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2019 Bullpen - The Free Agents

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  • 2019 Bullpen - The Free Agents

    Sorting The Relievers Of The Upcoming Free-Agent Class



    by CONNOR BYRNE | October 7, 2018 at 3:17 PM CDT

    On Saturday, we took a look at which pending free-agent starters had the most successful regular seasons in terms of velocity, strikeouts, walks, generating ground balls and inducing weak contact. We’ll do the same here with relievers who are scheduled to become free agents in a few weeks (once again, thanks to MLBTR’s Steve Adams for coming up with this method a year ago and to FanGraphs for supplying such invaluable data).

    To qualify, a reliever must have thrown at least 20 innings this past regular season. Notably, we’re leaving Sean Doolittle, Mark Melancon, Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler off the list. Everyone from that group has either a team option or an opt-out for 2019 (or both in Kintzler’s case), but it appears highly unlikely any will hit free agency. On the other hand, just to be safe, we are including Milwaukee’s Joakim Soria, Oakland’s Fernando Rodney and the White Sox’s Nate Jones.

    Soria and the Brewers will have to decide on a $10MM mutual option, but he may instead return to free agency on the heels of a strong season. Both Rodney’s age (42 in March) and the Athletics’ low payroll seem to increase the odds of them buying out the journeyman for $250K instead of exercising his $4.25MM option. Jones has a similarly affordable option ($4.65MM), so it’s hard to imagine the White Sox cutting ties with him in favor of a $1.25MM buyout, but perhaps his history of injuries will convince the team to go in another direction. (The guess is he’ll remain with the White Sox, but we’ll err on the side of caution.)

    Hardest Throwers (FanGraphs leaderboard)
    League average = 93.4 mph
    1. Joe Kelly: 98.1 mph fastball velocity
    2. Nate Jones: 97.2 mph
    3. Craig Kimbrel: 97.1 mph
    4. Kelvin Herrera: 96.5 mph
    5. Jeurys Familia: 96.2 mph
    6. Ryan Madson: 95.8 mph
    7. John Axford: 95.6 mph
    8. Daniel Hudson: 95.4 mph
    9. Zach McAllister: 95.2 mph
    10. Fernando Rodney: 95.2 mph
    Top Strikeout Arms (FanGraphs leaderboard)
    League average = 23.2 K%, 8.95 K/9
    1. Craig Kimbrel: 38.9 K%, 13.86 K/9
    2. Adam Ottavino: 36.3 K%, 12.98 K/9
    3. David Robertson: 32.2 K%, 11.76 K/9
    4. Tyler Clippard: 30.2 K%, 11.17 K/9
    5. Joakim Soria: 29.4 K%, 11.13 K/9
    6. Andrew Miller: 29.2 K%, 11.91 K/9
    7. Justin Wilson: 29.2 K%, 11.36 K/9
    8. Tony Sipp: 27.8 K%, 9.78 K/9
    9. Cody Allen: 27.7 K%, 10.75 K/9
    10. Jeurys Familia: 27.5 K%, 10.38 K/9
    Fewest Walks (FanGraphs leaderboard)
    League average = 9.3 BB%, 3.57 BB/9
    1. Jesse Chavez: 4.5 BB%, 1.6 BB/9
    2. Tony Barnette: 4.8 BB%, 1.71 BB/9
    3. Zach McAllister: 5.0 BB%, 2.0 BB/9
    4. Kelvin Herrera: 5.5 BB%, 2.03 BB/9
    5. Shawn Kelley: 5.8 BB%, 2.02 BB/9
    6. Sergio Romo: 6.1 BB%, 2.3 BB/9
    7. Joakim Soria: 6.3 BB%, 2.37 BB/9
    8. Matt Belisle: 6.8 BB%, 2.88 BB/9
    9. Ryan Madson: 6.9 BB%, 2.73 BB/9
    10. Jim Johnson: 7.6 BB%, 2.9 BB/9
    Highest Groundball Rates (FanGraphs leaderboard)
    League average = 43.5 percent
    1. Zach Britton: 73.0 percent
    2. Brad Ziegler: 71.1 percent
    3. Zach Duke: 59.4 percent
    4. John Axford: 53.4 percent
    5. Tony Barnette: 51.2 percent
    6. Peter Moylan and Blaine Boyer: 51.2 percent
    7. Jorge De La Rosa: 50.9 percent
    8. Jim Johnson: 49.2 percent
    9. Jake Diekman: 47.8 percent
    10. Andrew Miller: 47.7 percent
    Least Hard Contact Allowed (FanGraphs leaderboard)
    League average = 34.8 percent
    1. Adam Ottavino: 25.3 percent
    2. Joakim Soria: 25.9 percent
    3. Tony Sipp: 26.3 percent
    4. John Axford: 26.4 percent
    5. Craig Kimbrel: 27.1 percent
    6. Justin Wilson: 28.4 percent
    7. Jeurys Familia: 28.6 percent
    8. Ryan Madson: 28.7 percent
    9. Zach Britton: 28.8 percent
    10. Zach Duke: 29.0 percent
    No surprise, but Kimbrel figures prominently here. After enjoying yet another excellent regular season, during which he racked up 42 saves in 47 chances and posted a 2.74 ERA, the 30-year-old is poised to to sign one of the richest deals in the history of relievers. He’s joined by several other high-end options (Ottavino, Robertson, Familia and Britton, to name only a few) who should garner notable paydays on the open market. For teams that can’t afford the top relievers available, some of the less exciting names above may carry appeal as reclamation projects. Madson, for instance, had a horrid year with respect to run prevention (5.47 ERA in 52 2/3 innings), but he’s coming off a standout season in terms of velo, walks and weak contact. The 38-year-old also brings an impressive track record to the table.

