Trade Deadline Preview: Relief Pitchers
Last time around, the focus was on starting pitching. This time the focus is on everything bullpen related. With the Trade Deadline quickly approaching this coming Monday, teams are deep in conversations regarding a number of players at the moment.
As is the case with every Trade Deadline, a large number of relievers end up finding new homes. This year should be no exception as every contending team looks to beef up their relief corp as much as possible. After all, as the past few postseasons have shown, a team can never have enough pitching depth especially at the back end.
The Kansas City Royals really started that trend in 2015 when they went onto win the World Series. Since then, bullpens have have played a large role in how successful a team is once October rolls around.
With that being said, here are the biggest relievers to watch leading up to next Monday’s Trade Deadline.
1. Mychal Givens (Baltimore Orioles)
The Baltimore Orioles might be a team on the periphery of a postseason berth this year. However, if they are smart and are going to do the right thing for the organization moving forward, then moving Mychal Givens should be a priority. At the conclusion of play Tuesday, the 30-year old left-hander had a 0.77 ERA over 11 and two-thirds innings of work. In that span, he has held opposing batters to a .154 batting average with 16 strikeouts. Against right-handed batters alone, Givens has allowed zero runs with 13 strikeouts. For any contending team, Givens is going to be high-up on their list, but will come at a cost as he is under control through next season.
2. Tony Watson (San Francisco Giants)
Tony Watson is another left-handed reliever that will be available on the Trade Market. Watson has been extremely valuable for the San Francisco Giants so far this year. Heading into play Tuesday, Watson has a 0.93 ERA over 11 appearances with a 0.724 WHIP. Over the last seven games alone, he has posted a 0.00 ERA with five strikeouts. Watson will be a free agent at the end of the year so he is going to be purely a rental reliever, but that shouldn’t drive any contending team away. He has the ability to pitch in a multitude of different situations and has postseason experience as well.
3. Trevor Rosenthal/Greg Holland (Kansas City Royals)
After signing right-hander Trevor Rosenthal to a one-year, minor league deal, the Kansas City Royals are really seeing their dividends pay off in a big way. After struggling to the tune of a 13.50 ERA in 2019 as a member of the Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers, Rosenthal has really found his craft again and is thriving. At the end of play Tuesday, the 30-year old right-hander had a 1.54 ERA over 11 and two-thirds innings of work. Furthermore, over that span he has an 12.34 K/9 rate. For a contending team that doesn’t feel comfortable with their eighth or ninth inning options, Rosenthal is a tremendous acquisition.
Another very effective member of the Royals bullpen this season has been Greg Holland. Holland has held opposing hitters to a .259 batting average this year, but does have a 3.60 ERA which would be his lowest ERA since the 2017 season when he was a member of the Colorado Rockies. Overall, he is averaging right around 3.6 pitches per plate appearance as well. Like Rosenthal, Holland would also be a rental as he is only signed to a minor league contract for this season.
4. Daniel Norris (Detroit Tigers)
Left-hander Daniel Norris of the Detroit Tigers has become more of a hybrid type of pitcher this season. After starting 29 games for Detroit last year, Norris has made one start for the team so far this year. With the young pitching depth coming up through the organization in left-hander Tarik Skubal and right-hander Casey Mize, the Tigers would probably move him for the right return. That’s especially true considering that Norris currently has the best ERA of his seven-year big league career – 2.77 over 13 innings. Additionally, Norris is holding opposing batters to a .200 batting average. Norris is under contract through the end of next season.
5. Hansel Robles (Los Angeles Angels)
The Los Angeles Angels have vastly underachieved this season. In fact, at the close of play Tuesday, the Angels have a 10-22 record. Therefore, they are going to be clear sellers over the next five days leading up to the deadline. One name to watch on the pitching staff besides Dylan Bundy is 30-year old right-hander Hansel Robles. Robles is off to a terrible start this season as he currently has a 10.64 ERA over 12 appearances. However, it was only a year ago that he finished with a career best 2.48 ERA over 72 and two-thirds innings. Considering that he is under control through the end of next season, Robles could be very attractive for a number of contenders.
6. David Phelps (Milwaukee Brewers)
David Phelps is yet another name to watch on the trade market. So far, the Milwaukee Brewers have fallen short of expectations with a 13-15 record. As such, the Brewers could look to sell off a few pieces with Phelps being part of that group. He is under control for this season and has a $4.5 million dollar team option or $250,000 dollar buyout for next season. Phelps has pitched in the big leagues for eight seasons now and so far has the lowest ERA (2.25) of his career. Furthermore, he has held left-handed hitters to a .111 batting average with 13 strikeouts. Phelps might not be the biggest name out there, but he’s an impactful one at that.
In the end, there will be a number of notable relievers that are on the move leading up to Monday. In fact, it would not be a surprise to see some teams get creative and potentially deal one good reliever for another such as the Nick Anderson–Ryne Stanek trade between the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins last July. Teams understand the value of relief pitching and how much that value and depth matters once October comes around.
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