Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Angels outrighted 29-year-old pitcher Cory Rasmus to Triple-A. The following day, Steve Adams at MLB Trade Rumors reported that Rasmus elected free agency in lieu of reporting to the minors. Good, cheap bullpen help is always in demand. Considering Rasmus was projected to make around $700,000 before he was designated for assignment, cheap is certainly what he would seem to be. The question is if he is any good. Let’s see if we can figure that out.
Who is he?
The decidedly less hirsute younger brother of colossal asshole Colby Rasmus, Cory was the 38th overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft by the Atlanta Braves. Rasmus works with an arsenal (howdy, Jim Price) that relies primarily on a 4-seam fastball, which he throws about 40 percent of the time. That pitch is followed by the changeup, with a slider and a curve also mixed in. His swing-and-miss pitch is the changeup, which he carried an almost 30 percent whiff rate on in 2014, the last season he was fully healthy.
In 2014, the season where he saw his first substantial playing time at the major league level, the Angels used Rasmus as a jack of all trades type of pitcher. He worked out of the bullpen as well as snagging six spot starts throughout the year, and performed very well. Over 56 innings of work the right-handed hurler posted a 2.57 ERA, a 1.05 WHIP, and a 3.17 FIP all while striking out a shade over nine batters per nine innings. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
So, what’s the catch?
Unfortunately the good times did not continue through 2015 and 2016. Over the last two seasons Rasmus’s stats went from ugly to uglier. Through two seasons of limited work he posted an ERA over five, watched his strikeout rate plummet. He also saw his walk rate balloon to 5.8 per nine innings.
Now, without some sort of explanation for his sudden decrease from a very solid 2014, it may be easy to write Rasmus off as a one-year wonder and move along to another option, but an explanation is something we just might happen to have in this case.
In March of 2015 the Angels announced that Rasmus was going to miss the first six to eight weeks of the season recovering from core muscle surgery, something Tigers fans should be very familiar with. He returned from surgery on July 30, and quickly went back to the disabled list in August with a strained right forearm. The 2016 season wasn’t any better. Rasmus battled a persistent groin injury that culminated in him, once again, having to go under the knife for core muscle surgery in July. He returned in September and was used for a grand total of three innings through the rest of the season.
There’s a silver lining, though
Justin Verlander has taught us quite a few things in his tenure as a Tiger. He has shown us what a power pitcher looks like. He has given various demonstrations on owning idiots on social media. He has most certainly demonstrated the fact that core muscle surgery is not the kind of injury one rebounds from quickly. A core muscle injury is a particularly tricky thing for pitchers since core muscles are so highly involved in a typical pitching delivery. If you really want an in depth account of how challenging the injury can be you’d be best served to read Stuart Wallace’s article on Verlander and Miguel Cabrera’s core injuries over at Beyond the Box Score. Rasmus has had two of those bad boys done, and they may have something to do with his less-than-stellar numbers over the past two seasons.
A healthy Rasmus looks to have the potential of being a good situational pitcher to have in the bullpen. He has pitched right-handed batters a little bit tougher throughout his career, holding them to a .200 average and a .300 on-base percentage. He also seems to pitch pretty well in pressure situations. When used in medium or high-leverage situations, Rasmus holds opponents to a sub-.200 batting average and an on-base percentage that sits around .265.
When healthy, Rasmus looks kind of like a guy that could come in a put out some fires from time to time, and you can never have too many of those at your disposal.
Will he end up in Detroit?
Good bullpen help is always a need. Taking a chance on Rasmus for what amounts to slightly more than the cost of the average house in Los Angeles would be a good way to attempt to fill that need. After dealing with Verlander’s surgery and recovery, the Tigers training staff — and Verlander himself, for that matter — may be better situated than most to help round Rasmus back into shape. If the numbers he put up in 2014 are what an in-shape Rasmus looks like, that could be very good for the Tigers.