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  • #2
    Sign 3 of these arms - Britton (LHP), Herrera (Setup), and a Kimbrel (Closer) and we got a bullpen!

    Comment


    • yogi8
      yogi8 commented
      Editing a comment
      Agree on Britton, Soria and Ottovino

  • #3
    could just move Syndergaard into the bullpen and make him a closer...less baserunners to worry about that way

    Comment


    • yogi8
      yogi8 commented
      Editing a comment
      Not taking that seriously, 1st inn. 3.77 ERA and 1.16 whip. Biggest negative is a healthy Syndergaard is 34 GS and 200+ IP and a move to the BP would be the first step toward free agency.

      To paraphrase Ralph Kiner; RPs drive Fords and SPs drive Cadillacs, even if RP's today can afford all the options.

  • #4
    2018-19 Market Snapshot: Right-Handed Relievers



    by STEVE ADAMS

    October 22, 2018 at 3:39 PM CDT

    This is the latest installment in our Market Snapshot series. We have now completed our run-down of position players and taken a look at the market for lefty relief help, which brings up the market for right-handed relievers.

    Teams In Need
    Frankly, there isn’t a team in baseball that won’t look at bolstering its relief corps this offseason. A few contending clubs do perhaps stand out more than others, as they’re set to lose high-leverage relievers to free agency. The Red Sox (Craig Kimbrel), Rockies (Adam Ottavino and possibly Seunghwan Oh), Indians (Cody Allen and Andrew Miller) and Athletics (Jeurys Familia) are all facing notable losses.

    The Cubs will lose Jesse Chavez and could be extra-motivated to find help following an injury-shortened season for Brandon Morrow. The Cardinals will bid adieu to Bud Norris and didn’t get the help they expected out of Greg Holland, Luke Gregerson and Dominic Leone last winter. The Twins traded from their bullpen depth and have a largely uncertain mix of arms — especially following some injury troubles for Addison Reed.

    Teams like the Brewers and Yankees have ultra-deep bullpens and may not consider it their top priority, but even those clubs will be exploring the market. Generally speaking, the increased use of relievers, the diminishing willingness to let starters face a lineup for a third time in a game, and the advent of “the opener” strategy (which will expand in 2019) all figure to make the market for relievers as robust as we’ve ever seen.

    Free Agents
    High-leverage arms: Craig Kimbrel has been among baseball’s premier relievers since 2010. If he can rediscover success in the World Series, perhaps reinforcing the idea that pitch-tipping was at fault in his struggles earlier this postseason, he could be in line for an enormous deal. Jeurys Familia will pitch next season at 29 and should command a fair bit of free-agent attention. Few, if any, free-agent relievers elevated their profile more in 2018 than Adam Ottavino. David Robertson will be 34 next season, but his consistency and durability may still put him in line for a three-year pact. Joakim Soria somewhat quietly posted a 75-to-16 K/BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings this season with a sub-3.00 marks in FIP and SIERA.

    Rebound candidates: A year ago, Cody Allen and Greg Holland both looked like they could cash in on hefty multi-year deals upon reaching free agency. Each had a season to forget. Allen lost his closer’s role in Cleveland and struggled to keep his ERA south of 5.00 amid control and home run issues. Holland was released by the Cardinals after flopping as their closer, though he did turn things around in his late run with the Nationals. Brad Brach had similar struggles in Baltimore before enjoying a similar rebound following a trade to the Braves. Bud Norris finished with an identical 3.59 ERA to Brach but had an inverse season, starting strong before wilting down the stretch (for a second straight season). Zach McAllister, who posted a 2.99 ERA from 2015-17, never found his footing in 2018 as he struggled to an alarming 6.21 ERA despite maintained velocity.

    Injury cases: Kelvin Herrera could’ve been viewed as one of the prizes of the market, but he floundered after a trade to the Nationals and ultimately saw his season end with a torn ligament in his foot. His stock is down from when he had a 1.05 ERA and 22-to-2 K/BB ratio upon being traded to the Nats. David Phelps and Trevor Rosenthal will be looking to return to the Majors after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Each was a quality late-inning arm prior to suffering the elbow tear. AJ Ramos hopes to bounce back from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Tony Barnette was terrific when healthy but pitched just 26 1/3 innings due to shoulder troubles of his own. An oblique injury barely allowed Randall Delgado to pitch in 2018, but he was a quality middle reliever in 2017.

    Middle relievers: Veterans Tyler Clippard, Jim Johnson, Shawn Kelley, Sergio Romo and Adam Warren all turned in solid or better results, with Romo willing to experiment in the “opener” role.

    Wildcards: Jesse Chavez came out of nowhere to give the Cubs 39 innings of 1.15 ERA ball with a 42-to-5 K/BB ratio, but his prior track record hasn’t indicated that we should expect a repeat performance. Joe Kelly continued to be one of the game’s hardest-throwing relievers (98.1 mph average heater), but his results didn’t align with his potentially overpowering stuff. Perhaps some team will dream on the upside and give him a sizable payday despite a lack of consistent results.

    Depth: John Axford, Chris Beck, Matt Belisle, Christian Bergman, Blaine Boyer, Santiago Casilla, Jeanmar Gomez, Javy Guerra, Chris Hatcher, Daniel Hudson, Drew Hutchison, George Kontos, Peter Moylan, Fernando Salas, Junichi Tazawa

    Trade Targets
    Controllable arms (three-plus seasons): The rebuilding Orioles control hard-throwing Mychal Givens through 2021, and new front office leadership may not be as attached to him as the prior regime. Nate Jones’ contract has three affordable options, making him a logical piece for the White Sox to market, though he comes with a notable injury history. Marlins righty Drew Steckenrider was in high demand at the non-waiver deadline and is controlled all the way through 2023.

    It’s far from certain that the D-backs would actually listen to offers on Archie Bradley, who has another three years of control remaining, but he’d command quite a haul and there’s been varying levels of speculation about an Arizona rebuild. Likewise, if the Rangers truly wanted to provide a jolt to their farm system, they could make 2018 breakout star Jose Leclerc available. He’s controlled through 2022, though, so even though Texas won’t compete next season, Leclerc could be around by the time things begin to look more favorable. Then again, the volatility of relievers makes it tough to view them as building blocks, and Leclerc’s value might never be higher.

    Shorter-term adds (one to two seasons of control): Kirby Yates has been nails with the Padres, particularly since adopting a splitter prior to 2018, and he’s controlled affordably through 2020 via arbitration. Teammate Craig Stammen is a pure rental but was brilliant for the Friars in 2018 and has just a $2.25MM base salary for 2019. Yoshihisa Hirano proved to be a brilliant signing for the D-backs and is signed through next season at just $3MM. Even if they don’t market longer-term pieces like Bradley, a short-term asset like Hirano would be a logical chip to put out there.

    High-priced arbitration arms: Brad Boxberger is in for a notable bump, projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $4.9MM next season despite middling results as the D-backs’ closer. Elsewhere in the division, Sam Dyson projects at $5.4MM with Giants teammate Hunter Strickland at $2.5MM. Depending on who is hired, new Giants leadership could look to move either righty. Up in Seattle, Alex Colome projects at $7.3MM, making him a pricey setup piece to star closer Edwin Diaz. And in Detroit, Shane Greene projects to take home a $4.8MM salary despite a miserable finish to the 2018 campaign that left his ERA north of 5.00.

    Change-of-scenery candidates: Bryan Shaw (2 years, $19.5MM remaining), Mark Melancon (2/$28MM), Juan Nicasio (1/$9MM), Addison Reed (1/$8.5MM), Anthony Swarzak (1/$8MM), Luke Gregerson (1/$6MM) and Brandon Kintzler (1/$5MM) are among the free-agent signees of the past two offseasons whose contracts haven’t panned out as hoped just yet. Hector Neris is a vastly more affordable option with a $2MM projected salary in arbitration, but the Phillies are reportedly willing to listen to offers on a wide slate of players; Neris, who lost his closing gig midseason and was even optioned to Triple-A for awhile, has seen hi standing in the organization slip a bit.

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    • #5
      2018-19 Market Snapshot: Left-Handed Relievers



      by JEFF TODD

      October 19, 2018 at 8:32 PM CDT

      This is the latest installment in our Market Snapshot series. We have now completed our run-down of position players, so we’ll turn to the pitching staff — beginning with left-handed relievers.

      Teams In Need
      There figures to be plenty of demand for lefty relief help. The Astros, Cubs, Mariners, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox, Rockies, and Yankees each could clearly stand to improve in that area. The Braves, Cardinals, and Nationals have some options but could be intrigued by the possibility of adding a high-quality set-up southpaw. You could perhaps argue the same for the Dodgers, though they have quite a volume of possibilities in house. Numerous clubs other could stand to add additional lefties, including the Angels, Pirates, and Twins, but don’t seem quite as likely to spend big money to do so.

      Free Agents
      High-leverage arms: Zach Britton and Andrew Miller are the big names here, though both have had plenty of injury questions and neither was in top form in 2018. The former is more youthful (30) and still racks up ridiculous numbers of groundballs, though his combination of 7.5 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 hardly inspired and his sinker velo is down. Miller, 33, still gets the K’s (11.9 per nine) but has seen his swinging-strike rate move southward (13.2%) along with his own average fastball speed (93.6).

      Middle relievers: Justin Wilson still can’t find his command, allowing 5.43 walks per nine for the second-straight campaign, but he’s also still hard to square up. Tony Sipp got as many good bounces in 2018 as he did bad bounces in the season prior. All told, he showed quite well but is already 35 years of age. Oliver Perez, who is two years Sipp’s senior, had an even more stunning bounceback campaign that featured a career-high 14.2% swinging-strike rate. Zach Duke, Jake Diekman, and Aaron Loup all underperformed their peripherals and seem likely to draw interest. It was the opposite situation for Jorge De La Rosa, though he still figures to land somewhere after a useful campaign. Speaking of potential converted starters, Jaime Garcia struggled badly in the rotation but produced a 3.54 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .181/.280/.278 batting line in 20 1/3 innings as a reliever. Jerry Blevins had a poor platform season, but he’s a bounceback candidate.
      Depth: Tim Collins, Danny Coulombe, Boone Logan, Tyler Lyons, Tommy Milone, Hector Santiago

      Trade Candidates
      High-leverage arms: If the Giants decide to cash in some assets, Will Smith and Tony Watson look to be highly appealing pieces after both turned in excellent 2018 efforts. The Twins could perhaps consider selling high on Taylor Rogers if there’s an opportunity to get value on this market, though they have good reason to stand pat as well. He has plenty of value to the Rays, but Jose Alvarado could draw big offers after an eye-opening sophomore campaign.

      Middle relievers: Richard Bleier could be a fascinating chip for the O’s, but he’ll first need to recover from a serious lat injury. Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland will draw interest if the Diamondbacks decide to throw in the towel on 2019. Rangers groundball/command artist Alex Claudio could hold some appeal despite a down 2018 showing in the results department. Marlins southpaw Adam Conley showed some spark at times in a relief role.

      A variety of potentially useful pitchers could come available from contenders, either via trade or free agency, if those clubs decide they don’t really want to commit a roster spot and pay them what they’ll likely command in arbitration. Vidal Nuno (Rays), Sam Freeman & Jonny Venters (Braves), Xavier Cedeno & Dan Jennings (Brewers), Sammy Solis (Nationals), Luis Avilan & Adam Morgan (Phillies), and Chris Rusin (Rockies) are all possibilities. It’ll be interesting to see what the Dodgers decide to do with Tony Cingrani, who missed a lot of time and carried a 4.76 ERA but also sported an impressive combination of 14.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. (The smart money is probably on him being tendered and kept in Los Angeles.)

