Ernesto Frieri. That is the answer. But still, who the heck is he? And where in hell did he come from? I mean who gets traded from a team where he’s used in a middle-relief role, and then upon arriving in his new surroundings becomes an unstoppable force in the Angel’s bullpen? Ernesto Frieri, that’s who. Through July 3rd, he has unbelievable stats for the Angels (0.904 WHIP, 2.80 SO/BB ratio, 0 runs, and only 7 hits in 24.1 innings) and the Jays were able to get 3 of those hits of him in 2.1 innings last weekend. This guy didn’t even play baseball until he turned 12 years of age, and the Angels have him through the 2016 season! Now I shouldn’t paint the picture that this guy wasn’t good before. By perusing his stats, he certainly was, but what he’s done so far as an Angel is beyond outstanding.
The only comparable player (which is a stretch) that I can think of at the moment that was involved in a rather non-de-script trade and then performed admirably is – Jason Frasor. But even then, what Frieri has done blows Frasor out of the water. In 2003, Frasor pitched for the Dodgers, High A and AA teams where he posted a 1.098 WHIP, 4.78 SO/BB ratio, allowed only 49 hits in 69 innings all the while punching out 86 K’s. That’s impressive in itself, and is probably why former Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi traded for him. In Toronto the next year as a rookie, Frasor posted 17 saves with rather decent yet unimpressive numbers (1.463 WHIP, 54 K’s in 68.1 innings, 8.1 H/9, 1.5 SO/BB ratio). Mind you, Frieri is not a rookie, so this comparison is hardly fair.
I would also like to point out that the Angels traded their 12th and 16th best prospects to the Padres to get Frieri, so if the Jays are looking for a good, young and controllable reliever, they have to look at parting with an Adonys Cardona (12th) and Matt Dean (16th) type of prospect (according to the rankings from Minor League Ball). For me, I think I would definitely be willing to do that since Cardona is several years away (even though he has high upside) and Matt Dean is just starting his pro career in the Appalachian League.
So just who is the next under the radar reliever to be dealt in a non-de-script way?
Answer: Sean Doolittle. He made his MLB debut last month on June 5th for the A’s and has just been outstanding as evidenced by his 1.11 WHIP, 14.6 SO/9, 14.5 SO/BB ratio. The thing is though, he just became a pitcher 2 months ago (albeit he pitched in college) and rose through the A’s system so fast as he moved through A, AA, and then AAA to reach the majors all within 3 months. Do you think Oakland knows what it has? Do the Blue Jays stand a chance at stealing this guy out from under the rug? To answer honestly, probably zero. Besides, the Jays need a starting pitcher in addition to relief help. But it is fun to wonder, right?