Teams are perpetually searching for effective left-handed relievers, so here are five southpaws who could become useful pieces at a bargain price next year. Some of the pitchers below are inching closer to 40, but Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver proved this year that there's no age limit for lefty specialists. The list focuses on pitchers who will likely sign for a couple million dollars at most, so I haven't included Hisanori Takahashi, Scott Downs and others:
- Randy Choate - The 35-year-old hits the open market as your prototypical 'left-handed one out guy.' He made 85 appearances in 2010, but logged just 44.3 innings. His numbers are strong (8.1 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 4.23 ERA) and suggest he could play anywhere, but teams that play in homer-friendly parks such as the D'Backs, Rockies and Brewers may take note of Choate's ability to keep the ball on the ground. His 60% ground ball rate ranked 15th among big league relievers with at least 20 innings.
- Will Ohman - Ohman, 33, recovered from a poor 2009 season and posted a 3.21 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 between the O's and Marlins. He's going to walk hitters, but he can still get lefties out.
- Ron Mahay - Mahay turns 40 in June, but that didn't stop him from posting a 3.44 ERA this year and striking out three times as many batters as he walked. He's not in position to demand a multi-year deal, but he could help someone's bullpen in 2011.
- Taylor Tankersley - The 27-year-old is the least predictable of the options listed, but possibly the most intriguing. Tankersley, a former first rounder, has struck out nearly a batter per inning in his big league career and has held lefties to a .223/.313/.372 line. There are drawbacks - he missed the 2009 season with a stress fracture in his pitching elbow and has trouble against righties - but Tankersley would be a good fit for the Pirates, Mets or Mariners at the right price. Why those clubs? As a fly ball pitcher, he probably fits best in a park that limits home runs and as an unproven pitcher, he fits best on a non-contender. That makes Pittsburgh, New York and Seattle potential fits.
- Brian Tallet - Unlike the pitchers above, Tallet won't necessarily hit the free agent market, but the 33-year-old is a non-tender candidate so he may be available by early December. Tallet, another fly ball pitcher, limited lefties to a stellar .176/.228/.343 line this year with a 28/6 K/BB ratio.
Dennys Reyes' 2010 numbers look OK, but don't let that 3.55 ERA fool you. Reyes posted a 0.54 ERA through May and a 5.91 ERA afterwards. He can induce grounders, but he walks more than one batter per two innings pitched.