As we wait for the final market moves to be revealed, we have been breaking out the remaining free agents in different ways to see just what is left to address various teams’ needs. Yesterday we looked at innings-fillers from the rotation and before that we ran through the power bats. Today, we’ll check in on the right-handed relief market.
As before, we’ll be skipping over those players who MLBTR predicted to secure multi-year deals entering the winter (in this case, Craig Kimbrel and Bud Norris). The most intriguing remaining righty pen arms, in order of innings pitched:
Tyler Clippard: While he did not make it back to his once-excellent levels of performance, Clippard showed in 2018 that he can still be a useful MLB reliever. He posted 11.1 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9 through a hefty workload of 68 2/3 frames. Home runs were a problem — one that likely won’t fully go away given Clippard’s incredibly flyball-heavy approach — but didn’t prevent him from carrying a 3.67 ERA.
Sergio Romo: Rumored to be nearing a deal, Romo’s chief appeal lies in the fact that he’s still capable of getting swings and misses at will. He was dinged by the longball last year but managed an appealing combination of 10.0 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in his 67 1/3 frames with the Rays.
Jim Johnson: His days as a late-inning arm are likely over, but the veteran hurler still draws grounders on about half of the balls put in play against him. Last year, he worked t a 3.84 ERA in 63 1/3 innings despite producing only 6.4 K/9 to go with 3.1 BB/9.
Alex Wilson: It’s a similar story for Wilson, who was a somewhat surprising non-tender victim this fall. He just topped Johnson in 2018 groundball rate (49.2%), helping him to post a 3.36 ERA in 61 2/3 innings despite a tepid combination of 6.4 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
Nick Vincent: Here’s another established hurler who lost his roster spot due in part to anticipated arbitration costs ($3.5MM). Vincent has yet to finish a season having allowed four or more earned runs per nine, with a cumulative 3.17 ERA in 332 innings as a major leaguer. He did allow a career-high 3.99 ERA in his 56 1/3 innings last year, but ERA estimators generally viewed him as a solid contributor (3.75 FIP, 4.51 xFIP, 3.72 SIERA).
John Axford: The veteran hurler still brings plenty of velocity and gets lots of groundballs with a fair number of whiffs. He also wrapped up the 2018 season with less walks than usual (3.6 BB/9). Despite generally positive ERA estimator grades (3.98 FIP, 3.86 xFIP, 3.67 SIERA), Axford managed only a 5.27 ERA in his 54 2/3 innings.
Ryan Madson: Replace the grounders with a more appealing K/BB ratio and it’s the same story for the hard-throwing Madson, who suffered from a .340 BABIP-against and like Axford failed to turn things around after a mid-season acquisition by the Dodgers. Madson finished 2018 with a 5.47 ERA but scored a 3.98 FIP, 3.97 xFIP, and 3.54 SIERA. His outstanding 2017 campaign is also a factor to consider.
Adam Warren: He’s coming off of a campaign in which he spun 51 2/3 innings of 3.14 ERA ball, his second-straight season with excellent bottom-line results. The 31-year-old hasn’t quite supported the outcomes with his peripherals, though his combination of 9.1 K/9, 3.5 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9 and a 37.6% groundball rate would nevertheless leave Warren looking like a solid relief asset.
Daniel Hudson: The outcomes still haven’t quite come around for Hudson, who has been targeted by teams that like the upside in his 96 mph heat. Last year with the Dodgers, he carried a 4.11 ERA in 46 frames despite benefiting from a .256 BABIP-against, with ERA estimators suggesting the results were largely deserved. Still, it’s hard not to like the velo and the 12.8% swinging-strike rate.
Erik Goeddel: Yet another recent Dodgers reliever rounds out our list. Goeddel had a nice bounceback in 2018, spinning 36 2/3 frames of 2.95 ERA ball, yet nevertheless was dropped at the end of the season. The problem? With his 10.8 K/9 came 4.9 BB/9. Walk issues have cropped up for Goeddel before, though never to an extreme degree. Other teams surely took note of the fact that Goeddel conned opposing hitters into offering at 37.4% of his pitches outside of the zone in 2018, leading them to make hard contact at a meager 23.3% rate while swinging and missing at 15.8% of his pitches.