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Free Agent Friday
On November 3rd, 2021, the Oakland Athletics let Yusmeiro Petit walk in free agency. A surprising long-term face in the Athletics bullpen, Petit has spent the last 4 seasons in an A’s uniform. A reliever who has consistently over performed his expectations with the team, Petit had some of his best seasons with the Athletics and his absence has caused a void in the bullpen. In order to understand how big of an impact the veteran reliever had for the organization, we need to look back at his career as a whole.
In 2001, Yusmeiro Petit would sign with the New York Mets as an international amateur free agent. He would quickly climb up the ranks of the Mets’ farm system as a starting pitcher. He would begin in the farm system in 2003 in Rookie league before playing the majority of 2004 in the Single-A and High-A affiliates. In 2005, he would move up once again to Double-A and would make his first minor league All-Star team with the Binghamton Mets. He would also gain his second Futures Game selection after getting one with the St. Lucie Mets in 2004.
After the 2005 season, the Mets decided to sell high on their promising SP prospect, trading him along with Mike Jacobs (very promising 24-year-old 1B) and Grant Psomas (a corner infield prospect) for Carlos Delgado (no introduction needed) and $7 million. This is quite an interesting trade in MLB history, as it is a result of the Florida Marlins’ reoccurring fire sale after great success (in this case the 2003 World Series) and the Mets going all-in during the Wilpon ownership. The Mets would get the last bit of magic out of Delgado before he retired, while the Marlins would only get an average 1B in Mike Jacobs and a flop in Grant Psomas.
For a while, it seemed like Petit would go the same way as Jacobs, pitching a somewhat high 4.28 in Triple-A and a disastrous 9.57 ERA in 26.1 innings as a reliever at the MLB level. Following this, he would be traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for MLB reliever Jorge Julio on March 26th, 2007. Julio wouldn’t perform any better for the Marlins and Petit would struggle over multiple seasons with the Diamondbacks, throwing a 5.05 ERA in 203 innings pitched and 35 starts. While his BB/9 and K/9 numbers were not very good, his HR/9 was at a sizable 1.9, enough to make his FIP consistently over 5.00.
During this time, Petit wouldn’t perform any better in Triple-A and would eventually be waived following the 2009 season. He would be picked up be the Mariners for the 2010 and would perform similarly for the Tacoma Rainiers during the season. While all of his peripherals did see improvement in 2010 from his previous minor league standards, he would still be cut before the 2011 season could truly begin. He would play for Guerreros de Oaxaca in the Mexican League to finish the 2011 season.
Following these performances, the San Francisco Giants decided to give Petit another shot and signed him to a minor-league contract on November 28th, 2011. He would spend almost the entirety of 2012 in Triple-A and have a pretty solid year as a starter for the team, throwing a 3.46 ERA in 28 starts and 166.2 innings pitched.
In 2013, Yusmeiro Petit would truly begin his rise to MLB stardom. Petit would be one of the first pitching options for a call-up in case of injury and finally established himself as a reliable arm, throwing a 3.56 ERA and even better 2.86 FIP in 7 starts and 8 appearances. It was also during this year that Petit came 1 out away from throwing a perfect game it what would become his first ever complete game and shutout.
For the 2014 season, the Giants would begin to use Yusmeiro in the bullpen and would see him perform just as well in the pen as in the rotation. With an extra solid arm in the bullpen, the Giants would go all the way to the World Series and win in 2014. Following this season, Petit would forevermore be a reliever in the MLB.
2015 and 2016 would be a bit of a come down from the high of a World Series ring. While his ERA would stay consistent with his 2014 and 2013 performances in 2015, Petit’s FIP would explode from 2.78 to 4.09 in 2015 and rise even higher to 4.81 after a move to the Nationals in free agency. Petit ERA would similarly explode in 2016, going from 3.67 to 4.50. After having been signed to the Nationals to a 1-year contract worth $3 million in 2016, that included a club option for 2017, Petit would be released from the organization and would struggle to find suitors for his services.
The Los Angeles Angels decided to try out Yusmeiro Petit to the tune of a minor league contract. Even though he signed a minor league deal, Petit would spend the entirety of 2017 with the Angels and once again return to form, throwing a 2.76 ERA and 2.85 FIP. At this point, Petit would become one of the top aging relief pitchers in free agency. Surprisingly enough, he would sign with the Athletics to a 2-year, $10 million contract with a club option for 2020 at $5.5 million.
During his time in Oakland, Yusmeiro Petit would be a workhorse in relief for the organization, appearing in 232 games in 2018, 2019, and 2021 and pitching 26 games during the COVID-shortened 2020. He would consistently be in the top-5 for appearances during non-COVID seasons would even lead the American League in this category in 2019. His actual performances for the Athletics were a bit less impressive, throwing a solid 3.07 ERA in 4 seasons, but somewhat high 4.06 FIP.
This is mostly due to 2021, where his ERA and FIP once again exploded to 3.92 and 4.72 in 2021 from 2.71 and 3.59 in 2019. This was somewhat predictable from his somewhat high 4.11 FIP during the shortened 2021 season and probably the reason why he was resigned to only $2.55 million after throwing a 1.66 ERA. So, why did his pitching suddenly get worse?
While many of Yusmeiro Petit’s ratios (H/9, BB/9, HR/9, and K/9) have remained relatively consistent, there is one area of his stats has been particularly volatile. That is his K/9 ratio, which increased dramatically from 7.1 to 10.0 during his best year with the Angels and decreased dramatically in 2021 from 7.1 to 4.3.
This could be due to batters making more contact on his pitches outside of the zone, with them making contact on 73.9% of swings compared to previously where it was in the low-60% range. This could be due to his fastball’s velocity decreasing over the past 2 seasons from 89.3 mph to 87.8 mph. So, Petit’s lowered velocity could have increased the contact made with his pitches outside of the zone and led to his poorer pitching performance when compared to other seasons.
Overall, it is difficult to say whether or not the Athletics will miss Yusmeiro Petit in the bullpen. While his performances have declined a sharply over this past year, he was one of the more reliable arms that you didn’t have to worry about in the pen, both in terms of consistency and durability. Currently, Petit is working out with the Acereros de Monclova as a potential bridge to an MLB contract before the lockout finished. As such, we could see Yusmeiro once again in an A’s uniform quite soon, especially with the struggles that the bullpen has been having in Spring Training.
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