This no disrespect to Luke Jackson (I’ve written before how it is time to put some respect on his name), but thinking he was going to be the full-time answer to the Braves closing problems was nothing more than a pipe dream. Brian Snitker has been forced to use him there because he’s been the Braves most reliable option to this point. But between his recent struggles (allowed a run in five of his last seven appearances) and the trade deadline inching closer, the days of Jackson blowing saves in the ninth inning are nearing an end.
By signing Dallas Keuchel, the bullpen moves to the forefront of the discussion when talking potential trades. The Braves have a plethora of prospects available, and eventually, they are going to have to trade some of them. Any and every reliever that is being sold before the deadline is on the table, and I am expecting the Braves make quite a splash to boost what has been the worst part of their team all season.
The Braves have met the Pirates seven times over the last two weeks, and luckily, they didn’t have to see much of Vazquez. The hard-throwing southpaw has a 1.2 WAR, 2.12 ERA and 16 saves in 27.2 innings pitch. He has the type of repertoire that is unhittable when it’s on, and the Braves don’t have anything close to him in their system.
Vazquez is in the second year of a 4-year/$22 million dollar deal, which is a bargain for someone as talented as him. He also has two team options for $10 million each in 2022 and 2023. This is the cost-controlled closer the Braves desperately need as they plan on competing for the next ten seasons. It would require quite a prospect haul, but the Pirates young pitching staff has been egregious. A deal makes plenty of sense for both sides.
With the Tigers years away from competing, Shane Greene win will be out the door before the trade deadline. Detroit doesn’t need a closer right now, and Greene has been the best in the business this season. He already has 20 saves and has only allowed three earned runs in 28 innings (0.96 ERA).
Greene’s a bit of an odd case because he has never had an ERA below 2.66 or a FIP less than 3, so he is bound for some substantial regression. Even in this stellar season, his FIP sits at 3.46. Greene has another year of arbitration remaining, but if the Braves go after him, they need to be careful what they offer up. This is not your typical lights out closer despite what the numbers say so far.
I’m not sure what was going on in the minds of the Indians this offseason. They have a star-studded rotation but let critical pieces of their lineup go for pennies without replacing them. With the Twins running away with the division, it is about time they start tearing it down brick by brick. They will surely test the waters for some of their starters, but it’s reliever Brad Hand that is most likely to be heading out of town.
Hand’s been one of the best relievers in baseball for four years now. He was a two-time All-Star in San Diego before being traded, finishing with an ERA below three and a K/9 innings above eleven in each of the last three seasons. That’s nothing compared to what he is doing this year. Hand is posting career-lows in ERA (0.88), FIP (1.54), WHIP (0.75), and BB/9 (2.3) and a career-high in K/9 innings (13.5). He also already has 20 saves, which is 12 off of his season-best. Being that Hand is also under contract next year and has a team option for 2021, he will probably cost the most on this list. But the Braves have a severe closing issue and a window to win now. It might be time to invest heavily in the position.
The Padres were fine trading Brad Hand because they had this other shutdown closer you might have heard of. Kirby Yates is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.14 ERA in 63 innings, and he’s making that look like a walk in the park in 2019. He leads the majors in saves with 25, has a 1.16 ERA, and a FIP to match at 1.21.
The Padres sit 12 games back of the Dodgers and are a few games back of a wild-card spot. It might take a few more weeks, but I expect Yates to hit the market before the deadline – mostly because of the haul he will bring in. Like Hand, Yates will cost a king’s ransom but could be well worth it for a team like the Braves.
With the way Atlanta is running away with the division, the Nationals are going to be forced to make the difficult decision of rebuilding. They could end up trading their building blocks like Anthony Rendon and Max Scherzer, but at the very least, they will part ways with their closer, Sean Doolittle.
Doolittle is 32 and has a club option for next year as well at $6.5 million. He has 14 saves with a 3.45 ERA, but his FIP sits at 2.90. He would be a significant upgrade over what the Braves have closing now and would not cost as much as most of the other players on this list. However, who knows how willing the Nationals will be to aid their division rival.