In this final tier, there are a handful of pitchers who could be decent depth options on the market.
Trevor Gott, RHP, San Francisco Giants
Trevor Gott has bounced around the Majors, but appears to have found something in 2019 with the San Francisco Giants.
In 38 2/3 innings pitched in 2019, Gott has a 3.96 ERA. He has a career best 9.39 K/9, has dropped his BB/9 to a career low of 2.79, and is limiting home runs in a way that he hasn’t been able to do since he debuted for the Angels in 2015 (0.70 HR/9). His FIP (3.26) and WAR (0.6) suggests he’s been better than his surface numbers show. He’s not getting grounders as often as he did last season (43.4% compared to 57.1%), but he’s done a good job of missing bats more often than before.
Gott’s production may be an aberration. After all, he’s giving up hard contact on 41.4% of the batted balls in play against him (a career high). However, given that he’s shown some substantive improvement this season, he may be worth a look as a depth option in the pen.
Tony Watson, LHP, San Francisco Giants
Unlike his teammate Trevor Gott, Tony Watson is someone who has had a solid amount of success as a Major League reliever.
Watson has been a one WAR or greater reliever in three seasons during his career, including having a career best season last year where he pitched to a 2.59 ERA over 66 innings and was a 1.8 WAR player.
2019 hasn’t been as kind to Watson when it comes to WAR (FanGraphs says he’s been a zero WAR player), but his overall numbers are okay. Watson has pitched to the tune of a 3.03 ERA so far in 2019. His K/9 rate is the lowest of his career (6.75), but remains serviceable when complimented by the lack of walks he issues (1.16 BB/9 a career best). Watson’s struggles have come on the long ball. After giving up a career low 0.55 HR/9 in 2018, he’s seen his HR/9 rate increase to a career high 1.40 now. That;s an alarming rate, especially when you consider that he’s pitching in arguably the most pitcher-friendly park in the Majors.
Given his overall track record, and okay stats now, Watson could make a solid left-handed addition to the pen. He may not be the lights out reliever he’s been at times in the past, but he’s still more than capable of holding the fort for an inning a couple of times a week.
Jake Diekman, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Jake Diekman has had a decent career. What’s plagued him when he’s had problems, however, has been his issuance of walks.
Diekman has a high ERA this season (4.89), one that is basically in line with his ERA from last season (4.73). His ERA is in high territory thanks, in large part, to a walk per nine rate of 5.35. Diekman does, however, do a very good job of missing bats (his K/9 rate is a career best 13.27), limiting home runs (0.70 HR/9), and limiting hard contact (30.7% of batted balls in play against him this year).
Diekman represents a classic buy low option. He’s had success in the past with his profile (he posted 1.4, 0.5, and 0.8 WAR from 2014-16). His underlying numbers suggest he’s been a bit better than his ERA shows too (FIP of 3.60, xFIP 3.87). If the Milwaukee Brewers pitching coaches could get him to dial back on the walks a bit, he could still be a solid option in the pen.
Robert Gsellman, RHP, New York Mets
Another reliever who hasn’t quite pitched up to his advanced stats this season is Robert Gsellman.
Gsellman was a highly regarded starting pitching prospect in the Mets system. Like Lugo, Gsellman saw himself moved to the bullpen due to a lack of opportunities in the starting rotation. He’s shown flashes of being a good reliever, but hasn’t quite put it all together since being converted to that role.
Last season, Gsellman pitched to a 4.28 ERA over 80 innings pitched. He made tangible improvements in missing bats (his K.9 rate was 7.88 compared to 6.17 in 2017), limited walks at a decent rate (3.15), and kept the ball in the park (0.90 HR/9).
In 2019, Gsellman has seen his ERA increase to a 5.07, but there are some encouraging signs under the hood. Gsellman has improved his K/9 rate to 9.06, while seeing only a slight up-tick in walks (3.44). His HR/9 is higher than last season (1.09), but is still below his 2017 rate. The hard contact that opponents are making off of him may be a career high (35.3%), but that’s still better than many other players around baseball. Opponents are also making less contact off of him than they have in any prior season he’s pitched in the big leagues.
