So far this winter, the Milwaukee Brewers have focused their search for bullpen depth on arms with major league experience that throw predominantly fastballs and sliders. Today it was reported that the Brewers have added yet another right-hander in that mold to their stable of arms that will compete for a spot in the ‘pen this spring:
Per source, RHP Ernesto Frieri has signed as a non-roster invitee with the Brewers and will go to big-league camp.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 18, 2018
Ernesto Frieri, 32, has spent parts of eight seasons in the big leagues since signing as an international free agent with the Padres back in 2003. The well traveled hurler has pitched for San Diego, the Angels, Tampa Bay, Texas, and Pittsburgh, appearing in 304 games along the way while posting a 3.59 ERA and 84 DRA- across 303.1 innings. His career started off quite promisingly, as from the year he debuted in 2009 through the 2013 season, Frieri worked to a 2.76 ERA with 12.3 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9. He spent a couple of those seasons as the Angels’ closer and has racked up 73 saves in his career.
Since 2014, though, Frieri has struggled to find success in the big leagues thanks to a constant barrage of balls flying over his head and out of the park. He could muster only a 7.34 ERA in 48 games for the Angels and Pirates that season while coughing up 2.4 HR/9. The next year in Tampa Bay, his fastball was two miles per hour slower (down to 92.8 MPH) and he allowed six long balls in 23.1 MLB innings while pitching to a 4.63 ERA. He latched on with the Phillies that winter, but was released in the days leading up to Opening Day 2016. He then elected to sit out the rest of the 2016 season in order to get his mechanics back in order.
Frieri returned to affiliated ball in spring of 2017 when he inked a minor league deal with the Yankees, and after logging a 3.00 ERA and 24:9 K/BB ratio in his first 21.0 innings he opted out of his contract in June. He then caught on with Texas, and following a few more appearances in the minors, the Rangers purchased his contact and he was back in The Show. It didn’t last long, though, as Frieri was DFA’d and outrighted back to AAA in a couple weeks after allowing four runs and six walks - but no homers - in 7.0 innings with Texas. The Rangers eventually sold his contract to the Mariners (for the grand sum of $1) and he finished out the year by posting a 5.25 ERA in 12.0 innings for Seattle’s AAA affiliate. He became a minor league free agent after the season concluded.
As mentioned above, Frieri relies primarily on a fastball/slider combination, though he will occasionally mix in a changeup as well. After his fastball dipped quite a bit in 2015 his velocity was back to normal during his brief MLB stint last season, averaging 94.4 MPH. His paltry 6.1% swinging strike rate (again, SSS caveat here) in 2017 was far and away a career worst, though.
Frieri seems like a long shot to break camp with the big league team at this point, but he’s certainly a solid-enough depth arm to have in the fold. He can still bring it with his fastball, and if the Brewers’ coaches can help get his command back in order then he could have some value as a reclamation project. The team has yet to confirm the deal, and financial terms if he makes the MLB team have not yet been reported.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs