Possible Bullpen Bargains


Looking over this article of recent Red Sox bullpen transaction as inspiration, I’ve decided to look over a majority of each MLB team and see if I could spot any bullpen bargains.

Of course, relievers like Kyle McClellan, Daniel Bard and Ryan Perry are attractive and come with a lot of upside it's safe to assume they would be too expensive to acquire (unless packaged in a deal for one of our top trade chips).  Instead I decided to list a few pitchers that could both benefit us and be had in a fairly minor deal.

RHP Kevin Jepsen (Angels): I’ll admit, anyone who follows advanced stats are probably gasping at the idea of including Jepsen in a “minor deal” but his control has been a bit erratic (4.94 BB/9) but his ability to strike out batters (10.54 K/9) and his high BABIP and low strand rate does point to him being a bit unlucky.  His current ERA stands at 4.94 but his FIP is 3.03 and xFIP 3.40 point to a stat correction sometime soon.  Jepsen has been mostly utilized in the 7th inning before the Angels roll out their Rodney/Fuentes tandem.  I’m not sure exactly how the Angels value Jepsen but they have been rather depleted in the pen with injuries to Jason Bulger, Matt Palmer, and Brian Stokes thereby making them less likely to move a reliever, especially one at his price (under team control past 2014 and making $415K this year).

LHP Raul Valdes (Mets): this 32 year old has been utilized in LOOGY and garbage time situations for the Mets but a closer look at the 30 IP this season show us a high strikeout pitcher (9.79 K/9) who has struggled BABIP-wise (.379) with a lower than average strand rate (66.4%).  Valdes isn’t quite the groundball pitcher Jepsen is but he isn’t an extreme flyballer either.  He is registering a high ERA of 5.04 but his FIP comes in at 3.20. His long history of making it to the big leagues has been profiled here.  I’m not sure how the Mets value Valdes (if at all) but I figure the D-Backs could pry him away for next to nothing.

RHP Kam Mickolio (Orioles): considered a top 10 prospect among qualifying O’s at the beginning of the season, Mickolio is still in the “project” phase.  He has the ability to put up outstanding K numbers but his control is keeping him from staying with the parent club (Mickolio has shown promise in 20+ innings from 2008-09 but was disastrous at the start of this season and sent down in early April).  Since pitching for Norfolk AAA he has been hounded by a high BABIP (.482) but he has worked on getting his groundballs back up.  He is still considered a project based on his developing slider  which has been the bugaboo for him regarding his control.  I’m not sure how many people still believe in Mickolio within the organization but he may be worth a phone call and possible swap of one of our higher level “projects.”

RHP Chris Sampson (Astros): groundball specialist who specializes in keeping the ball in the park (at least he did last season).  He has made improvements control-wise (registering a 2.88 BB/9 in 25 IP) but he isn’t lights out as he depends on his slider to compensate for his 88 mph fastball.  For the past two seasons, Sampson has been bit by a high BABIP and elevated HR/FB rate.  In 2009, Sampson only allowed 2 HR’s in 55 MLB IP.  This season he has allowed 4 in 25, his GB rates are up from last season so a correction could be in order.  Jeff Fulchino’s injury could pose a problem since Sampson may be expected to step up a bit but he is worth a cheap flier if available.

RHP Jess Todd (Indians): he’s always been a favorite slightly under-the-radar bullpen option for me but I doubt the need-to-go-young Indians will part with him so easily.  His command has been a problem but he has made good strides this season in AAA and his K numbers still look elite.  He turned 24 earlier this season and I see no need for the Indians to move him… but I thought I’d include him anyway.

RHP Louis Coleman (Royals): another AAA pitcher that one’s parent club has no business moving but the Royals do have the capacity to surprise.  Coleman has moved up fast through the minors and his command and K numbers have been exceptional.  Dayton Moore has been called stupid on a few occasions but would he just move a promising AAA reliever for, say, Blaine Boyer or Esmerling Vasquez? He has moved promising relievers for quick-fixes before: Ramon Ramirez for Coco Crisp and Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs.  Of course the Royals bullpen after Joakim Soria is pitching better than expected (3.93 ERA; 4.55 FIP) so a need may not be there but Moore and co. could be looking to add another experienced arm without trying to figure out the developmental path for a pitcher like Coleman.  It sounds ridiculous but I do get the feeling that finishing .500 is much more important for the Royals than the overall picture (at least with this front office).

RHP Scott Mathieson (Phillies): recently called up to the Philadelphia after Antonio Bastardo went on the DL.  He is 26 and has spent time recovering from previous injuries including Tommy John in 2008.  He was hit hard in his one appearance on June 18th which probably spooked Charlie Manuel and got him immediately sent down to AAA.  He has been dealing for Lehigh Valley throwing 47 K’s in 35 IP’s.  He does come with some control issues (3.19 BB/9 over the same span; only 2.84 overall).  He does lean towards the fly ball side (41% this season and 49% overall) but his upside is tremendous and with all Phillie prospects not named Dominic Brown, it’s tough to gauge his value within their organization.  

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