The flow of free agency isn’t what it used to be, but there has been a fair amount of movement at the top of the bullpen market. Of the 13 relievers who earned a spot on MLBTR’s Top 50 Free Agents list, eight are already off the board. Further down the line, though, the hurlers have mostly been left waiting.
Let’s check in on where things stand with just over a month to go before the start of Spring Training:
There’s no doubting that Craig Kimbrel remains the premium name on the market, even if it’s still not clear which teams are truly pursuing him. It’s tough to ignore his historic excellence, even if he dealt with some consistency issues at an inopportune time in 2018. Just how far his asking price will have to drop remains to be seen.
Otherwise, Adam Ottavino is perhaps the only other reliever who not only possesses top-end stuff but deployed it to full effect in the just-completed campaign. He’d still fit on any number of staffs as a set-up man or closer. Ottavino has been discussed a fair bit all winter long and still seems to have strong demand.
Top Alternative Relievers
Teams that look to the next tier of arms still have some names to consider. It wasn’t long ago that Cody Allen seemed likely to be considered among the best-available hurlers, so he could be a bargain if he’s able to get back on track. Brad Brach has also established some real upside, though he wasn’t at his best last year. Despite miserable results all year long, Ryan Madson still delivers power stuff and impeccable K/BB numbers.
Results have been strong of late for Bud Norris, who has been more effective as a reliever. Much the same can be said of Adam Warren, another former swingman who has settled in as a steady pen piece. Sergio Romo is still tough to square up, though he has been a bit prone to the long ball when good contact is made.
Teams looking for upside may look to coax former closers Brad Boxberger and Hunter Strickland with promises of opportunities and incentives. David Phelps and AJ Ramos are among the interesting hurlers returning from injury.
On the left side, Justin Wilson is still among the more interesting and frustrating hurlers around. He still racks up the strikeouts, but his control issues remain a major concern. Oliver Perez was shockingly effective last year, racking up a 43:7 K/BB ratio and allowing only 17 hits and five earned runs in 32 1/3 innings, though that showing came at 37 years of age and on the heels of a few decidedly less productive campaigns. Tony Sipp is another older southpaw who had a strong bounceback season.
There are other notable names, too. Luis Avilan and Xavier Cedeno have been quietly effective of late. Dan Jennings has continued to generate good results despite underwhelming underlying stats. Zach Duke’s ERA lagged his peripherals, but he was probably in the best overall form of several veteran bounceback candidates (Jerry Blevins, Jake Diekman, Aaron Loup).
Other Names To Consider
John Axford, Tony Barnette, Matt Belisle, Joaquin Benoit, Blaine Boyer, Santiago Casilla, Tyler Clippard, Tim Collins, Jorge De La Rosa, Randall Delgado, Cory Gearrin, Chris Hatcher, Greg Holland, Daniel Hudson, Jim Johnson, Shawn Kelley, George Kontos, Brandon Maurer, Zach McAllister, Peter Moylan, Drew Storen, Nick Vincent, Alex Wilson, Blake Wood