By: Chris Larson
With the amount of relief pitching that is seemingly always available this time of year around the Trade Deadline, it is no wonder why those are the names that usually get tossed around in the rumor mill and the guys that teams try to trade for. After all, the past few postseasons have shown us all how extremely important having a deep bullpen is for a deep playoff run and gives your team a legitimate shot at making it to the World Series. Just look at the Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, and last year's World Series Champion, Houston Astros, for an explanation.
While there are many names that are brought forth publicly this time of year and connected to virtually every contending team to some degree, there are also a plethora of names that you don't hear as much about that are just as effective and could even cost those teams looking for bullpen help, less. Less in terms of prospects and potential money that the team might have to give the other team to acquire them. Remember, not everyone has the ability to pay the high price to get an elite reliever!
Here are five names to monitor over the next week:
1. Keone Kela (Texas Rangers - 3.18 ERA over 34.0 IP) - Keone Kela is one of the most underrated relievers in this year's relief market and someone to watch carefully over the next week. Just this morning, Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, said according to his sources, the Arizona Diamondbacks have been in touch with the Texas Rangers about Kela. Kela's ERA might not jump off the page when you look at it, but what is impressive is his 10.9 strikeouts-per-9 rate so far this season, along with the fact that he finished the month of June, with a 1.04 ERA over 8.2 innings of work, and has a 1.80 ERA over 5 innings so far this month. Kela would fit perfectly in almost any contending team's bullpen.
2. Jose Leclerc (Texas Rangers - 2.06 ERA over 25.0 IP) - Jose Leclerc is a definite name to watch because he is under control for the next four seasons and the Texas Rangers know that if they deal him, they could get quite a haul back in return. So far this season over 25 innings of work, Leclerc has 51 strikeouts along with a 1.96 FIP (Fielding Independent Percentage). If that isn't impressive enough, consider the fact that Leclerc has held opposing teams hitters to a .091 batting average along with a .136 slugging percentage over the last 28 days. As is the case with Kela, Jon Morosi also said the Arizona Diamondbacks are carefully looking at acquiring Leclerc, but don't expect them to be the only interested team.
3. Craig Stammen (San Diego Padres - 2.76 ERA over 49.0 IP) - After Brad Hand and Adam Cimber departed town, Craig Stammen is likely, one of two of San Diego's, biggest remaining assets. San Diego has utilized Stammen in both save and non-save situations this season and his stats in both of those situations are impressive. Over the span of 19 games that Stammen has pitched this season with a save opportunity, Stammen has posted a 2.21 ERA over that period and has 23 strikeouts over that time. Granted, Stammen doesn't have as much control as the other two aforementioned names above, but he should still provide some vital depth to any contending teams bullpen down the stretch.
4. Adam Conley (Miami Marlins - 2.73 ERA over 26.1 IP) - When you think of the Miami Marlins and potential relievers that they could look to deal over the next week, you usually think of two guys: Kyle Barraclough and Drew Steckenrider. While both of those guys are great assets and would boost any contending team's bullpen, Adam Conley is certainly an under-the-radar guy. Conley has experienced the highest velocity change, among qualified relievers this season on his fastball (94.9 MPH this year compared to 89.5 MPH last season), and is relying on his changeup much more often (27.3% of the time this year compared to 18% last season).
5. Richard Rodriguez (Pittsburgh Pirates - 2.29 ERA over 29.1 IP) - You might see this name and automatically say, "Who?!" Well, Rodriguez not only has an impressive ERA, he's also got the 18th best FIP among all qualified relievers (2.29) and ranks 28th among that same group with a 84.7 left on-base percentage. Rodriguez finished the month of June with a 1.74 ERA over 10.1 innings of work and has held left-handed hitters to a batting average of .156 over 19.2 innings of work this year. The Pirates haven't utilized Rodriguez in a save situation, but he has strived in situations with two outs (13.1 IP), where he has posted a 1.35 ERA and has a 0.75 WHIP.