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A’s Ink Sean Doolittle to a Five-Year Extension

April 18, 2014

Well that was odd news. Sean Doolittle has signed what is being called a five-year extension – though really it should be viewed as a four year extension as it runs through 2018 – with the A’s. Financial terms have not been released yet, but it will be interesting to see how much it is for before really going in-depth on any analysis. The fascinating thing is, I could not recall ever seeing a reliever get a five-year extension like this, and if you view it as a four-year extension there are only three other examples, Craig Kimbrel with the Braves, Joe Nathan way back in 2008 with the Twins and also in 2008 Manny Corpas with the Rockies. Kimbrel and Nathan of course were somewhat established closers and in 2007 with the Rockies’ run to the World Series Corpas was their shut down man in the pen tallying 19 saves and five more in the playoffs. So for Doolittle, not a closer, to get this sort of a deal is uncharted territory.

The A’s often are an organization that goes into uncharted territory, so in that sense this deal is not surprising. I’ve long felt that while closers are replaceable, good relievers are not. (Basically, I believe the very act of getting the final three outs, or “most important outs” or however you want to deem them can go to a variety of relievers. But pitchers who are good in the bullpen are necessary and a good eighth inning guy in my mind can be a good ninth inning guy and vice versa.) And Doolittle, who for a while I advocated the A’s bumping off their 40-man roster when he was a failed first base prospect, has been electric since making his debut as a pitcher in 2012 where I got to see his first appearance with the Stockton Ports in Lake Elsinore. He of course rocketed up the system and landed in Oakland by June 5th of that year. In his career the 6’3 southpaw owns a 3.10 ERA, bettered by a 2.56 FIP, though most noteworthy of course is his 9.3 K/9 against just 1.7 BB/9 and a slim 0.7 HR/9 in his 125 innings on the hill. Important to me for relievers he has 56 shutdowns to just 17 meltdowns, despite coming into games with a relatively high gmLI in his career at 1.46 (good for 21st out of 251 pitchers with at least 125 innings pitched since 2012).

Doolittle has only five saves in his career but is the type who one could see occupying a traditional closing role in the future. While this deal might be a hedge against him getting a lot of saves and artificially improving his market as that still is viewed as a go-to stat for reliever quality, I like the idea of adding on a cost-controlled reliever for the long term. Shortening ballgames is a very valuable proposition and Billy Beane is saying that at least through 2018 he’d like to shorten games by an inning. The deal also includes option years of 2019 and 2020 so Doolittle could be in Oakland for quite some time.

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