Earlier today, the Giants acquired left-handed reliever Jose Mijares from the Kansas City Royals via waivers. The Giants simply claimed him off waivers and didn’t have to give up anything in return, so they basically got him for free. Mijares, 27, doesn’t hit free agency until 2015, and he’s actually having a very good season: he’s tossed 38.2 innings across 51 appearances, posting a 163 ERA+ with fairly strong peripherals (8.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, and 0.7 HR/9). His FIP currently sits at a solid 3.50. And he is, of course, especially tough on left-handed hitters. For his career, he’s held lefties to a .606 OPS, which is right in line with what he’s done this season (.601 OPS).
He’s a flyball-heavy pitcher, having induced one groundball for every two flyballs over his career. But he’s consistently managed to keep his home run rate in check, which — at least in part — appears to be a sustainable skill. It’s worth noting that 20% of his career flyballs have been infield flies, which is very good relative to the league average rate over that span (13%).
For reasons beyond my knowledge, more than 20 teams passed on the opportunity to grab Mijares. It’s peculiar, and I’m not the only one that thinks so. In any event, it worked out perfectly for the Giants, and you have to hand it to them for this acquisition. They just bolstered their bullpen at zero cost, and they’ll now have a cheap lefty specialist for the foreseeable future. Mijares is essentially insurance against future overspending on LOOGYs.
Now comes a pretty important question: who goes? The Giants will have to make room for Mijares in the bullpen, and there’s some sentiment that George Kontos (given his minor-league options) could be sent back down to Fresno. Kontos (2.42 ERA/2.99 FIP/3.28 xFIP) has been outstanding thus far, so needless to say, that would be foolish. Alex Pavlovic writes that Brad Penny and Shane Loux, not Kontos, are the most likely candidates to go — and hopefully that’s the case.
Last night during the game, Jon Miller and Duane Kuiper were talking about Clay Hensley‘s season. Specifically, they were talking about the fact that Hensley to this point has been better against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters. Looking over Hensley’s career, he actually has been slightly better against southpaws than righties. Which means that in the Giants bullpen three pitchers are better against lefties (Affeldt, Hensley, Lopez) and two others, due to their role, likely won’t be used specifically due to matchups (Casilla as the closer, Loux as the long reliever). That leaves two relievers who will likely be matched up against tough righties, Sergio Romo and George Kontos.
This could end up being very good for Kontos as his scouting report indicates that a middle relief ROOGY-type role could suit him well.
Kontos profiles as a middle reliever in the long-term because of two glaring flaws. For one, he’s always had trouble against left-handed batters because he lacks a changeup. The tagged him for a .281/.345/.484 batting line with six homers in 142 plate appearances in Triple-A this year, and he’s shown a similar split throughout his minor league career. On the bright side, he does crush righties.
If Kontos can end up being similar to Ramon Ramirez, a pitcher who was known for his platoon splits and had a similar home run rate in the minors than Kontos, then he could turn out to be a very valuable piece to the Giants bullpen this year.