I read reaction all day Tuesday on the Astros decision to move Brett Myers to the closer role.
Some think it's creative, others think its dumb and old-schoolie and still others are left scratching their heads. For us Astro fan it's a break away from what's been a wonderful three month honeymoon with new General Manager Jeff Luhnow. We've applauded the Mark Melancon trade and most of the players he's brought to camp, but now each fan has to make a decision on whether or not they agree or disagree with this move. It's easily the toughest assessment we've had to make since Luhnow took over.
The conventional wisdom of the analytical community is that it's better to have a 200+ inning starter with value than a reliever who only offers 60-70 innings of value.
Myers posted a 1.5 WAR in 216 innings. Jason Motte, Vinnie Pestano and Kenley Jansen all posted a 1.5 WAR in relief duty, matching the value of Myers in 150 less innings. In 2007, closing, Myers posted a 1.3 WAR in 68.2 innings, including 21 saves. I'm not discounting that Myers could have a 2-3 WAR season as a starter, but that's not going to change the direction of the season.
It's not as cut and dry on whether the Astros want a starter or a closer. It's not even as cut and dry as wanting an 11 million starter or a 11 million reliever; the 11 million is a sunk cost. Even the trade value argument is irrelevant. We've seen what Luhnow has been able to do moving a relief pitcher and it's not like the market for Myers was existent in the first place. Sure he could build value as a starter, but like last year he could just as easily devalue himself as a starter.
The Astros aren't likely to compete in 2012, so who cares.
Moving Myers to the bullpen in what is likely his final year with the Astros opens the door for more competition in the rotation. Sure none of these guys are a Matt Moore or Jeremy Helickson, but baseball has a tendency to surprise us from time to time. And if starters are more valuable, the Astros should be looking for value in the rotation rather than the bullpen. Its not like the bullpen was very good last year anyways, adding some veteran depth while opening the door for a young starter isn't a bad thing.
Sure replacing Myers innings could be tough, but it's not like he's going anywhere. If the Astros get desperate enough he can slide right back into the rotation.