Gsellman may be a solid buy-low option. He can go more than an inning if needed (He’s pitched 49 2/3 innings this year over 42 appearances), and has shown some improvement in his stats in each year he’s been in the league. The Mets may be reluctant to part with him given that he’s just 26, and under control through 2022, but it might be time for a change of scenery.
Mychal Givens, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
2019 has not been kind to Mychal Givens, but he has begun to show signs of returning to his previously elite production in recent weeks.
Givens has been a fixture in the late innings for the Orioles since he debuted back in 2015. He was 0.9 WAR pitcher in his debut season, and was good for 1.2, 1.1, and 1.8 WAR from 2016-18.
Givens’s ERA in 2019 is a career high 4.39 thanks to significant issues he’s had giving up home runs. After limiting opponents to less than a HR/9 in all but one MLB season prior to this, Givens has seen his HR/9 sore to an absurd 1.93 in 2019. 23.5% of the fly balls hit against him have left the ball park this year.
Beyond his home run problems, though, Givens has posted solid numbers. His K/9 rate is a career best 12.54. His BB/9 is a tad high (3.86), but is more than manageable and basically in line with his rate from last year. He’s giving up hard contact on just 23.8% of the batted balls in play against him too, the second best mark of his career. The lack of hard contact against him shows just how unlucky he has been when it comes to home runs. Opponents are also making contact less often against him less often than they have in any season of his career.
Givens, more than any player on these lists, presents the highest upside as an addition. If he can cut back on his home runs, it’s not a stretch in the least to see him returning to being one of the best relievers in baseball. The Orioles are likely to ask for a lot in trade discussions since he’s under control through 2021, and he’s been elite throughout his career. However, any team would be wise to consider adding Givens to their pen given what he can do.
Buck Farmer, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Buck Farmer is having a fine 2019 so far.
In 37 2/3 innings pitched, he’s recorded a 4.06 ERA. Farmer’s underlying stats suggest he’s made some tangible improvements as well. Farmer has increased his K/9 rate to a career best 10.04. He’s reduced his BB/9 to a career low 3.11. Farmer is also keeping the ball in the park. He’s given up 0.96 HR/9 thus far.
Farmer can miss bats, but he’s also doing a better job of getting batters to ground out. His groundball percentage this year is a career-high 53.8%. This has helped him maintain a low HR/9 despite seeing a big jump in the hard contact on batted balls in play against him (42.1%)
Like many players on these list, Farmer may not be the exciting late-inning addition a team wants to make. However, he could be a solid middle innings reliever for someone looking for depth.
Michael Lorenzen, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
The final player to appear on our list is Michael Lorenzen of the Reds.
Lorenzen is well-known by Milwaukee Brewers fans due to his clutch pinch hitting against Milwaukee. What may be less known about him is that he’s a serviceable reliever too.
Lorenzen has been Cincinnati’s go to reliever to eat innings for them out of the pen. He’s found success in that role, posting WAR’s of 0.8 in 2016, 0.5 in 2017, and 0.4 in 2018-19.
So far this season, Lorenzen has pitched to a 3.51 ERA in 48 2/3 innings. He currently has a career best K/9 rate of 9.06, and has a career low BB/9 rate of 2.40. The amount of home runs he’s giving up has increased over last season (1.29 per/9 compared to 0.67 last year), but is still quite good when you consider that he’s pitching in one of the most homer friendly parks in the Majors.
Beyond those top line stats, Lorenzen has done a good job of limiting hard contact against him. Opponents have made hard contact on just 33.1% of batted balls in play against him this season. He’s also continued to keep the ball on the ground. His ground ball percentage is 47.9% this year and was over 50% in each of the preceding two years.
Lorenzen would make a stellar addition as a multi-inning reliever. Given that the Reds have begun to slide out of contention, they’d be wise to entertain offers for Lorenzen given that he’s under contract through 2021. He could fetch them a decent prospect or two in the right deal.
The Milwaukee Brewers could use someone exactly like him to help bridge the gap once or twice a week to the late-inning relievers.