Here we go again! Time to continue with our journey through Hot Stove season. With the GM meetings happening at the end of this week, you can bet that the dominoes will continue to fall as General Managers around the MLB continue to shape their rosters for the upcoming season. Having already tackled where the top position players and starting pitchers will wind up, we now move onto the top relief pitchers available.
Position: RHP Age: 31
2018 Stats: 62.1 IP • 2.74 ERA • 3.13 xFIP • 0.99 WHIP • 13.86 K/9 • 4.48 BB/9 • 42 SV • 1.5 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Boston Red Sox. Not only are they in a position where they could lose Kimbrel, but their set-up man, Joe Kelly, could also be pitching for a new team come Spring Training. Having to potentially lose both Kimbrel and Kelly, leaves the reigning World Series champions with no clear replacement for the upcoming season. One thought, in favour of allowing Kimbrel to leave via free agency, would be the allure of the draft pick compensation that the Red Sox would receive as they have already qualified Kimbrel.
Who Will Sign Him: Philadelphia Phillies. One of the more prevalent offseason storylines thus far has been that of the Phillies and their willingness to spend a “stupid” amount of money. In Kimbrel, the Phillies get a pitcher who has been one of the best closers in baseball since becoming the Braves everyday closer in 2011. In his eight seasons, Kimbrel has made the All-Star team seven times and garnered votes for the Cy Young five occasions. Over the past three seasons, he’s struck out 42.3% of batters faced, a stat that leads all MLB relievers, as well as featured an average fastball of 97.6 mph; good for third best amongst relievers over that same time. Although they could still find a closer via the trade market – I thought for sure they’d be the favourites to trade for Edwin Diaz – signing the veteran Kimbrel may be the Phillies smartest option as it allows them to use their farm system to fill other holes if need be.
Position: RHP Age: 29
2018 Stats: 72.0 IP • 3.13 ERA • 3.53 xFIP •1.22 WHIP • 10.38 K/9 • 3.50 BB/9 • 18 SV • 1.8 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Minnesota Twins. Despite a down year in 2018 that saw the Twins take a step backwards, and Paul Molitor lose his job, the outlook in Minneapolis heading into 2019 should be a positive one. With the Indians staring down a potential rebuild on the fly, the Twins could take advantage of an incredibly weak division and become a legitimate threat to takeover the Central. Even though they have more than a few holes to fill on their roster, the Twins can’t miss the opportunity that this offseason presents to add an impact arm to close out games. Sure, the duo of Addison Reed and Trevor Hildenberger performed admirably following the trade of Fernando Rodney, but the addition of a bonafide closer would allow both of them to return back to their set-up roles, a role they’re better suited for.
Who Will Sign Him: Atlanta Braves. Although their bullpen is not a major cause for concern – thanks to the duo of Arodys Vizcaino and A.J Minter – the Braves have been rumoured to be looking into some of the “bigger” names available on the free agent market. The addition of one of these “bigger” names would allow the Braves to move the aforementioned duo of Vizcaino and Minter into set-up roles, thus solidifying the back-end of their bullpen. Even though the Braves have been rumoured to have interest in Craig Kimbrel, whom was drafted and developed by them, the 31 year old closer’s price tag may be one that the Braves should avoid. It is not that the Braves can’t afford to sign Kimbrel, it is just that said money may be better used on adding a tier two closer like Familia; as well as another starter and outfielder. Aside from financial ones, another reason for the Braves to consider Familia, who came up with the Mets, are his past successes pitching in the NL East. However, one possible deterrent to signing Familia could be his history of injuries and concerns over his durability.
Position: LHP Age: 33
2018 Stats: 34.0 IP • 4 24 ERA • 3.68 xFIP • 1.38 WHIP • 11.91 K/9 • 4.24 BB/9 • 2 SV • 0.4 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Oakland A’s. Already having Blake Treinen in place as their closer, the Athletics could target a veteran like Miller or Zach Britton, both of whom are coming off “down” years, to become their eighth inning set-up man. The signing could be a win-win for both player and club, as it allows the pitcher to (hopefully) re-establish themself, while the team (hopefully) gets an elite bullpen arm at a potential discount. Miller, being the older of the two names mentioned, may be the better signing for the Athletics because if they do slip in the standings, they could offload Miller to a contender at the deadline – a pure Billy Beane move.
