“On Bzdek” Bullpen Briefing: Week 15. Trade Deadline Edition

With the all-star week taking up half of the last week, we only have a three-game series for each team for news. With all this free time and the trade deadline just a couple weeks away, I looked at potential relievers on the move and the resulting impact of those moves. There are several out of contention teams who could trade their current closer. Pretty much every team vying for the playoffs will look to add bullpen depth, but the Washington Nationals are really the only team who’s in the market for closer.

David Robertson and the Chicago White Sox

The White Sox have been in sell mode for the last year. That trend continued over the break as they traded Jose Quintana across town to the Cubs in a blockbuster deal. Robertson may be next to leave town. The 32-year-old is signed through 2018, though he is owed a hefty $13mm in 2018 to go along with a pro-rated $12mm for the remainder of 2017. The high dollars associated with Robertson could drive down his price tag in terms of prospects unless the ChiSox are willing to eat some of his salary.

These factors could lead to Robertson staying put this year, as he can always be traded at next year’s deadline, if the White Sox don’t get the right offer this year. On the other hand, an acquiring team can get Robertson this year and flip him next season to recoup some of their cost. With Washington unloading a lot of prospects over the winter, if they are willing to take on the contract, Robertson would be an ideal target.

In lieu of a trade, Tommy Kahnle appears to be next in line. His 2017 success has been well documented, though in recent weeks he had a few rough outings. Anthony Swarzack is having a career season and could be in the mix to close as well. However, Swarzack will be a free agent this winter so he’s also a trade candidate. Nate Jones had season ending elbow surgery this week, so he’s out of the conversation for 2017.

Raisel Iglesias and the Cincinnati Reds

Iglesias is 27 years old and is signed through 2020 at about $5.5mm per year. He’s been one of baseball’s best relievers since transitioning to the bullpen from the starting rotation in early 2016. Aside from a 10.97 K/9, 1.69 ERA and 0.914 WHIP, he’s also shown the ability to go more than one inning in an appearance. In fact, at the break, 10 of his 36 appearances have been 4 outs or more this year.

In my opinion, Iglesias is the best reliever on the market, but he will also be the most expensive to acquire due to 3 more years of affordable team control. Unless the Reds can get blown out of the water with an offer, it would be silly to move Iglesias this summer.

Should a blockbuster deal go down, Michael Lorenzen should take over the closer gig in Cinci. Lorenzen is a 25-year-old right hander, not free agent eligible until 2022, and he is in the midst of his second quality season out of the pen. Drew Storen is also having a decent season and could be in the mix to close as well.

Justin Wilson and the Detroit Tigers

Wilson started the year as the Tigers’ setup man before being named closer in May. He’s been successful in both roles which bodes well for acquiring teams. At the break, Wilson sports a 2.36 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and a 12.84 K/9 to go along with 10 saves, 8 holds, and 3 wins. A free agent in 2019, Wilson is an affordable, cost controlled asset who should fetch a decent return for the Tigers. Unfortunately for those of us that own Justin Wilson, he likely won’t jump to closer on any teams he is traded to. Now would be a good time to start shopping Wilson, and if you are staying on top of relief pitching news, there should be at least one new closer because of the trade deadline moves that you can replace Wilson with.

That closer may even come from Detroit. Bruce Rodon, Alex Wilson, and Shane Greene are all candidates to close for the Tigers if Justin Wilson gets traded. Rodon is the most interesting because of his strikeout ability. His K/9 has been above 10 the last three seasons. He hasn’t pitched much this year, just 7 innings due to injury, but he did post a 2.97 ERA in 2016 and a 0.96 WHIP. He’s worth a gamble on.

Alex Wilson and Shane Greene should remain in setup roles. Alex Wilson falls short of the closer role due to his low 5.55 K/9 rate. This rate is in line with Alex’s career K/9 and is just not good enough for me to invest in as a reliever. Greene’s K/9 is better, a career high 9.60. However, Greene is also walking a career high 4.91 per 9, which is a bit of a red flag.

Brandon Mauer and the San Diego Padres

The Padres are 22 games out of first place, and 12.5 out of the wild card. They have two relievers: Brandon Maurer and Brad Hand, who will both be free agent eligible in 2020, however both have been rumored in trades.

Maurer is the current closer, however, Hand has been the better pitcher this season and is garnering the most attention in terms of trade rumors. Hand spent the last two seasons as a reliever for the Padres and they have been his best two seasons. He recorded a 2.92 ERA in 2016 and slightly lower 2.30 ERA this season. His low salary in addition to 3 more years of team control means he will not come cheap. He also likely won’t close on his new team, so his status as a very effective middle reliever will remain.

Brandon Maurer is less exciting due to his 5.60 ERA this season. He almost lost his closer role to Hand earlier this year. A Maurer trade has been rumored but not to the extent of Hand, so it seems more likely he stays put. If he does get traded, he will probably assume a middle relief role.

