Earlier today, two fairly different right-handed relievers found new homes, as LaTroy Hawkins signed a two-year, $7.5M deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, and the Boston Red Sox claimed Ramon Ramirez off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Hawkins, 37, joins Trevor Hoffman to give the Brewers a solid veteran presence in the back of their bullpen. After posting a 3.28 FIP fueled by a flukishly low HR/FB ratio in 2008, that mark quickly regressed in 2009 and he posted a more realistic 3.97 FIP. If you believe in xFIP, then Hawkins actually improved in 2009, posting a 3.80 xFIP after posting a 4.10 mark in 2008. Hawkins depends primarily on a mid-90's fastball that's shown no signs of slowing down and a power slider, although he doesn't miss nearly as many bats as he onced did, as reflected by his strikeout and contact rates. Milwaukee appears to have paid somewhat of a premium for Hawkins' sparkling 2.13 ERA from last season, but Hawkins has been a fairly dependable reliever, so it's not the worst risk to take. Then again, ideally, you would never give a reliever a multi-year deal, so it's questionable that the Brewers have locked up so much money in veteran relievers (Hoffman, Riske) with so many holes in their rotation. Not a horrible investment, but a questionable use of resources for a team with a lot of problems.
Ramirez, who's name brethren already has a place in Boston's bullpen after being traded there for Coco Crisp last year, spent the 2009 season in AAA Louisville with the Cincinnati Reds. Ramirez, 27, was ranked as the Reds' 11th best prospect by John Sickels coming into 2009, and spent the majority of the year in AAA. He posted a 4.62 FIP in 127 innings, primarily as a starter, but he showed significant decline in his strikeout rate, which is major cause for concern given that he posted very good strikeout rates in previous seasons. It's unclear where he fits into a bullpen that includes Papelbon, Okajima, Bard, Delcarmen, Atchison and the other Ramirez, along with other candidates like Dustin Richardson and starting prospects Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa. It's unclear if his 88-92 fastball/change-up combination will work unless he greatly improves his control, but he does give Boston another live arm to work with.