Who Will Sign Him: Boston Red Sox. As mentioned in the profile of Craig Kimbrel, the Red Sox are currently looking at having to either re-sign or replace both their set-up man and their closer. While there is still the possibility of a reunion between the Red Sox and both Kimbrel and Joe Kelly, the addition of Andrew Miller would fill two needs: a left handed reliever and a top tier set-up man. Hypothetically, if the Red Sox do re-sign Kimbrel and Kelly, as well as adding Miller, it would immediately give Boston one of, if not the best, back ends in the game. With strong bullpens being one of the major factors to a teams success for the past decade, the Red Sox would be wise to bolster theirs by adding one of the best left handed relievers available. One other thought in favour of adding Miller: already having one of the better starting rotations in the MLB, the Red Sox could protect leads and “shorten the game” by getting the ball from the starters to their bullpen as quick as possible.
Position: LHP Age: 30
2018 Stats: 40.2 IP • 3.10 ERA • 3.75 xFIP • 1.23 WHIP • 7.52 K/9 • 4.65 BB/9 • 7 SV • 0.1 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Chicago Cubs. Arguably the best relief pitcher in the MLB heading into 2017, Britton saw his career momentarily derailed by separate injuries to both his forearm and achillies tendon. These two injuries led to his 2017 season being effectively written off, and forced him to not make his 2018 debut until mid June; shortly before he was traded to the Yankees. Although he didn’t pitch like his usual dominant self in 2018, Britton’s past successes, 95 mph sinker from the left side, and best GB% amongst relievers, will definitely put him in demand. In fact, his struggles and past injury concerns could see more teams willing to sign him in the hopes that he regains his 2016 form at a discounted rate for their pocketbooks. Although there will be numerous teams interested in his services, you can bet that he will most likely look to sign with a contender. With no clear cut closer in the fold, the Cubs could pursue Britton to be their closer and hope to land him at a bargain price.
Who Will Sign Him: Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have been linked to acquiring the left handed Britton for the past two seasons. Now they can get their man without having to part with any of their MLB players or prospects in order to do so. Even though their current closer, Kenley Jansen, is recovering from heart surgery and, barring any setbacks, he is expected to resume his ninth inning duties. That being said, by signing Britton, not only would the Dodgers have immediately strengthened their bullpen, but they will have also added some insurance at the closers role. This potential signing could be beneficial to both parties as the Dodgers could buy low on a former top closer in baseball, and Britton can look to re-establish himself as a top relief pitcher.
Position: RHP Age: 33
2018 Stats: 77.2 IP • 2.43 ERA • 3.13 xFIP • 0.99 WHIP • 12.98 K/9 • 4.17 BB/9 • 6 SV • 2.0 WAR
Who Should Sign Him: Colorado Rockies. Last season, the Rockies went out and signed free agent relief pitchers, Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis, to strengthen their bullpen. Although the duo were expected to have a bit of a rough time adjusting to pitching in the thin air of Denver, no one could have predicted just how rough those adjustments would be. After a troubling start to the season, Davis managed to straighten his season out and wound up with a career high 43 saves. Shaw, on the other hand, was one of the statistically worst pitchers in the National League. Both, Shaw and Davis, are signed through 2020, and both of them will be looked at to rebound from their 2018 woes in order for the Rockies to return to the postseason for a second consecutive season. Given the issues with their bullpen last season – paired with knowing what they already have in Ottavino – re-signing the RHP should be the Rockies number one goal this offseason. Its not too often you know how a pitcher will pitch at Coors Field and, price tag aside, the Rockies might not find a better replacement.
Who Will Sign Him: Colorado Rockies. As mentioned above, the Rockies have some serious bullpen concerns, and they already know what to expect from Ottavino. Why try and replace a known with an unknown?
Best of the Rest:
Cody Allen • Age: 30 • 2018 WAR: 0.0 • Los Angeles Angels
Kelvin Herrera • Age: 29 • 2018 WAR: 0.4 • Los Angeles Dodgers
Joakim Soria • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.9 • Washington Nationals
Oliver Perez • Age: 37 • 2018 WAR: 1.1 • Houston Astros
Tony Sipp • Age: 35 • 2018 WAR: 0.9 • Minnesota Twins
Zach Duke • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR: 0.9 • Milwaukee Brewers
Brad Brach • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 0.7 • Tampa Bay Rays
Joe Kelly • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: 0.7 • Boston Red Sox
Sergio Romo • Age: 36 • 2018 WAR: 0.5 • Chicago White Sox
Jake Diekman • Age 32 • 2018 WAR: 0.5 • Chicago Cubs
Justin Wilson • Age: 31 • 2018 WAR: 0.5 • Cincinnati Reds
Greg Holland • Age: 33 • 2018 WAR: 0.3 • Kansas City Royals
Part Four – Trade Market Talk – Coming Soon