The trade deadline is two weeks and a day away, and the Rockies still haven’t yet dipped their toe into the waters yet. The team has a lot of needs, but the easiest of those needs to fill is in the bullpen. While there are exceptions, relievers outside of closers don’t cost as much as their starter counterparts or every day players. That, and each team employs a literal committee of relievers, so there are a lot out there to be had.
The Rockies are set at the back end of their bullpen with Greg Holland, but Cleveland showed last year that the presence of one closer doesn’t mean a team can’t go out and get another one. Jake McGee has been solid as a set-up man, and Chris Rusin has been great in the “go get as many outs as we need you to” role. But the Rockies can’t just assume that Adam Ottavino will return to dominant form, and the Scott Obergs of the universe are why words like “fickle” are so often applied to relievers.
Here’s a look at some of the relievers who are likely available and could help the Rockies in their push to the postseason.
★ ★ ★
These are top-notch arms with team control. As such, they are also the relievers who would probably cost the most.
Pros: Struck out 36.5 percent of the batters he’s faced and 13.2 per nine innings—that’s shutdown reliever material. Signed through 2018, so not a rental.
Cons: His velocity is down a tick for the second consecutive season, and the chances of it even remaining static are just about zero. Will make $13 million in 2018, so not a rental.
Pros: Has a groundball rate over 70 percent since he moved to the bullpen full time. Had earnest articles written about him being the 2016 AL MVP. Signed through 2018, so not a rental.
Cons: Doesn’t strike a lot of batters out. Arbitration eligible prior to 2018, so could cost more than Robertson.
Pros: Mid-90s fastball and whiff-inducing slider. Signed through 2020, so most definitely not a rental.
Cons: Will cost a boatload in prospects and money due to multiple years of control and the ability to opt in to arbitration after he accrues three years of service time, probably after next season.
Pros: Could be left-handed closer option. Has a 32 percent strikeout rate that equals that of Raisel Iglesias. Twenty-seven years old and controlled through 2019.
Cons: The price will be high.
These are guys who would help the Rockies this season, and possibly after, and could probably be acquired without giving up too much.
Pros: Extensive repertoire for a reliever—throws a slider, four-seamer, and changeup a lot and a sinker, cutter, and changeup a little. Strikes a lot of dudes out. Arbitration eligible in 2018 before free agency.
Cons: Walks a lot of dudes—12.6 percent in 2016 and 12.8 percent this year.
Pros: In third consecutive season with an ERA below 3.00 as well as third consecutive season of lowered walk rate. Arbitration eligible in 2018 before free agency.
Cons: Most relievers are only good for about three years.
Pros: Outstanding strikeout rate until this year. Currently making the league minimum and can be non-tendered before committing additional resources.
Cons: Outstanding strikeout rate until this year. Walks a lot of batters—14.4 percent. Could cost a decent prospect just to be non-tendered.
Pros: Does not walk dudes (3.8 percent this season) and strikes out enough of them (27.3 percent this season). Free agent after 2017, so minimal prospect cost.
Cons: Won’t be as good as his shiny 1.27 ERA if his HR/FB ratio, which is currently 5.1 percent, normalizes.
Pros: Has that sweet combination of striking a lot of batters out and not walking them; fifth in baseball with an 8.6 strikeout to walk ratio.
Cons: Is currently a closer and will could command a high price, even though he’ll be a free agent at the end of the season.
Pros: Lefty arm turned closer with pretty good strikeout and walk rates. Arbitration eligible for 2018 before free agency.
Cons: Currently boasts one of the highest fly ball rates in baseball among relief pitchers, 48 percent.
Pros: Couples a high groundball rate (55%) while also striking out about a batter an inning and has only walked 4.3 percent of batters faced.
Cons: Is due a Jason Motte-like salary ($7.7 million) as a 37-year-old in 2018 with a possibility of Jason Motte-like results to go with it.
Pros: A 15.5 K/BB ratio. Signed for $4.3 million in 2018 with team-friendly team options for 2019 and 2020.
Cons: Low groundball rate and susceptible to giving up dingers.
Pros: Aesthetically pleasing sidearm delivery effective at getting strikeouts and groundballs.
Cons: See Madson above, except through 2019 at a higher price. Also, walks a lot of batters.
Pros: Still in the honeymoon phase of that starter-turned-reliever process wherein secondary pitches—in this case the cutter and curve—are effective with increased use. Arbitration eligible prior to 2018 and then free agency.
Cons: Has been homer-prone in 2017. Name is David Phelps.
Pros: 8.14 strikeout to walk ratio. Arbitration eligible before 2018 season and controlled through 2020. Could be who we wanted him to be when he was with the Rockies.
Cons: Could be who he was when he was with the Rockies.
Pros: That 32 percent strikeout rate from the left side.
Cons: That 12.3 percent walk rate from the mound side.
What’s the point?
These are relievers who are definitely available but probably not any better than players the Rockies already employ.
Pros: Has been hurt by an extremely low strand rate (60.1%) despite extremely high groundball rate (64.6%).
Cons: The smallest distance between strikeout percentage (12.3%) and walk percentage (9.4%) on this list; will make $9 million in 2018 anyhow.
Pros: Can probably be had for a C-leve prospect. Rental.
Cons: Gives up fewer home runs than Jordan Lyles but is otherwise not that different.
Pros: Excellent groundball rate and not terrible 19 percent strikeout rate. Rental.
Cons: A not good 9.5 percent walk rate.
Pros: Still a reliable late-inning reliever even at his age. Signed through 2018.
Cons: See Madson above—will be 38 in 2018 and due $6 million. Used to play for the Giants.
Pros: Struck out a batter an inning in 2017 without allowing a single home run.
Cons: 0 percent home run rate in 402⁄3 innings probably unsustainable.
★ ★ ★
The first thing that sticks out here is just how indistinguishable so many relievers are. There’s not a dramatic difference between Justin Wilson and Jerry Blevins. Nevertheless, some players here emerge as pretty attractive targets.
Addison Reed, Pat Neshek, and Tommy Kahnle are perhaps the most desirable targets for me becuase they combine strikeouts with good command. Walks will haunt, they say, and those three don’t hand out a lot of free passes. Kahnle has had trouble with walks every season of his career until this one, as Rockies fans know well, so that might be reason for pause. Reed and Neshek are both free agents after this season, so there’s no long-term commitment, and the prospect cost could also be mitigated because of it. If the Rockies are going to pursue relief help, I’d want one of Reed or Neshek.
But that’s just me. Which of these relievers would you most want? Is someone not listed here who should be?