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      • #6
        New Mets GM’s Options to Fix a Problem that Alderson Couldn’t



        by MIKE PUMA

        CARLSBAD, Calif. — Bad bullpen investments have become as much a fabric of this organization in recent years as the team mascot, Mr. Met.

        And yet, Mets officials will arrive Monday for the general managers’ meetings aware that improvement in 2019 will be next to impossible without throwing money at a bullpen that was among the worst in the major leagues last season.

        In a market that includes Craig Kimbrel, Adam Ottavino, Zach Britton, Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Joe Kelly and Jeurys Familia, the Mets expect to be active. The question is, can the new regime headed by general manager Brodie Van Wagenen reverse the organization’s fortunes in this vital area?

        Anthony Swarzak was last offseason’s bullpen bust. The right-hander received a two-year deal worth $14 million from the Mets in December — as other bigger-ticket items were quickly accepting deals — and proceeded to spend half of the season on the disabled list. In 29 appearances, he posted a 6.15 ERA and 1.595 WHIP, leaving a gaping hole in a bullpen that was forced to rely too heavily on former starters Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.

        It continued a trend of free-agent flops during GM Sandy Alderson’s regime that included Fernando Salas, Antonio Bastardo, Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch and D.J. Carrasco. Another veteran in whom the Mets were counting on last season, AJ Ramos — he was tendered a contract for $9.2 million last winter after arriving in a trade with the Marlins the previous summer — underwent surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder in June after pitching ineffectively for two months.

        Alderson’s strength in acquiring bullpen help was largely through in-season trades (see Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard in 2015 and Salas in ’16). But a combination of bad bullpen luck and signings the last two years played a significant factor in the team’s collapse.

        But the Mets also avoided the high end of the relief market during Alderson’s regime: Francisco Rodriguez’s addition before the 2009 season represents the team’s last free-agent splash in the bullpen.

        The 30-year-old Kimbrel, who saved 42 games for the Red Sox last season, is the sexiest of the names available this winter. But will an organization that has acted conservatively on the free-agent front in recent seasons be willing to spend top dollar on a closer? There might not be another pitcher on the market whose addition would signal the Mets are committed to contending for the postseason in 2019.

        The next level includes relievers such as Ottavino, Britton and Miller, all of whom would represent a significant upgrade over the caliber of relievers the Mets pursued during Alderson’s regime.

        Robertson has pitched extensively with the Yankees and could be a fit given his relationship with pitching coach Dave Eiland (he previously worked in The Bronx). Likewise, manager Mickey Callaway has a fondness for Miller from their time with the Indians. (Callaway was Cleveland’s pitching coach before coming to the Mets.)

        Another option would be Familia, who was dealt to Oakland at last season’s trade deadline for a pair of prospects, including reliever Bobby Wahl. From a public relations standpoint, Familia’s return wouldn’t resonate: The right-hander is still all too remembered for his meltdowns in the 2015 World Series and 2016 wild-card game, and a second act in Flushing would signify the Mets trying to keep the band together — a tact that was employed last offseason, when Jay Bruce and Jose Reyes returned on free-agent deals.


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        • #7
          Mets Showing Interest In Andrew Miller, Other Relievers



          by JEFF TODD

          November 7, 2018 at 11:20 AM CDT

          Veteran lefty Andrew Miller is “definitely seeking [a] multiyear commitment” in free agency, Andy Martino of SNY.tv tweets. While some have guessed Miller might seek to reestablish some value with a pillow contract, that doesn’t seem to be his preference. There’s also solid early interest. Martino (here) and Morosi (Twitter link) each tie Miller to the Mets, with Martino also noting that the Yankees also are interested. More broadly, Martino writes that the Mets are looking into the entire free agent market for relief help, including the best (and most expensive) arms available. It is difficult to guess at this point how things will turn out, particularly since the Mets have so many bullpen openings. MLBTR gave its best guess recently, though, predicting the Mets would land a pair of notable relievers. As for Miller, we expect he’ll have strong, multi-year offers to choose from.

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