- The top tier of relievers is clear, but let's take a closer eye at some unheralded names that could make a difference in a pennant race.
Welcome to the time of year when the positional name for “reliever” essentially becomes “trade candidate.” Sure, they aren’t all liable to be moved, but, as always, enough of them are. You’re likely already on the lookout for anything involving guys like Will Smith, Ken Giles, or Kirby Yates—but what about the next tier of names? Here are five relievers to keep an eye on before July 31:
Jake Diekman, LHP, Royals
The Royals have already begun selling earlier (farewell, Homer Bailey and Martín Maldonado), and Diekman reportedly might be one of their next guys to go. As a veteran on an expiring contract, he fits the type perfectly. The 32-year-old hasn’t had a particularly stellar year—5.45 BB/9 is yikes-worthy, for one thing—but he’s striking out more batters than he ever has before, and he’s made some interesting adjustments this season, depending more on his slider than his fastball for the first time. In other words, he’s the type of decent-ish experienced pick-up who’ll make for a practical addition to any ‘pen, if not a particularly exciting one.
Chris Martin, RHP, Rangers
The Rangers’ deadline destiny still isn’t quite clear. They’ve slipped recently; they’re no longer holding onto a wild-card berth, and they’re now four games back of the second spot. So it seems far more likely that they’ll be willing to sell than it did, say, three weeks ago… but they still have some time, and you never know. If they do sell, Martin seems like a logical choice. The 33-year-old is in the final season of a two-year deal—signed after spending two seasons in Japan—and he’s performing better than he ever has. He’s inexpensive, has shown that he can work in the ninth inning, and is the only reliever in baseball with an ERA+ above 160 and a K/BB above 13. Cue the Coldplay jokes.
Sergio Romo, RHP, Marlins
For a team as bad as it is, Miami has a surprisingly large stock of decent pitchers to deal. Trevor Richards? Adam Conley? Jarlin Garcia? (Hopefully not, for rhyming-nickname-related purposes.) And 36-year-old Sergio Romo, who’s played for three teams in the last three years and stands to make another move here. He hasn’t been having an especially strong year—strikeouts are down, walks are up, most of the rest is roughly the same—but he hasn’t been having a bad one, either, and for a veteran with a solid track record on a team looking to sell, that’s probably about all that he needs to ensure that someone picks him up, if not for very much.
Justin Wilson, LHP, Mets
The Mets have plenty of flashier names floating around the trade market, but Wilson could easily join them. Even though he’s spent most of this season sidelined by an elbow injury, he returned this month, and he’s looked relatively strong since doing so. (Crucially, his velo doesn’t seem to have suffered.) Unlike the pitchers previously listed here, Wilson’s under contract for 2020, too, but if the Mets decide to use the deadline as an opportunity to prioritize shrinking the payroll, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go.
Mychal Givens, RHP, Orioles
If you thought that the Orioles’ mass sell-off in 2018 didn’t leave them with anything to trade in 2019, think again. Now that Andrew Cashner is gone, Givens is the team’s top trade chip—even though he hasn’t looked quite as sharp this season as in past years. He’s been struggling with the long ball, and his walk rate is up, too. But he’s striking out more guys than he has in previous seasons, the slider can still look truly killer, and he hasn’t even hit arbitration yet. For most teams, the last point there would be reason to hang on for a little bit longer—but Baltimore is so far from contention that it makes sense for them to deal him now.