The Giants are bringing back Guillermo Mota. Which is cool, because it gives me a chance to step away for a second from the constant rosterbation.
Guillermo Mota is 38 years old. During his career, he’s played for seven different teams. In 2009, he was a Dodger. From 2002 to 2004, he spent time in a Dodgers uniform. There was a time when Mota was a truly dominant reliever; it didn’t last long, and it was nearly ten years ago, but it happened nonetheless. And it happened when he was a Dodger: in 2003, he posted a 205 ERA+ in 105.0 innings of relief. If you go by Baseball-Reference, Mota has been worth 4.4 wins above replacement in his 13 major-league seasons. All of it — and then some — came from his tenure as a Dodger from ’03 to ’04. Mota has bounced around from team to team in these last thirteen years, but before he signed with the Giants in 2010, he was as much a Dodger as anything else, carrying with him that intangible Dodgers aura.
After signing with the Giants in 2010, Mota appeared in 56 games. He wasn’t spectacular; he wasn’t even average: 4.33 ERA/3.86 FIP/4.57 xFIP, 91 ERA+. On October 28, 2010, at age 36, Mota made his first World Series appearance, tossing one scoreless inning. A few days later, he won his first ring.
This year, the Giants’ bullpen allowed 26 home runs. Mota accounted for ten of them. Home runs aside, Mota was solid: he struck out nearly a batter an inning (8.63/9), setting a career high in K/9. His xFIP, 3.63, was the lowest he’d posted since that dominant 2003 season, and it was one of the better marks on the team (lower than Brian Wilson, Javier Lopez, and Santiago Casilla). Twice this season — the Barry Zito foot injury, and the Madison Bumgarner disaster start — Mota went 4+ innings. He had never done that once before 2011. On August 3rd, Mota struck out six over two innings of relief, tying a career-high. It was the most strikeouts he’d tallied in a single game since — you guessed it — 2003.
Years from now, when you’re looking back at the first Giants team to win a championship in a decade, Guillermo Mota won’t be the first name to come to mind. Nor will he be the second. Or the third. There’s a chance that you won’t even remember him. But if you do, you’ll probably remember him with some modicum of fondness. Which is more than can be said for Jose Guillen. And if you go out and buy a Mota jersey, I won’t judge you.
ZiPS projects Mota for a 96 ERA+ over 60 innings, with a K/BB hovering around 2.00. He’ll be unspectacular. But he’ll be a cheap, usable arm out of the ‘pen.