The Braves are interested in adding a closer this offseason, general manager Alex Anthopoulos confirmed to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi at the GM Meetings (Twitter link). That’s a fairly broad term, especially in 2018-19, so there’ll be no shortage of options for the Atlanta organization to pursue. Former Braves star Craig Kimbrel, of course, headlines the free-agent class of relievers, while Zach Britton, Andrew Miller and David Robertson are among the most recognizable names on the next tier of a fairly deep class of a relievers. Trade targets are harder to pin down, though several names have been generally kicked around the rumor mill recently, including Baltimore’s Mychal Givens, San Diego’s Kirby Yates and Seattle’s Alex Colome. Several other names will become available as the season wears on, and the Braves figure to be connected to a wide swath of ’pen options as they look to add a high-leverage reliever to the mix.
Some more bullpen and rotation rumblings from the early stages of the offseason…
- The Blue Jays met with J.A. Happ’s representatives today, tweets Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi. General manager Ross Atkins tells Davidi that Happ is “one of my favorite people in baseball” before also acknowledging that there’ll be ample competition for his services this offseason. Happ just turned 36, but despite the fact that he’s entering the later stages of his career, he remained as effective as ever in 2018. The veteran southpaw turned in 177 2/3 innings of 3.65 ERA ball with a career-best 9.8 K/9 mark against 2.6 BB/9 and 1.37 HR/9 with a 40.1 percent grounder rate. Happ’s 10.4 percent swinging-strike rate was also the highest of his career, while his 31.7 percent chase rate was his second-best mark as a big leaguer. Fellow lefty Rich Hill received a three-year guarantee that stretched into his age-39 season a couple of years ago, so it’s conceivable that Happ could also find three-year offers (which would run into his age-38 campaign).
- Morosi tweets that Happ and Patrick Corbin are among the names the White Sox have considered early in free agency, noting that the ChiSox only have one starter (Reynaldo Lopez) who threw more than 50 innings with a sub-4.00 ERA this past season. Rotation help is a clear area of need for the Sox, though competition for the likes of Corbin and Happ will be fierce. Both starters should draw interest from upwards of two thirds of the team in the league, with Corbin’s market being particularly robust given his status as the best arm on the 2018-19 free agent market.
- Although veteran reliever Shawn Kelley suggested earlier this year that he could retire after the 2018 season, agent Mike McCann tells ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick that Kelley has decided to suit up for another season (Twitter links). Dr. James Andrews recently performed X-rays and an MRI on Kelley and gave him a clean bill of health, Crasnick adds. Set to turn 35 in April, Kelley pitched to a strong 2.94 ERA with 9.2 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and 1.29 HR/9 in 49 innings this season. Kelley doesn’t throw hard (average 91.2 mph fastball in ’18) but has a lengthy track record of missing bats and has notched a sub-3.00 ERA in three of the past four seasons. The lone exception was a 2017 campaign in which he was limited to 26 innings due to a pair of back issues that landed him on the disabled list.
- The Padres are in the market for starting pitching help this winter, reports Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, but they’ll focus on younger rotation options. San Diego’s goal, per Acee, would be to add someone to pitch at the front of the 2019 rotation and still contribute when the Friars are more concrete contenders. Unsurprisingly, he lists right-hander Nathan Eovaldi as a Padres target. Eovaldi has yet to turn 29, and his strong season split between the Rays and Red Sox — brought into a more mainstream focus with a big postseason showing — will place him on the radar for virtually every team seeking starting rotation help. San Diego did issue a club-record $144MM contract to Eric Hosmer last offseason and an $83MM extension to Wil Myers a year prior, indicating that new ownership isn’t afraid to spend money (though Eovaldi’s market almost certainly won’t push to those levels).
- Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said today that the organization has confidence that flamethrowing right-hander Jordan Hicks could succeed as the team’s closer next season, but that confidence doesn’t necessarily mean he will be in that role (Twitter link via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). Goold notes that the Cards could add a left-handed and right-handed reliever this winter. The Cards overhauled their ’pen in significant fashion over the summer when they released Greg Holland, outrighted Tyler Lyons and traded Sam Tuivailala to the Mariners. Since that time, Bud Norris has hit the open market and Matthew Bowman has gone to the Reds via waivers, thus further adding to the potential for turnover.