Ryan Buchter is a closer candidate in the event Hand and Maurer are both dealt. Even if Muarer is not dealt, Buchter could make his way into the closer role by seasons end. Buchter sports a K/9 over 11 the last two seasons, however he walks over 4 per inning as well. His ERA is a solid 2.94 this year, in line with last season’s ERA of 2.86.

Bud Norris and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Bud Norris has proved to be an effective closer for the Angels. He’s a free agent this winter and although the Angels are just three games out of the wildcard, they have effective relievers behind Norris, so perhaps he can be flipped to improve other holes. I doubt it, but if it does happen Cam Bedrosian is a good bet to assume closing duties, with Blake Parker and David Hernandez as alternative options.

Jim Johnson and the Atlanta Braves

Jim Johnson isn’t the best closer, but could be a cheap bullpen addition for a playoff contender. Arodys Vizcaino is the closer of the future in ATL. He’s currently on the DL, but is expected to return in the next week or so. In the event Johnson is dealt before Vizcaino is activated, Jose Ramirez is having a good season and would get some save opportunities.

AJ Ramos and the Miami Marlins

AJ Ramos has been involved in trade rumors, as has David Phelps. The two relievers make up the 8th and 9th inning roles for the Miami Marlins. Both are signed through 2018 and at reasonable costs. Kyle Barraclough is the next man up if both relievers are moved. Barraclough impressed last year with a K/9 of 14.00. That has dropped to 9.96 this year and his BB/9 is up from 5.45 in 2016 to 5.98 this season. He’s been a little better since June, but the walks are a huge problem and if he is not striking out guys at an absurd rate he’s going to give up some runs.  I’d keep an eye on Jarlin Garcia, as he has a 0.93 WHIP and 10 holds for Miami this season, as well as Nick Wittgren who has 5 holds and 40Ks in 37.1 innings. Both have ERAs in the mid threes.

Addison Reed and the New York Metropolitans

Addison Reed has been one of the few bright spots in the Mets’ 2017 season. With the Mets injured and out of contention, and Reed a free agent this winter, he may be on the move. There are no active relievers on the Mets to take over the 9th inning, however, Jeurys Familia began a throwing program this week and if his rehab goes well he could be back toward the end of august. It’s a long shot to invest in a reliever for just one month’s worth of saves, but he could provide a boost for the fantasy baseball playoffs if you can stash him on the DL.

Zach Britton and the Baltimore Orioles

Rumors have it the Orioles would move Britton if the right offer comes across the table. Britton is signed through 2018. He’s been dominant the past two seasons, but this year he missed a large chunk of time with an elbow injury. This may scare off teams from paying the high price the Orioles are likely demanding. Brad Brach, who closed when Britton was injured, would serve as the team’s closer in the event of a Britton trade, unless Brach is also traded.

 

That about sums up the potential current closers on the move. There are a lot of teams in the market for relief help, but mostly middle relief. The Washington Nationals are the one team in the market for a closer so they’re next up.

What will the Washington Nationals do?

The Nationals bullpen has been a mess this year. It is the one glaring hole for a team with a great 1-2 starting pitcher punch and a very good line up. The Nats would be scary if they were able to shore up the bullpen.

At last year’s trade deadline the Nationals made a move for a closer, acquiring Mark Melancon for Felipe Rivero. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Nationals would love to have held onto Rivero. They’ve run through a slew of closers this season and none fared too well. Koda Glover showed promise but is currently on the Disabled List and isn’t expected back anytime soon.

Besides giving up Rivero, the Nationals traded additional prospects to acquire Adam Eaton in the off-season. Yesterday, the Nats made one move to address the bullpen when they traded Blake Treinen and two prospects to the Oakland Athletics for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. This is a step in the right direction  toward improving the bullpen, but the Nats still lack a lock-down closer. Ryan Madson should get some save opportunities but I have a feeling the Nats are not done making moves.

The Nationals have been linked to the Reds’ Iglesias, and he would be a perfect fit for Dusty Baker to run out there for 4 out saves, but his cost may be too rich for the Nationals to afford after depleting their farm with recent trades discussed above. The Nationals have also been linked to the White Sox’ David Robertson. Robertson is owed the most money of any reliever on the market, but that should drive down his cost in terms of prospects. If the Nats are willing to pay him, he would be a welcomed addition, and maybe Anthony Swarzack can be worked into the trade as well for added bullpen depth. This move appears the best fit for Washington.

The Nationals have already acquired two relievers as the trade deadline approaches, and I think they will bring in at least one more before the trade deadline passes.

 

That wraps up this week’s Bullpen Briefing. Thanks for reading and I’ll be back next week with another edition.

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