With Adam Ottavino leaving the board today, only one of the top nine relievers on MLBTR’s top 50 free agent list — the top member of that group, of course — remains unsigned. That seems to set the stage for the next tier of the relief market to kick into action. Cody Allen, Bud Norris, and Brad Brach all earned placements on our ranking but remain unsigned. Other still-unsigned veteran pen arms warranted honorable mention status: Justin Wilson, Ryan Madson, Oliver Perez, Adam Warren, and Tony Sipp. I recently broke down those and other names that are still available.
Here’s the latest on the relief market:
- The Red Sox are continuing to tamp down expectations of a move to add a closer. As Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com writes, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski referred to free agent closer Craig Kimbrel’s Boston tenure in the past tense in comments today. He also suggested the team feels comfortable with its existing options to handle the ninth inning, naming Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Tyler Thornburg, and Steven Wright as possibilities. Needless to say, that’s an interesting foursome for the defending World Series champs to propose as a slate of Kimbrel successor candidates. If there’s still a chance of a reunion with the all-time great reliever, Dombrowski didn’t hint at it. “Sometimes, you have to evaluate where you’re going to spend your dollars,” he said. “We decided to keep back the rest of the core of the club. We like our team a great deal and we think some of the guys internally can do the job. Can we get better? Perhaps. But we’ll see what takes place.”
- With no future commitments to speak of and a path to contention, the Twins seem to be a team to watch on the market. If nothing else, the club figures to bolster its pitching staff. The aforementioned Brad Brach is among the possible targets, according to LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). The Minnesota front office has certainly shown an inclination to limit its risks in free agency, and it stands to reason that Brach will be available for a lesser and shorter commitment than many of the hurlers that have gone off the board already. The 32-year-old had something of a messy 2018 season after a string of productive campaigns, which could make him a nice value proposition.
- Veteran reliever John Axford is making no secret of his desire to return to the Blue Jays for the coming season, as Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca writes. With his family rooted in Toronto, the Canadian hurler says it’s where he’d like to be. Axford’s pitch is that he’d be a good mentor for a young team — and, perhaps, will again turn into a summer trade asset. There’s certainly an argument to be made that Axford would be a good fit, particularly if he’s again willing to take a minor-league deal. As Nicholson-Smith notes, Axford is delivering plenty of heat with his fastball, and the Jays still appear in need of some pitching depth.