It’s a top-heavy market for left-handed relief help this summer, though there are still a few names of interest beyond the top available relievers. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Buchter are the biggest names to change hands thus far, though fellow lefties Tyler Webb and Travis Wood have also changed teams. Here’s a look at the rest of the market…
Tony Watson, Pirates | Salary: $5.6MM ($2.05MM remaining through season’s end)
The Pirates have worked their way back into contention, but they showed last year that they’re willing to move rental assets even when in striking distance of a postseason berth by trading Mark Melancon to the Nationals. Watson doesn’t have the same value that Melancon carried, but the Bucs won’t consider making him a qualifying offer, so the alternative is to lose him for nothing at season’s end. Unlike last season, Pittsburgh has a shot at the division and not just a Wild Card spot, so perhaps they’ll be less willing to move a contributing asset this time around. Watson has a 3.63 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a 43.8 percent ground-ball rate, though he’s been hit harder than those numbers might indicate (4.78 FIP, 4.62 xFIP).
Clayton Richard, Padres | $1.75MM ($641K remaining)
Richard got off to a solid start to the year in the Padres’ rotation but has been rocked since mid-June. He’s nonetheless an affordable arm with a recent track record of some bullpen success (2015 Cubs). Richard has struggled against lefties and righties alike, but the asking price here shouldn’t be prohibitive for any team looking to speculate.
Francisco Liriano, Blue Jays | $13MM ($4.76MM remaining)
Like Richard, Liriano has spent the season as a starter. He’s struggled all year, though, and while he doesn’t have considerable bullpen experience, he’s held left-handed opponents to a dreary .241/.267/.379 batting line with a 16-to-1 K/BB ratio and a 52.5 percent ground-ball rate. He may draw interest as a rotation option, but speculatively speaking, Liriano is an intriguing option as a situational lefty.
Controlled Through 2018
Justin Wilson, Tigers | $2.7MM salary in 2017, arbitration-eligible for 2018
One of the most desirable trade commodities in all of baseball, Wilson has turned in 39 1/3 frames with 12.6 K/9 against 3.7 BB/9 with a 36.1 percent grounder rate en route to a 2.75 ERA. His modest salary and success against both lefties and righties gives Wilson widespread appeal and makes him one of the likeliest players to be traded between now and Monday’s non-waiver deadline. The Tigers have reportedly discussed packaging him with larger contracts, though a standalone trade of Wilson would likely net them the best possible return.
Zach Britton, Orioles | $11.4MM in 2017, arbitration-eligible for 2018
Britton brings plenty of name value and one of the game’s most impressive track records to the table. However, he’s earning $11.4MM this year and has missed most of the season with a forearm injury. He’s also been somewhat unimpressive when healthy (3.50 ERA, 7.0 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, albeit with a typically brilliant 69.5 percent ground-ball rate). The O’s are said to be reluctant to move him anyhow, and given his 2017 health issues and results, it’s tough to see a team parting with elite prospects to land him.
Jerry Blevins, Mets | $5.5MM in 2017, $7MM club option for 2018 (with a $1MM buyout)
There hasn’t been much indication that the Mets plan to move Blevins, who has 44 strikeouts and 16 walks (two intentional) in 31 1/3 innings. The Mets seem intent on competing in 2018, and they hold an affordable option over Blevins, who has been excellent for them.
Aaron Loup, Blue Jays | $1.125MM in 2017, arbitration-eligible for 2018
The 29-year-old Loup hasn’t been all that tough on lefties since 2014 and has a 5.09 ERA with 9.2 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9 with a 55.8 percent ground-ball rate this season. He’s affordable, but his lack of results dating back to 2015 don’t exactly make him an appealing candidate. The Jays surely wouldn’t mind moving him, however, and Loup does miss bats and rack up grounders.
Extended Control Rights
Brad Hand, Padres | $1.4MM in 2017, arbitration-eligible through 2019
As is the case with Wilson, Hand is one of the most highly sought after assets in the game. He’s been lights-out since the Padres claimed him off waivers early last season, working to a combined 2.63 ERA with 11.4 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and a 47 percent ground-ball rate through 140 1/3 innings out of the San Diego bullpen. Because he’s earning just $1.4MM this season and is controlled for another two years beyond the current campaign, Hand figures to come with one of the highest asking prices of any reliever on the market. The Friars could still wait to move him until the offseason if they don’t find an offer to their liking, as chairman Ron Fowler indicated earlier today, but it’s also natural for the team to suggest a willingness to wait until the offseason when marketing a controllable asset at the deadline.
Dan Jennings, White Sox | $1.4MM in 2017, arbitration-eligible through 2019
A hefty ground-ball rate has helped Jennings to turn in solid results over the past three seasons despite pedestrian K/BB numbers. Since joining the ChiSox in 2015, Jennings has a 3.12 ERA with 7.3 K/9, 4.0 BB/9 and a 59.1 percent ground-ball rate. He’s flat-out dominated left-handed hitters this season, holding them to a putrid .164/.286/.211 batting line. GM Rick Hahn is willing to listen on just about anyone, and Jennings should be no exception.
There’s no definitive word that the Cards will be open to moving either of this pairing, though newly minted president of baseball ops John Mozeliak has gone on record to suggest that he’s not afraid to make changes after his team hasn’t performed up to expectations. Both lefties are throwing reasonably well and are under 30 (Lyons is 29, Siegrist 28). Siegrist has been roughed up by lefties this season and has seen his control regress (4.8 BB/9) after making improvements in 2016. Lyons has been solid against lefties and righties alike in a smaller sample of innings and is currently sporting a career-high 10.1 K/9. The Cards also have Zach Duke and Brett Cecil in their ’pen, but Duke is only just returning from Tommy John surgery while Cecil is just a few months into a massive four-year contract that no team is likely willing to absorb.
Tony Cingrani, Reds | $1.825MM in 2017, arbitration-eligible through 2019
Cingrani has a history of missing bats (career 9.2 K/9) but also has long displayed questionable control (4.5 BB/9). Durability is a concern with Cingrani, too, as he spent more than a month on the DL with an oblique strain this season and has three other MLB DL stints plus a pair of minor league DL stints in recent years. He’s also given up seven runs in his past four outings, ballooning his ERA from 2.55 to 4.98 in the process, and has surrendered a troubling five homers to lefties in 2017.
Josh Edgin, Mets | $675K in 2017, arbitration-eligible through 2019
The 30-year-old Edgin’s velocity and strikeout rate have yet to return to their pre-Tommy-John levels after the southpaw’s 2015 operation. Edgin’s 27-to-18 K/BB ratio doesn’t inspire much confidence, and he’s been hit fairly hard by both righties and lefties. Edgin did show promise in a three-year stretch with the Mets from 2012-14, but that was a long time ago now.
Sam Freeman, Braves | Pre-arbitration in 2017, arbitration-eligible through 2020
The 30-year-old Freeman doesn’t have much of a track record, but he’s whiffed 36 batters in 34 1/3 innings this season while posting a gaudy 60 percent ground-ball rate. He’s averaging nearly 95 mph on his heater as well. Lefties are hitting just .211/.286/.281 against him this year, and his 3.93 ERA is solid, if unspectacular. As for the bad news, Freeman has averaged 4.8 BB/9 this season and 5.1 BB/9 in his career. The Braves would no doubt move Ian Krol as well, but Krol has struggled more than any reliever on this list.