In the drilled-down context of the late-January free agent market being scoured by a team not looking to make significant additions to their budget, or tinker with their core much beyond adding a reliever–Matt Lindstrom was more or less the best available option. The best free agent in all the world, even–in that context.
I had pined for Lindstrom for most of January. The list of available relievers is comprised entirely of arms no team would bend over to commit multiple years to, and Lindstrom–with his league-average strikeout rate, and peripherals that suggested he should have been almost a run worse than his 2.85 ERA over the past two seasons–is not necessarily an exception.
And yet, for the White Sox to secure Lindstrom with a commitment that does not stretch beyond 2013 with a club option for the next season, has a bit good fortune to it. The Dodgers gave Brandon League three years, a personal island and three dozen fatted calves to provide a similar product earlier in this off-season, so while waiting until January 19th to fill an obvious right-handed set-up man vacancy was risky and frustrating, it could very well have had its benefits.
The financial terms have not been released yet, but it’s hard to imagine Lindstrom receiving much beyond $4 million, and he should have a fair chance of earning it.
There is a healthy share of disabled list stints in Lindstrom’s history, but nothing that suggests structural problems in his arm over the past year. There’s been some velocity loss from the days where he averaged 96+ mph, but that can partly be explained with a transition to a sinker-type fastball that has in turn produced a steadily climbing groundball rate. His succes over the past two seasons (101 IP, 2.85 ERA) is peripheral-defying (3.80 FIP), but it still provides an acceptable floor for his abilities, and will make him a good partner for Jesse Crain.
There’s even some closing experience, if that’s the sort of thing you value.
Lindstrom is unlikely to become a player that White Sox fans grow to love and adore, and in the examination of the off-season at large, he does nothing to stanch the flow of discontent about the inaction or lack of a direction. But there’s a role for him, it’s a small one–retire right-handed batters in the 7th and 8th inning–and he’s not bad for it at all.
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