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2019 Season FA relievers at the half way point




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This is my second installment tracking all of the FA relievers. This was a personal nit to pick with the front office given the team's need and the plethora of available options. At the quarter pole though, the results were not as good as I'd have liked personally. At this point, the sample sizes are large enough that we should be able to get a feel for who was worth it, or if FA relievers really are just a crap shoot.



The cream of the Crop:


Kelvin Herrera - Herrera signed a 2/17 deal with Chicago and has so far been a complete bust, posting an ERA north of 7 out of the pen in 35 appearances so far this season. His K rate has been acceptable, but his BB rate has risen along with his WHIP which sits close to 1.2. His HR rate has also skyrocketed sitting at around 1.5 per 9 innings.


Andrew Miller - Miller has turned it around a bit since the quarter pole, but even now it's hard to say his 2/25 deal with an additional option is what the Cards hoped it would be. His numbers are currently sitting around his career average as opposed to the 2014-2017 version that we had all hoped he'd do. I cannot really call this a bust anymore, but I'm not sure he'd be a name highly talked of if he was pitching here. To put it in perspective, his ERA sits right around where the much maligned Blake Parker sits. Granted, his peripherals are much better which tells me he may continue to positively regress.


Adam Ottavino - I hate the Yankees. He's been a stud. His walk rate seems to be the only negative. He's striking out 12+ per 9 innings and walking 6+... That said, his WHIP is a healthy 1.3 as batters cannot make contact with him.


Craig Kimbrel - This was a name we all watched closely. He's only managed 3 appearances for the Cubs since signing, so it's a bit too early to track this one. He has been shelled so far... but then again, it's 3 appearances.


Jeurys Familia - Familia thus far hasn't rewarded the 3/30 contract he signed. His K rate is in line with his career norms, but he's walking more, giving up more hits, and giving up more home runs. His peripherals are pretty ugly right now and he sports a sparking 7.76 ERA in 31 appearances.


Zach Britton - Britton signed a 3/39 deal with the Yankees and has pitched reasonably well, though I'm not sure why. His K rate is pretty bad for a reliver and below his 7.34 career average. His walk rate is up as well. He's managed to lower his H/9 rate as well as keep the ball in the park. If he was pitching for MN, I think most of us would be on pins and needles, but he's gotten results thus far in his 37 innings of work.


Joe Kelly - Kelly signed a 3/25 deal with the LAD and has improved substantially on his results this quarter. Despite that, he hasn't been that good. His K rate remains good, but he's still allowed more walks, hits, and home runs over his career average. And I'd add that his career marks aren't very good for a RP. LA has him for another two years.


David Robertson - Robertson signed a 2/23 deal with Philly and has been a bust so far. He's pitched in only 7 innings and has been shelled. He's currently on the shelf with elbow soreness where he has been all season.


In all, there has been only one real hit here in Ottavino. Miller is making a case for being added to this list as he's improved substantially over his numbers earlier this season. Britton has gotten results as well, but he appears to be on borrowed time.


The Second Tier:


Justin Wilson - Wilson was a cheap grab for the Mets, signing a 2/10 deal. It appears that he spent most of the second half of the quarter on the DL, as he's only logged 10.2 innings of work with a 4.22 ERA. He's got time to redeem himself, but this deal hasn't gone well.


Joakim Soria - Soria signed a 2/15 deal with Oakland, and has improved a bit on his numbers at the quarter turn. His ERA has dropped and his peripherals all look pretty good. Oakland has worked him hard as he's got 41.2 innings under his belt already this season. I'd say at this point that the signing has been good. I'm not sure the cause of the bloated ERA, but if I was guessing it would be the occasional big game as his peripherals say he's been pretty good.


Cody Allen - Allen signed a 1 year deal with the Angels and so far has not lived up to his 8.5M salary. His HR and BB rates have skyrocketed though he still maintains a sexy K rate. His 5.54 ERA is something we can all live without. He's now in our minor league system. I'd say this is a good deal for the Twins getting him at the minimum if they can fix him, not so much for the Angels who will pay the rest of the 8M owed. Time will tell if we can do something, but this was no risk to us. He was a bust though for the Angels.


Jesse Chavez - Chavez signed a 2/8 deal with Texas, and is trying to reinvent himself as a reliever. At the quarter pole, the results weren't all that good, but they've moved into respectable territory at the half way mark. I'd say at this point, this is a good signing, especially for the price. Chavez could replace a few arms in our pen, but we'd be happy to upgrade him. His K rate is below average for a good reliever, but he does minimize walks and hits.


Trevor Rosenthal - Rosenthal has under performed his 1/7 deal and has been a complete disaster managing only 6 innings of very ugly baseball in the majors.


There are only 5 names in this tier, and it has improved a bit as the season wore on. At the quarter pole, there

wasn't a name on this tier that we'd be clamoring for. Now, Chavez and Soria both fall into a range of acceptable. That's not really high praise, but they appear to be trending in the right direction and could be reliable going forward.


