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A Look At The Remaining Free Agent Reliever Pool

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Pittsburgh Pirates
“I’ve listed Elvis as my first reference...”
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

So it appears that the 5 player trade which brought Elvis Andrews to Oakland was, for all intents and purposes, a bigger trade in which the A’s also received the payroll flexibility to sign Mike Fiers and perhaps a couple remaining available relievers.

The question then becomes, which relievers my Oakland be adding in the coming days? Scrolling through the long list of unsigned relief pitchers, here are guesses as to some of the more talented bargains the A’s might be targeting...

Jose Alvarez (LHP, 31)

Alvarez might be one of the better relievers you’ve never heard of. He has 359 games under his belt, and career ratios of 8.00 K/9IP and 2.88 BB/9IP. He earned $2.95M from the Phillies in 2020, but missed the end of the season with a groin injury. If fully healthy, he could be a strong addition to the bullpen on a fairly cheap contract.

Brad Boxberger (RHP, 32)

So no longer a closer Boxberger offers late inning experience, not unlike Joakim Soria. Boxberger has 77 career saves, and in 2020 his fastball velocity was exactly the same as his career average: 92.9 MPH.

Impressively, in 343 career games Boxberger has averaged 11.3 K/9IP and has been at or above a strikeout per inning each of the last four seasons.

Also worth noting is that Boxberger’s 2020 contract was for just 1 year and $1M. The 32 year-old would be a natural target for the eggs (oh come on, speech-to-text! Eh, you know what? It’s a cool meme) in their current situation.

Steve Cishek (RHP, 34)

The sidewinding Cishek has a solid track record with a career era of 2.78. He is legitimately dominant against right-handed batters, holding them to a career slash line of .204/.270/.300.

Cishek was released by the White Sox at the end of the regular season, having signed a 1 year, $6M deal with a 2021 club option that Chicago declined. His price tag is unknown, but he would be a solid addition to the A’s bullpen.

Tommy Hunter (RHP, 34)

Throughout his career, Hunter has pitched in almost every role from SP (75 starts) to middle reliever to closer (22 saves).

A ground ball pitcher (only 6.16 K/9IP career but a career 43.3% ground ball rate), Hunter is the type of reliever who might look better with Oakland’s infield defense.

Also potentially appealing, Hunter earned just $875K in 2020 with the Phillies. One note: Hunter’s fastball velocity, once as high as 97MPH, was 95.7 MPH in 2019 and then just 93.1 MPH in 2020. But he still put together a pretty solid season, with more than a strikeout per inning and just 6 BBs in 24.2 IP in the shortened campaign.

Keone Kela (RHP, 27)

This one is subject to good reviews from former teammate Elvis Andrus, as Kela has a checkered past. But on the mound, he has consistently missed bats and he is one of the only members of this list who is still in his prime.

In six major league seasons, Kela’s K/9IP ratio has been in double digits in every one of them: (10.14, 11.91, 11.87, 11.42, 10.01, and then 13.50 last season). That’s impressive, especially for a pitcher with a career 3.45 BB/9 IP ratio.

Kela earned $3.725M in 2020 with Pittsburgh, and is still unsigned but is still throwing hard as ever (right around 97MPH). He would make the bullpen better — not sure about the clubhouse.

Blake Parker (RHP, 35)

I always liked Parker when he was with the Angels, and mentioned him as a possible target for 2020. Ultimately, Parker signed a minor league contract with the Phillies, and struck out 25 batters in 16 IP. Cheap, yet sneaky good? Sounds like an A’s find.

Brad Peacock (RHP, 33)

Welcome back, Brad? The A’s acquired Peacock as part of the deal which sent Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals, only to send him on to Houston before he ever pitched an inning in Oakland.

Peacock is available as a free agent, and while his 2020 era was an unsightly 7.71 it was surrounded by solid peripherals (11.57 K/9IP, 3.86 BB/9IP) and a flukishly low strand rate (60%) that likely explains his ERA. And in 2017-19, he was excellent in a variety of roles (289 IP, 353 K, 108 BB, 3.48 ERA).

Sergio Romo (RHP, 37)

If Cichek doesn’t work out, the A’s could turn to Romo for their sidewinding needs. Romo turns 38 in early March, but still has the “no red dot slider” that overwhelms right handed batters. (Career: .198/.241/.340, last season .205/.286/.432).

Romo signed a 1-year, $5M deal with Minnesota in 2020, along with a club option that the Twins declined. If the A’s are looking for “veteran presents” and decide to move on from Yusmeiro Petit, Romo would be a candidate to fill that void.

Trevor Rosenthal (RHP, 30)

Will the real Trevor Rosenthal please stand up? Are you the guy who somehow found a way to walk 26 batters in 15.1 IP in 2019? Or the triple digit throwing reliever who bounced back to post a 1.90 ERA in 2020, with 8 BB and 38 K in 23.2 IP?

There is no doubt about the arm. Rosenthal’s fastball is sitting at 98.2 MPH for his career, 98.1 MPH in 2020. He was guaranteed $2M in 2020, along with potentially up to $2.25M in performance bonuses

Nick Tropeano (RHP, 30)

He’s available again (I was keen on him this past off-season), and what Tropeano showed in 2020 suggests he could be a brilliant under-the-radar signing.

Technically, Tropeano is a former Met, having been claimed off waivers on October 30th only to be non-tendered on December 2nd. But he pitched for the Pirates, and he pitched well: 15.2 IP, 14 hits, 4 BB, 19 K, and a 1.15 ERA.

So there are some possibilities to kick around, from a list of dozens of relievers still on the market. Who from this list tickles your fancy? Or did I manage to name 10 relievers and still miss the two you want? Discuss...