It must be awesome to be a Major League relief pitcher. Just a couple of weeks after Brandon League signed an absurd three-year deal, the Giants will give Jeremy Affeldt three years and $18 million of his own to keep pitching the late innings of close games. Affeldt has no doubt been effective at times, and 2012 was probably the pinnacle of his usefulness. The 6’4″ left-hander posted a 2.70 ERA and 2.73 FIP across 63 1/3 IP while striking out 8.1/9 and walking 3.27/9.
Affeldt’s 2012 was a nice enough effort for a middle reliever, and he’s been acceptable more often than not out of the bullpen, but why is a player who is merely acceptable in one of baseball’s least important jobs getting a multi-year deal worth $18 million? The Giants are clearly interested in keeping their murderous bullpen intact, but handing out this kind of contract is going to get them in trouble and proves nothing has been learned after countless idiotic long-term deals. Affeldt is already 33 years old, has battled injuries in the past, and isn’t even an elite reliever despite his reputation as one.
We’ve seen it time and time again, but relief pitchers simply do not warrant contracts like this. How this is escaping the grasp of Major League general managers is beyond me. Relief pitching success can so often be replicated by talent within the system for a fraction of the cost that it’s borderline disgusting to see money just thrown away like this. The Giants, World Series winner or not, are a very flawed team that can use upgrades all across the diamond. Pooping out $18 million and three years to a player whose relevance could vanish into thin air at any moment hardly solves any of those problems.
Equally telling is that Jeremy Affeldt can’t possibly earn that contract even if everything breaks right. Let’s say Affeldt stays healthy and has three season exactly like he did in 2012 (and that won’t happen because reliever performance is extremely volatile). In that case, Affeldt will have established himself as, say, one of the 10 or so better seventh inning guys in baseball. Who cares? Every single year there will be a handful of relievers who eclipse his performance while earning the league minimum because they happened to be on teams who understand the supply aspect of relief pitching. Whether Affeldt produces or not, the Giants were wrong to make this deal a reality.