Baltimore left-handers Paul Fry and Tanner Scott aren’t household names, but both are drawing ample trade interest as Friday afternoon’s deadline approaches, per both Dan Connolly of The Athletic and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. Right-handers Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate have also drawn some interest, but they’re both controlled four more years after the current season and won’t even be arbitration-eligible until the 2022-23 offseason at the earliest.
The 29-year-old Fry and 27-year-old Scott both offer plenty of club control in their own right. Both pitchers have an additional year of MLB service time over Sulser and Tate, making both arb-eligible this winter and controllable through the 2024 campaign. Either pitcher would make for an affordable upgrade who could impact his new club for several years down the road, and both pitchers have become increasingly appealing as the market context has changed this week.
This summer’s trade market was never particularly deep in high-quality left-handed relief help. But the injury to Minnesota’s Taylor Rogers, recent struggles for Washington’s Brad Hand, and the Athletics’ Monday acquisition of Andrew Chafin from the Cubs can only make the pair of Baltimore lefties all the more appealing.
Fry (60 2/3 innings) and Scott (61 innings) have near-identical innings totals over the past two seasons and have been similarly effective, relying on well above-average strikeout and ground-ball rates. Scott’s 2.51 ERA in that time has the edge on Fry’s 3.12 mark, but Fry has the edge in strikeout percentage (31.9 to 30.9) and ground-ball percentage (54.6 percent to 52.2 percent). Fry’s walk rate of 10.8 percent is worse than the league average but considerably lower than Scott’s mark of 14.3 percent. Scott, however, offers a blazing heater that has averaged 97 mph in 2021 and generates far more swinging strikes than Paul and his 93 mph fastball. It’s easy to see a club dreaming more on Scott’s stuff, but Fry’s demonstrably better control of the strike zone is a major point in his favor.
Naturally, Connolly suggests that there’s a split in other teams’ opinions on the pair of southpaws. Some figure prefer Fry’s less-dynamic repertoire but steadier control. Others will be drawn to Scott’s power arsenal. Kubatko reports that the Phillies, who have several former O’s execs in their front office, have been keeping tabs on the Baltimore bullpen. He also lists the Padres as a possibility.
Generally speaking, Fry and Scott are two of the market’s most appealing lefty relievers. The aforementioned Hand is sure to be available as the Nationals pivot to selling, but he’s also earning a $10.5MM salary this season and has surrendered eight runs in his past nine innings of work. It’s feasible that the Angels could move veteran Tony Watson, but their deadline direction remains unsettled and he’s a free agent at season’s end. Chasen Shreve, having a solid but unspectacular year in Pittsburgh, would also be a rental. Miami’s Richard Bleier is a quietly effective name who could likely be had in a trade, and even with Rogers down, the Twins have another interesting lefty in Caleb Thielbar. Both Bleier and Thielbar are 34 and lack even average fastball velocity, however.
Fry and Scott arguably offer the best combination of bottom-line results, quality stuff, age and remaining club control on the market at this point. That makes them more expensive in terms of prospects than rental veterans like Hand, Watson or Shreve, of course, but either would be a quality get for a contender’s relief corps.