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MLB: Relief Pitching Market Heating Up

Last week was an enormous one for Major League Baseball. On Friday, Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani signed with the LA Angels, and on Saturday the Miami Marlins traded NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees.

These were two of the offseason’s biggest question marks, and they were answered within twenty-four hours of each other. Now the market can shift focus as we enter the week of the Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL.

There are many teams looking to bolster their bullpens as they head toward 2018. Options like Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Brian Shaw, and Brandon Kintzler still remain on the market. Some teams have already inked contracts with solid back-end type relievers.

Last Wednesday, the Rangers signed the first big relief name off the market. Left-hander Mike Minor came out of the bullpen for the Royals last year. He and the Rangers agreed on a 3-year $28 million pact, giving him veto power over trades to ten teams. While he has had recent success as a relief pitcher, the Rangers will opt to use Minor as a starter in the rotation.

This was the first domino to fall. Minor’s signing was important because it set the value for relief pitchers yet to be signed.

After the first one falls, the market tends to heat up and many players sign at the same time. With the Winter Meetings this week, don’t be surprised to see quite a few names come off the board. Many GMs will be aggressive, wanting to fill holes in their porous rosters. Every GM knows you can never have too much bullpen depth.

On Sunday, two more pitchers signed contracts with teams in the NL Central. Rivals Chicago and St. Louis matched each other’s competitive spirit with the signings of veteran righties Brandon Morrow and Luke Gregerson.

The Cubs’ move came first, signing Brandon Morrow to a two-year deal with an option for 2020. He will be making $10-$11 million annually to pitch in high leverage situations for the reigning NL Central champs. Morrow had a very successful year pitching for the Dodgers, and it was so successful that manager Dave Roberts had the confidence to pitch him in every one of their World Series games. The Cubs’ signing of Morrow may indicate that they are content with using him as their closer going into the season. It might also mean that they are out on other upper-tier relief pitchers like Wade Davis and Greg Holland.

Not to be outdone, their NL Central rival St. Louis Cardinals reached an agreement with the veteran righty, Luke Gregerson. Their deal specifies a service time of three years worth a total of $18.5 million. Last year, Gregerson had 18 holds for the AL Champion Houston Astros. He has experience and is certainly qualified to step in as the team’s closer if need be. This move will more than likely not be the only bullpen move that St. Louis makes this offseason. In order to close the gap on the favored Cubs, the Red Birds must keep pace in the late innings of a tight ball game.

Just as we have seen before, as the market becomes more defined, players will begin to determine their value and drive negotiations. There are many players who like going into the new year knowing the jersey they will be wearing come spring training. Therefore, expect a plethora of pitchers to sign contracts by the end of the month.


Credit Photo to Yahoo! Sports

Sam Starosciak View All

My name is Sam Starosciak and I am a recent graduate of Arizona State University majoring in Business Data Analytics.

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