After the free agent departure of Anthony Swarzak, the Milwaukee Brewers are in need of someone to pitch in the eighth inning and set up for Corey Knebel.
The prices on the free agent relief market have clearly been too high for GM David Stearns. He’s been unwilling to fall into the trap of paying too much for high end relievers. While it’s good that he’s being smart with his money, it’s going to be very tough to find an established late inning reliever at this point.
Baseball is trending in a direction where bullpens are highly valued and teams are willing to put a lot of money into them. The postseason has shown us the newfound importance of bullpens and that relievers are deserving of bigger contracts.
Most of the top relievers have been taken off the market already. But there are still a number of options that Stearns could use, both in-house and out-of-town options, to fill the eighth inning in 2018.
Last year, for the Washington Nationals, Albers pitched to a 1.62 ERA over 63 appearances. He put together a tremendous age-34 season. It was a bounce back from a terrible season in 2016 where he finished with a 6.31 ERA.
Albers has a career ERA of 4.13 so he hasn’t been very successful over his whole career but he put together sub-2.00 ERAs in two of the past three years. He was mostly a seventh inning pitcher last year but he’s been an eighth inning guy before so it’s conceivable he can be again. He is expected to sign a two year deal soon.
Logan was once one of the top lefty relievers in the game. He put together a good final season in Colorado in 2016 but spent this past season in Cleveland. He posted a 4.71 ERA in an injury shortened season. But his peripheral stats looked good. His 3.16 FIP suggests he was unlucky last year and his 12.0 K/9 was the highest of his career.
He’s mostly been a lefty specialist over his career and isn’t normally used for full innings. He could be a nice bounce back option for a low price. However, consistently using Logan for full eighth inning duty may not be the best option.
Street missed most of last season with a variety of injuries. He missed the first two and a half months with a lat injury and then a triceps issue set him back as well. He also dealt with a groin injury and rotator cuff strain. The righty only appeared in four games in 2017.
He’s been a high profile closer before. But injuries have marred the past few seasons of his career. Street, 34, could be looking for some place to try to bounce back and stay healthy for a season. But with his recent injury history, it will be difficult to depend on him to be a big part of the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen.
Storen was a top flight closer with the Washington Nationals back in the day. He put together a string of phenomenal seasons but has been mostly mediocre the past two seasons. Storen spent 2017 with the Cincinnati Reds and posted a 4.45 ERA in 58 appearances.
He is another bounce back candidate but that’s mostly what the Milwaukee Brewers will be able to find at this point in the offseason. The ones coming off of good seasons are already taken or will be priced too high for Stearns to go after.
Barnes was inconsistent in 2017, that much is known. But he still has a blazing fastball and could be pressed into eighth inning duty in 2018. His inconsistency is what led to the Swarzak acquisition but now he may have to be counted on to settle down and produce late in games.
He is the current favorite for eighth inning duty, unless a free agent acquisition is made. But after non-tendering Jared Hughes and releasing Carlos Torres, the Milwaukee Brewers have two spots to fill in the bullpen so the odds are good that at least one acquisition will be made.
Jeffress is finally back where he feels most comfortable, Milwaukee. He succeeds here and he was once the closer of this team. His 2.56 ERA in a Brewers uniform is half of what his ERA is anywhere else. He’s been a late inning reliever before and now that he will be fully acclimated back home, he could be the consistent eighth inning reliever the Brewers need.
With Jeffress and Barnes as the two in-house options for the eighth inning, the Milwaukee Brewers will need to add some depth for the earlier innings. Especially with Josh Hader likely being used in a variety of situations.
With a fast moving relief market, the Brewers may be forced to use Barnes or Jeffress in the eighth inning. There are still a few options out there that can be nice bounce back candidates that haven’t exactly had the recent success that is desired. But at least they’ve had success in this role in the past. The ideal options are gone.