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Signed RHP Bobby Parnell to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. [2/16]

Anyone who watched Parnell pitch at the end of 2015 probably came away disappointed–the once-dominant reliever was a shell of himself, having lost velocity and command following Tommy John surgery and back issues. Terry Collins leaned on him far longer than anyone expected as the playoff race wore on, and while his velocity started to tick up–his sinker went from 92.8 to 94.5 miles per hour by September–he was never consistently effective, posting a DRA of 7.38 and a cFIP mark of 125, far worse than league-average.

I know, I know—Detroit’s bullpen is usually a joke, and Parnell is a proven closer. So from one perspective, adding him on a minor-league NRI deal is a good thing: it’s a risk-free flier. But Spring Training is likely to be telling, and I wouldn’t expect Parnell to immediately take the ball and return to his former, late-inning self. Velocity returning is good, but between his history of injury and his late-career control mishaps, he may not be effective enough to crack the Detroit ‘pen. Al Avila’s revitalized bullpen shouldn’t be mistaken for Kansas City’s juggernaut, but there are enough solid arms (like former teammate Francisco Rodriguez, Mark Lowe, Shane Greene, and more) that there may not be a slot for Parnell.

I’d imagine everyone wants to Parnell rebound, especially the Tigers. But even at his best, he was never an elite closer—just one of the many guys who pitched well late in games. The upside here isn’t quite as high as you might think given his reputation, and the downside is low, low, low. If his velo and command rebound this spring, all the better. But more than likely, he’s in the same boat as all the rest of the Tigers’ bullpen NRIs, meaning expectations should be tempered. —Bryan Grosnick

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Signed RHP Ryan Webb to a one-year contract worth $1 million. [2/16]

How much do you value consistency? That’s a tough question, because I guess it depends on the type of consistency you’re looking for. It’s easy to get excited about David Price and pay him loads of cash because he’s an ace year in and year out. But how about consistency in the middle of the bullpen? Webb has been a reliable bullpen piece over the past few seasons, posting something close to half a win or a little more in each of the last three seasons (combined 1.9 WARP).

The big right-hander has good velocity (92.8 mph last year) on his primary offering: a heavy sinker that induces ground balls at a solid rate. He slightly overshot his career ground-ball rate (58 percent) in 2015 (60 percent), which is good because if he doesn’t give up a ground ball, he’s usually giving up solid contact. Last season, he actually gave up more liners (about 21 percent) than flies (about 20 percent). Tampa may not be the best middle-infield to take advantage of Webb’s particular skillset (Brad Miller and Logan Forsythe aren’t exactly the game’s smoothest double-play combo), but he does provide their ‘pen with a different look, and some reliability.

The thing that may make this deal the most interesting is, as mentioned above, the cost. Paying a cool one million dollars for Webb seems low in a marketplace where the bidding for establish relievers usually starts at a few million per season. No, Webb is not what I’d consider an impact arm. No, he’s not someone who will suddenly emerge as a late-inning option. But while the sabermetric orthodoxy is that middle relievers can be a fungible resource, having a pitcher or two to provide stability is a nice way to hedge some risk so that you can be more experimental with other bullpen slots. And when you’re as experimental as the Rays–a team that has used “bullpen day” all-reliever games in the recent past–perhaps that reliability is even more valued than by others.

A common heuristic is that a win worth of value on the free agent market is worth somewhere between $7 million and $9 million. When you pay just a million for a pitcher like Ryan Webb, you’re not just getting perhaps several million in surplus value, you get the psychic benefit of low-ceiling reliability. The downside risk here is low, so this looks like a nice pickup for Tampa. (Also, I am contractually obligated to point out that Webb leads the universe in games finished without a save, as listeners of Effectively Wild and readers of the Annual well know. I’ll take a bet that says that Webb’s streak comes to an end this season, given the questionable state of Tampa’s bullpen. All good things must come to an end—so must some just-plain-weird ones as well.) —Bryan Grosnick

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Signed OF-L Matt Joyce to a minor-league deal. [2/18]

Around this time last year, Joyce seemed primed to reach free agency with enough momentum to roll into a multi-year deal. Instead, his stint with the Angels went so poorly that he might’ve been designated for assignment before the season ended had he not suffered a concussion around the trade deadline. As a result, Joyce not only settled for a minor-league deal, but a minor-league deal with a team that has a full outfield manned by young, exciting homegrown talents. Bummer, dude.

On the bright side, Joyce ought to have the inside track on a bench spot. His top competition is Jake Goebbert, who is “competition” to most players in the sense that the puppymonkeybaby ditty is “competition” for a Grammy nomination. The biggest concern for Joyce is that his ISO has declined in five consecutive seasons, leaving him with well-below-average power production. His command of the strike zone is as good as ever, but this is a cold world for for corner outfielders with just-okay gloves who can’t hit for average and don’t hit for power.

Maybe Joyce can regain his pop in Pittsburgh. Otherwise, his next minor-league deal will include bus rides. —R.J. Anderson

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Signed RHP Matt Belisle to a minor-league deal. [2/18]

Add another of Dusty Baker’s former charges to Nats camp. (Granted, Belisle made only six appearances under Baker’s watch in Cincinnati, so it’s not akin to the Bronson Arroyo dynamic.)

Belisle has had rotten luck throughout his career. He spent his best years in Colorado, where he’d throw 60-plus innings per pop without much fanfare. Naturally he got hurt the minute he escaped Coors Field, as he missed more than two months with elbow inflammation after signing with the Cardinals during the offseason. Even when Belisle did pitch, he didn’t look like the same pitcher. His walk rate spiked to four per nine innings (he hadn’t walked more than 2.6 in any of the previous eight years), and he threw fewer than half his pitches in the zone for the first time in the PITCHf/x era.

With a 36th birthday looming in June, you probably shouldn’t expect a full return to normalcy from Belisle. Still, what’s there to lose by bringing him to camp and letting him compete for a middle-relief job? Not money; time? Maybe, but spring training is mostly wasted time anyway. —R.J. Anderson

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