12:02pm: The Dodgers stood out as the likely “frontrunners” from the start, tweets Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com. However, he adds that the Nationals and Phillies both still have Diekman on their radar.
11:53am: The Royals “could be getting closer” to a trade involving left-handed reliever Jake Diekman, tweets Mark Feinsand of MLB.com. Both the Braves and Dodgers have been showing strong interest in the southpaw, he adds.
Diekman, 32, is playing out the season on a one-year, $2.25MM contract, though he’s also owed a $500K buyout on a $5.75MM mutual option that doesn’t seem likely to be exercised (as is the case with virtually all mutual options). That puts the remaining obligation to Diekman around $1.3MM between now and season’s end.
While Diekman’s 4.75 ERA isn’t going to excite most fans, he’s also notched a hefty 13.6 K/9 mark and kept the ball on the ground at a 48-4 percent clip. Left-handed opponents have batted just .213 and slugged .255 against him. As has oft been the case for Diekman throughout his career, though, control has been an issue. He’s averaged five walks per nine innings pitched this season and plunked another eight hitters. As such, Diekman has yielded an overall .213/.362/.255 line to lefties and a .211/.331/.358 line to right-handed hitters.
Diekman is technically controlled beyond the 2019 season, but mutual options are almost never exercised by both parties. Typically, if a player performs well enough to justify that salary, he’s inclined to test the open market. And if a player doesn’t perform up to that standard, the club will of course buy the option out. Perhaps the changing landscape of free agency will make a player such as Diekman — one with limited earning power but who could justify a net $5.25MM decision with a strong finish — more likely to exercise his half of the provision, but there’s limited historic precedent.