Every year near baseball’s trade deadline, teams fill needs. Big stars like J.D. Martinez and Manny Machado get moved and usually a contender needs a catcher like Jonathan Lucroy or Martin Maldonado. Utility guys like Eduardo Nunez or Astrubal Cabrera get traded at the deadline every year. Most years, a big-name starter such as Justin Verlander, Sonny Gray, J.A. Happ or Cole Hamels get traded, too. But every year, EVERY team needs bullpen help.
Every contender is in the market. Last year, each of the ten Major League playoff teams made at least one trade for a relief pitcher in the two weeks before the July 31 deadline…
Dodgers: Tony Cingrani from Cincinnati, Tony Watson from Pittsburgh
Cubs: Justin Wilson from Detroit
Nationals: Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from Oakland. Brandon Kintzler from Minnesota
Diamondbacks: David Hernandez from Angels
Rockies: Pat Neshek from Philadelphia
Astros: Francisco Liriano from Toronto
Indians: Joe Smith from Toronto
Yankees: David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox
Red Sox: Addison Reed from the Mets
Twins: Gabriel Moya from Arizona
This year, there are sixteen teams that have at least a shot at the playoffs, and as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, twelve of those sixteen have already made a move for at least one bullpen guy…
Arizona: Matt Andriese from Tampa Bay
Atlanta: Brad Brach from Baltimore, Jonny Venters from Tampa Bay
Cleveland: Brad Hand and Adam Cimber from San Diego
Colorado: Seung Hwan Oh from Toronto
Cubs: Jesse Chavez from Texas
Houston: Ryan Pressley from Minnesota
Milwaukee: Joakim Soria from the White Sox
New York Yankees: Zach Britton from Baltimore
Oakland: Jeurys Familia from the Mets
Seattle: Sam Tuivailala from the Cardinals
Washington: Kelvim Herrera from Kansas City
Cardinals: Chasen Shreve from the Yankees
The Cardinals are in an interesting position. Even though they’re four games behind for the second wild card spot, they also trail five teams and haven’t had a consistent offense all season. So while the chance is there, the way they’ve played this season makes it unrealistic they’ll make the playoffs; and, the Cardinals have a veteran closer on a one-year contract in Bud Norris that would seem attractive to other teams in the playoff hunt.
The Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies and Pirates have yet to make a move for a reliever, and all four can use bullpen help at the deadline. Boston has a real need. They’re thirteenth in bullpen ERA in the American League, and their bridge to Craig Kimbrel has collapsed lately. Joe Kelly’s ERA is over ten in the last two weeks, so seventh inning man Matt Barnes has taken the eighth. Brandon Workman and Tyler Thornburg have struggled, and the Red Sox bullpen is littered with inexperienced guys. They would use a guy like Norris for their eighth innings.
After the Dodgers traded for Manny Machado, it was reported that they WILL get a bullpen piece. They’ve never effectively replaced Brandon Morrow, who was their setup man for Kenley Jansen last season. Norris was with the Dodgers two years ago, so they know what they’d be getting. And they still have a quality farm system to deal from.
Philadelphia has Seranthony Dominguez closing games after the mid-season collapse of Hector Neris, who hasn’t bounced back. Like the Dodgers, the Phils have a deep farm system and a great chance to make the playoffs for the first time since getting knocked out by the Cardinals in 2011. They’re a team that’s ahead of schedule and might want to take a shot now by getting a back end of the bullpen guy.
The Pirates are looking for bullpen help, and General Manager Neal Huntington told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “We’d love to add to the group. There’s a really good group of players down there that have played really well for the first 40-some games and really well for the last 20- or 30-some games. We would love to add to that group, and we’ll continue to look to do so when it makes sense.”
The Pirates are lacking in overall bullpen experience, and the belief among observers is that relief pitching is their primary target.
Jordan Hicks is eventually going to be pitching the ninth inning for the Cardinals. They made clear that the future is now with the promotion of Daniel Poncedeleon, Austin Gomber and Dakota Hudson on Friday…adding them to a now relatively inexperienced group that includes the aforementioned three plus Shreve, Mike Mayers, John Brebbia and Hicks. Perhaps there’s a desire for a veteran presence in the Cards bullpen, but that’s something they can get after the season.
Supply and demand is working in the Cardinals favor right now. If someone wants to add Norris, the Cardinals should make the move and get Hicks ready to close for 2019.