Cheap Fliers:


Brad Brach - At the quarter pole, he wasn't that bad. At the half way mark, he's been horrible. The K rate is nice, but he's walking guys like crazy as well and still gives up hits. His ERA sits over 6 in 35 innings of work, and I'm sure he's part of the reason the Cubs went out and got Kimbrel.


Zach Duke - yes, that Zach Duke. He signed a 2M deal with the Reds and has been so bad that they've only given him an additional 5 innings since the last time I wrote this piece. He's been injured for parts of it and largely ineffective when healthy.


Cory Gearrin - the Mariners have, thus far, gotten a bargin with Gearrin for the 1.4M value of his contract. He has regressed a bit since the quarter pole but has notched over 30 innings of OK work. He really needs to cut down on his walk rate a bit. This isn't a bad value signing, but he doesn't have a place on a contending team. He's been worse than Parker to put that in perspective.


Greg Holland - Holland has regressed a bit from the quarter pole, and his numbers currently sit in line with his more recent 2015-2017 marks. He still doesn't look like the Holland of old, but for 3.25M, he's been cheap and effective. This is definitely still a win for AZ, and he'll likely be flipped for a lotto ticket by teams looking to replace busts on this list, but he's not pitching like a late pen option either.


Shawn Kelley - Another nice find for the bargain price of 2.75M. Kelley has only pitched 32 innings at this point and would be a decent option in our pen. He's not elite, but he's gotten results to the tune of a 3.09 ERA. His biggest draw back has been the long ball. He'd be an upgrade over several members in our pen currently.


Aaron Loup - The Padres got him for 1.4M and he's been perfect so far this season. The only real problem is that it's a 4 inning sample as he hit the IL in early April with elbow soreness.... and he's still there. I have to call this a bust at this point.


Blake Parker - At the time of signing, I simply noted that I didn't mind it if this was not the main RP piece we've added. Sadly, it was, and it wasn't even the best move. I'm not tracking Ryne Harper here as he was signed to a minor league deal, but he's out performed Parker. Parker, on the other hand, has out performed most of the people I'm tracking. This is technically a win for the front office, but literally everyone here wants him upgraded. Parker's biggest problem has been home runs, though his peripherals are all well below what they were when he was a successful MLB reliever. I think he might be adequate if kept in lower leverage situations/mop up duty, but relying on him with any kind of consistency in high leverage situations would be a mistake.


Oliver Perez - Perez signed a 2.5M deal with Cleveland. He has only pitched in 24 innings thus far. A quick search didn't find any injuries, but Cleveland is clearly not heavily using him. He's been acceptable for them with some pretty good peripherals backing an ERA of 3. His HR rate is a bit higher than one would like. This again is a great value signing and would be better than just a mop up guy.


David Phelps - The Blue Jays signed him in hopes that he recovers from TJS at some point this year and pitches. He went under the knife last spring. Not a bad risk for 2.5M. He hadn't pitched at the quarter pole but now has 9.2 innings notched. This may end up being a good signing, time will tell. He hasn't pitched well enough to warrant someone giving up much in terms of prospects for him. Perhaps that changes in the next couple of weeks given the SSS issues at play here.


Tony Sipp - Sipp signed for 1.25 for the Nats and has not been good. He's improved a bit on his quarter pole results, but he's pitched in only 16 innings thus far.


Hunter Strickland - Strickland signed a 1.3M deal and has pitched all of 2 innings, and poorly only to hit the IL with an injury. He appears to be starting rehab at this point. Not a bad gamble, but a bust.


Adam Warren - Warren has been a bust in 28.2 bad innings for SD. He's gotten worse as the season went on and is costing 2.5M. I doubt he fetches much value at the deadline.


Summarizing the fliers, there were some good finds here. No one in this group falls into a late inning option, but several would be perfectly acceptable in the next tier. I count 5 guys that are successful and that would be desired by a number of teams if they were available. None of those guys, however, would be that elite help they needed, but would be acceptable tier 2 BP options. There are 5 busts here and one guy in the too soon to tell.


In all, my conclusion hasn't changed much. FA relievers haven't been an option. Only Ottavino has lived up to his status at the top, though through the half way point there are a number of names that would fit nicely into the tier 2 mark. Statistically speaking, the fliers have performed the best so far... and that's not high praise. The front office might have been right in not plunking down good money for help here. The problem is that they will now shell out some decent prospects for help here.



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It seems that league-wide, teams have done a good job of figuring out who to let go to free agency.


Relief pitchers are so flash in the pan.  The next CBA should have some sort of mid-season "draft," where every team is allotted a bonus pool, and any pitcher signed on one of those minor league deals gets a chance to be in it.  Reshuffle the deck, so to speak, while getting these guys a little bit of extra money that they deserve.


I have to think that the top priority of any scouting department right now has to be identifying the next relief pitching breakout guys.

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I just wanted to say this is a real good post. Jeurys Famillia, Kelvin Herrera, and Soria were the ones I was most interested in signing if I remember correctly. Not including Ottavio because we new we had no chance there. I wasn't too concerned with the pen cause I thought Romero, Mejia, Hildenburger and that FA pitcher we released that cost 8.5 million would be good.

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