As I work to complete the latest installation in our top 50 trade deadline candidate series, it occurred to me just how many really good pen lefties could be available this summer. There aren’t many clubs that couldn’t stand to add a power southpaw to the back of the bullpen, so there ought to be significant demand. But might the presence of so many options also help tamp down prices a bit?
As we learned last year, teams will pay a premium at the deadline for truly premium relief arms. But it’s a more debatable group this time around, with Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller locked in with their current organizations.
So, who is the best lefty relief trade target out there? We’ll limit the options to teams that are clearly in a selling position at this point. (That means no Zach Britton; though he’s back from the DL today, his availability seems quite speculative.) Here are my nominees (in alphabetical order):
- Jerry Blevins, Mets ($5.5MM salary with $7MM club option): The walks to righties have piled up, but Blevins is drawing loads of swings and misses (a career-high 13.3%) and he’s death to lefties.
- Ryan Buchter, Padres (league minimum salary; four arb years remaining): Since joining the Friars, Buchter has a 2.96 ERA with 11.1 K/9. Sure, he’s allowed 4.4 BB/9 in that span and has allowed a few dingers this year — plus, he’s already 30 — but he has also made strides in his whiff rate (now 11.7%) since his breakout 2016.
- Tony Cingrani, Reds ($1.825MM salary; two arb years remaining): Now that he’s back from an oblique strain, it’s time to take notice. Cingrani owns a 2.30 ERA with 15 strikeouts and three walks over his 15 2/3 frames on the year. He’s pumping 95 and generating a 12.6% swinging-strike rate, and whilehehas been dinger-prone that may be an aberration. Several other names on this list have boosted their trade value after taking some time to figure it out; perhaps the 28-year-old offers a similar opportunity.
- Sean Doolittle, Athletics ($2.6MM salary; three option years remaining): Shoulder issues continue to dog Doolittle, but the 30-year-old is borderline ridiculous when healthy. This year, he has compiled 23 strikeouts against just two walks in his 16 1/3 innings. And the highly advantageous contract also helps offset the injury questions.
- Brad Hand, Padres ($1.375MM salary; two arb years remaining): Hand has only continued to bloom in San Diego. In a hefty 44 2/3 innings this year, he has produce 2.42 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 along with a 50.5% groundball rate.
- Tony Watson, Pirates ($5.6MM salary): The 32-year-old hasn’t been himself this year, but he’s a rental player who comes with a very impressive prior track record. While his velocity has trailed off somewhat over the years, he’s still throwing a 93.5 mph heater and getting as many swings and misses as ever. If teams believe his spike in BABIP and home runs will reverse, Watson could be seen as a prime buy-low candidate.
- Justin Wilson, Tigers ($2.7MM salary; one arb year remaining): He’s hitting his stride at an opportune time for Detroit. Over 31 2/3 innings this year, Wilson caries a 2.56 ERA with 13.4 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9. He’s bringing 96-97 mph heat and sporting a career-high 14.5% swinging-strike rate.
Who’s your preferred trade target? (Mobile link.)