The Washington Nationals broke the levees on the reliever trade market yesterday when they acquired Kelvin Herrera from the Kansas City Royals for a package of prospects. Herrera was a top trade target for contending teams this season, recording 18 saves while boasting an outstanding 1.05 ERA along with a 22:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. It took just two and a half months for him to be plucked off the trade market by a contending team.
Now that Herrera is off the board it is likely that more relief pitchers are moved as we inch closer and closer to the trade deadline. There are several alluring options around the league and it would not be surprising to see any or even all of them move in the near future. Here are some potential trade targets who may be finding new homes before July 31st.
Zach Britton – Baltimore Orioles
Zach Britton returned to the Orioles’ bullpen last week after rehabbing from an achilles injury he suffered before the start of the 2018 season. Britton has had some bad luck when it comes to injuries over the passed year and a half. He was hampered by a left forearm strain during the 2017 season which held him to just 38 total appearances that season. It was in December of 2017 that Britton injured his achilles tendon which caused him to miss the first two months of the 2018 season. With his rehab done Britton is healthy and back in the Orioles’ bullpen. Britton’s contract expires at the end of the 2018 season which makes him an ideal trade target for a contending team. Should he be able to return to his dominant 2016 form Britton would become an extremely valuable asset to a team heading to the postseason.
From the Orioles’ standpoint trading Britton is almost a must-do. Baltimore is an absolute mess right now as they currently hold the worst record in all of Major League Baseball at 20-50. The Orioles also have a host of players whom will be free agents once the 2018 season is over, including superstar shortstop, Manny Machado, long-time veteran, Adam Jones, and their power-hitting second baseman, Jonathan Schoop. Baltimore desperately needs to hit the reset button and begin to rebuild, and trading Zach Britton while his value is still high would be a smart move for this struggling franchise.After the @Nationals plucked @KelvinHerrera40 from KC, the trade market for relievers is about to burst wide open. @ColouroftheIris takes a look at which relief arms could be on the move next.Click To Tweet
Brad Hand – San Diego Padres
Another left-hander who finds himself coveted by teams around the league is Brad Hand of the San Diego Padres. Hand is coming off the best season of his career in 2017 in which he recorded 21 saves while posting an impressive 2.16 ERA in 72 appearances. He also dazzled opponents with a whopping 104/20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Padres are currently seven out of first place in the National League West with a 34-40 record. It is not entirely inconceivable that the Padres make a run at a postseason berth either via their division or through the Wild Card spot. However, San Diego has also had much success through its many years of rebuilding, so why stop now?
The Padres also have an advantage with Brad Hand in that he is under contract through the 2021 season. Therefore, there is no impetus for the Padres to move their all-star closer if they do not receive a strong offer in return. Hand’s contract situation and consistent high performance level allows the Padres to raise the asking price for him. However, that could potentially backfire on them if other teams determine that they can find bullpen help at a cheaper price elsewhere around the league.
Hand has already matched his 2017 save total this season at 21, and currently holds a 2.25 ERA in 33 games so far this season.
Jeurys Familia – New York Mets
After a surprisingly good start to the 2018 campaign New York Mets have severely regressed, going 14-29 since May 1st. They currently sit ten games back in the National League East division, and injuries combined with lack of organizational depth have crippled their 2018 season early on. It would behoove the Mets to start thinking about selling off some talent to help bolster their organizational depth, and their closer, Jeurys Familia, is the perfect candidate.
Familia, 28, is having a strong season for the struggling Mets, notching 14 saves to go along with a 2.70 ERA in 29 games so far this season. Familia would be a rental piece since his contract expires at the end of the 2018 season, which is just another reason why the Mets should deal him.
Familia was hampered by shoulder problems throughout the 2017 season but now seems to be fully healthy and back to form. He was a force to be reckoned with through the 2015 and 2016 seasons, recording 94 saves in total between the two seasons while posting ERA’s of 1.85 and 2.55, respectively. A healthy Jeurys Familia would be a strong compliment to any bullpen that needs late-inning help.
Joakim Soria – Chicago White Sox
Yes, Joakim Soria is still closing in Major League Baseball and, yes, he’s still pretty good at it. While the 34-year-old is far removed from his best years he still has a lot of value as a late-inning reliever. Soria currently has 10 saves on the season with a 3.00 ERA in 28 games. He is also sporting a solid 30/5 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the White Sox.
The White Sox are not a playoff team this season as they are currently in the middle of a long rebuild. Chicago is sitting at 24-47 on the season and is currently fourteen games back in the American League Central division. While Soria will not fetch the same return as some of these other relievers he is still a strong candidate to be moved.
Soria’s contract should not be a hindrance in trade talks either which will help make him easier to move. Although he is scheduled to make $10 million in 2019 his contract does include a $1 million buy-out for that season. Thus, should a team not wish to keep Soria for the 2019 season it will only cost them $1 million to buy him out of the contract.
The Washington Nationals made the first move by acquiring Kelvin Herrera, so now the onus shifts to the rest of the league to match that move. These are just a few of the relievers whom will be targeted by contending teams in trade talks for the next month and a half until the deadline. The proverbial arms race across the league has officially begun.