The market for relievers is heating up as the MLB trade deadline draws ever closer.
The clock is ticking, and we are nearly inside 24 hours from the 2019 MLB trade deadline. Deals have been slow to materialize this year as the deadline approaches, with only one notable trade — Marcus Stroman going from Toronto to New York (no, not that New York) for prospects — completed to date. A few minor moves have been made, but Sergio Romo, Jake Diekman, Andrew Cashner and Homer Bailey aren’t exactly moving the needle. Action has been slow to develop due to the sheer number of teams still within arm’s reach of a playoff spot. Over half the league is still within five games of a playoff spot.
Fans of the trade deadline, fear not. Baseball still has the best trade deadline of the four major sports, and it will get moving before close of business on July 31. While the market for starting pitching and hitting may not see as much movement as in years past due to a lack of high-end talent on the block, there is an overwhelming amount of bullpen help up for grabs.
The MLB playoffs haven’t quite been revolutionized by relievers as was predicted after Andrew Miller nearly pitched the Cleveland Indians to the World Series title single-handedly, but relievers are still more important now than they were ten years ago. The addition of one dominant bullpen piece can be enough to cement the extra victories that make the difference between winning a division title, fighting for a Wild Card or missing the playoffs entirely.
Miller remains the gold standard for relievers acquired at the trade deadline (and after getting off to a slow start in his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals, he has also looked pretty darn good the last month). Without trading for Miller, the Baltimore Orioles may not win the AL East in 2014 and the Indians probably don’t go to the World Series two years later. One dominant reliever can make all the difference for a contender. Miller isn’t available this season, but these 10 closers and setup men are the big relief names to keep an eye on while counting down the hours until the MLB trade deadline.
10. Jose Leclerc
A 7-17 tailspin has dropped the Texas Rangers back to an even .500 mark and sent management scurrying to try and sell off select assets at the trade deadline. Starters Mike Minor and Lance Lynn have landed on the trade block, as has outfielder Nomar Mazara. Teams are also feeling out the market for 25-year-old closer Jose Leclerc who is signed through 2024.
The Rangers are taking offers for Leclerc, but won’t be in a hurry to move him as he is owed less than $25 million over the next five years. The right-hander really came into his own last season, giving the Rangers 57.2 innings of 1.56 ERA pitching while striking out 13.3 per nine with a 0.850 WHIP. Leclerc has battled some issues with control and the longball this year, seeing his ERA climb to 4.34. He has still struck out 13.6 per nine.
With a new ballpark opening next year, the Rangers have some incentive to try and offer a winning product to make sure fans show up. Employing an elite closer isn’t necessarily required to field a .500 team, but the Rangers should be in no hurry to trade a 25-year-old they have under contract for five more seasons.