7 impact relievers who could be traded

June 9th, 2019

The Dodgers and Twins will acquire at least one reliever apiece. The Phillies, Cubs, Braves and Nationals are also hunting for bullpen help. Even teams with deep bullpens -- the Yankees and Astros, for instance -- will be searching for ways to upgrade.

There could be all kinds of help available as the July 31 Trade Deadline approaches, because some of the game’s best relievers in 2019 are on teams that will probably be sellers. And remember, August “waiver” trades are no longer allowed, and that was traditionally a time when we’d see a lot of relievers move. So this year, if you want to trade for a reliever, you must do it before July 31 or not until November.

With all that in mind, let’s look at seven relievers who could help decide playoff berths and/or impact the postseason:

1. , LHP, CLE (0.98 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 13.01 K/9): He has put together four dominant seasons, having averaged 74 appearances between 2016-18, and he's on pace for about that many this season. He has allowed one home run in 103 plate appearances this season.

Potential landing spots: The Dodgers are already the NL’s best team, and adding Hand to a bullpen that has Kenley Jansen would end the discussion and be huge for October matchups. While the bidding could get intense if and when the Indians decide to sell, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has more chips to play than almost anyone. And since Hand is signed through 2020 (with a 2021 club option), he’s more than just a rental.

2. , LHP, SF (2.28 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 12.93 K/9): He had a handful of rough appearances over the last two months of last season, and that bears watching as July 31 approaches. He’s throwing more changeups than any other time in recent seasons and his fastball velocity has remained steady in the 93 mph range. He’s having equal success getting lefties and righties out.

Potential landing spots: Virtually every contender is going to gauge the Giants' asking price. The Braves, Nationals and Phillies are good fits, especially since those teams want multiple late-inning arms. Smith is eligible for free agency this winter, so he won’t cost a ton.

3. , RHP, ARI (1.31 ERA, 0.968 WHIP, 12.2 K/9): Unlike last year, when he signed late with the Cardinals and struggled, Holland had a full Spring Training this year, and it shows. He could be one of the most important pickups of the summer if the D-backs decide to sell. At 33, he has never been better than he is right now and seems prepared to finish the season pitching for his fifth team in three years.

Potential landing spots: The Twins make sense, whether it’s to make him the closer or part of a late-inning combination. The Braves and Nationals are among the other logical teams. Holland is a free agent this winter, so an acquiring team probably wouldn’t need to give up a lot if he becomes available.

4. , LHP, KC (4.10 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 13.33 K/9): His 2.96 FIP is an indication that his stuff plays better than some of the numbers indicate. Best of all, his health issues appear to be behind him. Given his $2.25 million salary (and modest $5.75 million club option for 2020), he could be one of the most sought-after relievers.

Potential landing spots: He would be a logical add for, say, the Astros as an additional arm. He’d also make sense for the Nationals or Twins, who are interested in adding more than one arm.

5. , LHP, PIT (2.30 ERA, 1.207 WHIP, 14.16 K/9): His fastball touches 100 mph and he has one blown save. He’s also potentially under control for four more seasons, so the Pirates are only going to move him if they’re able to upgrade themselves in other areas.

Potential landing spots: The Dodgers and Braves have the Minor League depth to get this deal done. He especially makes sense for the Dodgers, who are looking for one final touch to finish off a roster that looks almost perfect for another deep postseason run. But unlike some of the other guys on this list, he’d cost an elite prospect.

6. , RHP, TOR (1.08 ERA, 1.040 WHIP, 15.1 K/9): His first postseason experience (2017 with the Astros) didn’t go well, and that may give some teams cause for concern. But there’s no reliever out there with better stuff -- that is, a fastball that touches 100 mph and a slider that can be unhittable.

Potential landing spots: Giles would probably welcome a return to the Phillies, the team with which he began his career and that has had a lot of injuries in the bullpen.

7. , RHP, BAL (5.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 12.33 K/9): His overall numbers are unimpressive, in part because of a couple of tough outings in May. On the flip side, he had a combined 137 ERA+ in the three seasons preceding this one and has two more years of team control remaining after this one.

Potential landing spots: He’s exactly the kind of arm the A’s take a chance on and then help transform into a lock-down reliever. The Astros are another club confident their tools can get the most from someone with lots of raw ability.