Monday, February 17, 2014

Aaron Crow's Place on the Bullpen Totem Pole

This offseason, it seemed obvious that the Royals would attempt to deal from their bullpen depth to acquire some other pieces. Yet in the end the only reliever moved wound up being left hander Will Smith in exchange for Milwaukee outfielder Norichika Aoki. Throughout the offseason I considered who could be the odd man out in the bullpen tree. The most desirable arm to move for Kansas City likely was Wade Davis, but after Davis I wondered if former Missouri Tiger Aaron Crow might offer the best blend of appeal for other teams and lack of a role on the current roster.

Crow, who earned an All-Star game appearance in 2011, has been a very solid option for Kansas City for the last three seasons posting a 3.19 ERA. Since Crow's All-Star appearance, his rate stats have quietly eroded a bit. During that same time period, Crow has seen his role shrunk as well. On Thursday, Fox Sports' Jeffrey Flanagan asked Crow about his diminished role and here is what Crow had to say:
"It's not really all that important (what inning you pitch) at the end of the day. It doesn't matter if you pitch the sixth inning or the eighth inning, just as long as the team is doing well. I don't care if you come in and face just one batter - just as long as you're helping the team win."
If you want to read the full article, you can check it out here.

There is a general thought process among Royals fans that Aaron Crow is an excellent reliever. However, last season he was basically replacement level. According to Fangraphs he was actually worth -0.1 WAR and according to Baseball-Reference he was worth just 0.3 WAR. Over his career he's been worth just 1.3 fWAR and 2.7 bWAR over three seasons. Despite all this, he has already earned $4.68 million in salary from the Royals and will be paid $1.475 million in 2014.

Crow has excellent stuff. His whippy arm action plays well in a relief role and his mid-90s fastball and slider make for some strikeouts where the hitter just looks silly. When you couple this with his pedigree, plus his three seasons of control he would be a valuable asset for a lot of teams. For the Royals though, he is probably the 5th or 6th best reliever on the staff. Given all this I would maintain that he is likely more valuable as a trade piece than as a member of the Royals bullpen.

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