One area of the free agent market that will be most robust this winter is relief pitching. Every GM in baseball knows the importance of a strong bullpen. There are a lot of free agent relievers in this market. Many hurlers are available that project to make significant contributions in 2020, bur there are four that stand out above the others.
Believe it or not, the biggest free agent reliever available is likely former Brewer Will Smith. That is if he does not accept the qualifying offer of $17.8 mil placed on him by the San Francisco Giants. Coming off his first All-Star appearance of his career, he may look to cash in.
Smith has been superb over the past two seasons. Even so there are some warts to worry on for the team that signs him. Smith actually had his best year in 2018. During that campaign, he pitched across 53 innings while posting a 2.55 ERA and a 2.07 FIP. He struck out 12.06 per nine and had a HR/FB of 6.5%. In the first half of 2019, he continued with his 2018 success, but in the second half of the season, he faltered a bit. The results were not quite as strong as he posted a 2.76 ERA and a 3.23 FIP across 65.1 IP. He did strike out more per nine than ever before (13.22), but gave up the long ball more than ever too (20.4% HR/FB).
As a starter, Drew Pomeranz has had an up and down career. As a reliever, he has been dominant. He brought that dominance to the Brewers bullpen after the trade deadline. The result was a significant contribution to a historic playoff run. On July 22 of last season, Pomeranz became a full time reliever. From that time on he pitched in 31.2 IP and posted a 1.99 ERA and a 2.36 FIP while striking out 15.06 per nine.
His last appearance was one that Will Harris would like to forget, but he'll likely never be able to erase the memory completely. Nonetheless, A.J. Hinch went to him in that spot in Game 7 of the World Series because he had been, to that point, his best reliever. That moment aside, Harris was excellent in 2019. The Astros’ reliever posted 1.50 ERA and a 3.15 FIP over 56.2 IP. He struck out just over 10 per 9 and is a proven reliever over several seasons.
The Washington Nationals’ reliever is coming off a very good season that resulted in him getting the last out of the World Series and a ring on his finger. Hudson posted a 2.47 ERA and a 3.97 FIP over 73 IP.
There are a plethora of other relievers on the market going into the winter. Many of them are good or are possible bounce back candidates, including: Dellin Betances, Collin McHugh, Chris Martin, Pedro Strop, Craig Stammen, Steve Cishek, Josh Lindbloom, Brandon Kintzler, Tony Sipp, Hector Rendon, Tony Cigrani, Brad Brach, Carl Edwards, Derek Holland, Sam Dyson, Jerry Blevins, Cody Allen, and Matt Albers. It would not be a surprise to see David Stearns sign one or more of these pitchers. With needs all over the diamond going into 2020, will the Brewers spend on the bullpen?
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs