currently a free agent. The main reason for Frieri’s poor season was that he was more hittable thanks to inconsistent command. His batting average against of .280 was by the far the highest of his career, and his K% of 26.1 was the lowest of his career. His HR/9 was also double his career average at 2.4.
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There are reasons to be optimistic about Frieri, though. He was plagued by bad luck this year, with his BABIP being fairly high at .330. His xFIP was only 3.68, which shows that he wasn’t as bad as it may appear. Additionally, his K/9 of 10.37 and BB/9 of 3.02 were both solid marks. Frieri is by no means a sure thing, but these numbers show there is plenty for the Rays to work with.
Frieri obviously has a pretty good track record, which will likely give him a few suitors for this upcoming off-season. He will most likely be looking for a 1-year deal to re-establish his value, but after struggling so mightily there is a chance he could be had on a minor-league deal. Frieri made 3.8 million last year, but the Rays could probably secure his services for a $1.5 million guarantee, or they could hope to get him on a minor-league deal with a salary of around there if he were to make the team. The Rays have had great success finding reclamation projects in the bullpen and turning them around over the years, and Ernesto Frieri could be the next great one if the Rays’ can get him for the right price.