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This is my second article on potential pick-ups for the Brewers, a list of the twelve most noteworthy left-handed pitching free agent relievers. It is my belief that the Crew could use a lefty out of the bullpen to consistently shut down lefty batters in crucial situations.
Joe Thatcher (33):
Joe Thatcher was used pretty strictly as a lefty-specialist in 2014 with the Diamondbacks and the Angels, yet owned reverse splits over the course of the year. Thatcher was unimpressive against lefties in 2014, and they posted a .765 OPS against him.
That said, Thatcher’s career splits are more impressive, with lefties hitting just .230/.289/.351 against him over 8 seasons. Thatcher seems like a pretty good fit for the Crew, who definitely do not seem to have very much payroll left over going into 2015.
Thatcher should bounce back from his down year–at least against lefties– and should be affordable for the Brewers. I think of the guys I have gone over so far, Thatcher would be one of the most likely to join the Crew out of free agency.
2/13/15 Thatcher has signed a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training with the Astros.
Sean Burnett (32):
Like several of the pitchers I have detailed so far, Sean Burnett has missed significant time in recent years due to injury. Burnett is the first on this list to have played sparingly in 2014, which is an obvious red flag, and in 2013 and ’14, Burnett pitched in just over 10 innings in the Bigs combined.
Burnett was very effective in his career before these injuries, owning a serviceable .745 OPS against righties and a very good .629 OPS against lefties. These numbers are very promising, and his injuries mean the Crew could pick him up for a bargain.
As I have mentioned, a bargain almost always means there is a risk involved. Back-to-back elbow injuries for Burnett is very risky business, but the Crew wouldn’t make a deal unless they felt the team was very likely to benefit. If Burnett’s elbow shows promise, he could be a very good signing for the team.
Phil Coke (32):
Phil Coke should be seen by every team as a left-specialist. His career OPS against righties is .818, versus a much better .648 OPS against lefties. Coke’s career 4.16 ERA is another indicator if his need for a change. As always, a team that believes the player can perform against all batters will pay more than a team looking for a LOOGY.
If Coke can entice a team to pay him like a more balanced reliever, he will be out of the Brewers’ price range, but his .333/.394/.476 slash line with RHB in 2014 should stomp out those ideas. I think Coke could be a potential signee, but several pitchers on this list are preferable, and I’d seem him as a later pick-up
EDIT: 3/5/15 Phil Coke has signed a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training with the Cubs.