MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

'Pen arms on block could transform new clubs

Chapman, Miller, Colome among relievers who might be dealt

'Pen arms on block could transform new clubs

We tend to focus on starting pitching and impact bats as the non-waiver Trade Deadline nears, and rightfully so. Among the hot names: Rich Hill, Jay Bruce, Chris Archer and Jonathan Lucroy.

Less talked about are the relievers. Some of the most intriguing names are not as well known.

Jeremy Jeffress? He's a 28-year-old right-hander for the Brewers with a 97-mph sinker and a 2.35 ERA in 40 appearances.

Jake Barrett is another. He has emerged as a big-time weapon for the D-backs.

Sometimes, these are the guys who decide playoff berths. Teams seeking starting pitching will strengthen themselves by shoring up their bullpen, thereby lightening the load on the rotation.

That was true last season when Rangers general manager Jon Daniels changed the look of his entire team by acquiring Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson.

Yes, Daniels got Cole Hamels as well, and the Rangers wouldn't have won the American League West without him. But as one opposing manager said, "Those two relievers created a monster of a bullpen. When they got a lead, they held it."

Five years ago, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak acquired three relievers for the stretch run. He got Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel from Toronto at the Deadline, then added veteran free-agent lefty Arthur Rhodes in August.

That was the season that the Cardinals won 33 of their final 54 games to clinch a postseason berth on the final day of the season. Rzepczynski, Dotel and Rhodes combined for 54 appearances in the final two months. All three of them pitched in the World Series, and Dotel and Rhodes got big outs in the Game 7 victory.

At the time of the deals, though, it wasn't clear how much Mozeliak had actually upgraded his team.

Looking ahead to this year's August 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, here are 10 relievers to keep an eye on:

1. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Yankees
29 appearances, 2.22 ERA. 0.92 WHIP

The Yankees are reluctant to sell, regardless of where they are in the standings and even though Chapman will be a free agent after the season. It's just not what they do. If they do, Chapman is a difference maker. On Monday, he threw the five fastest pitches ever recorded by Statcast™, including one clocked at 105.1 mph.

For a team like the Cardinals seeking ninth-inning stability, Chapman would change the entire team. They have quality arms to line up in front of him, but they have had trouble getting the final three outs. In seven big league seasons, Chapman has made good on 90 percent (165 of 184) of his save chances.

Statcast: Chapman hits 105.1 mph

2. Andrew Miller, LHP, Yankees
40 appearances, 1.31 ERA, 0.73 WHIP

Miller is another nice trade asset, if the Yankees go that route. He's 31 years old and is as good as ever. Miller is also signed for 2017-18 for $9 million a year. He's like Chapman in that every team seeking pitching -- such as the Cardinals, Rangers, Orioles, Dodgers, Giants and Cubs -- will inquire to Yanks general manager Brian Cashman about him.

3. Alex Colome, RHP, Rays
32 appearances, 1.64 ERA, 1.09 WHIP

Colome is not on the trading block. However, the Rays are in a listening mode on everyone, and while the focus has been on their starting rotation, he could end up in an expanded deal.

4. Ryan Dull, RHP, Athletics
43 appearances, 2.05 ERA, 0.75 WHIP

Dull is two full seasons removed from free agency. The righty is aggressive in the strike zone and has stranded 39 of 41 inherited runners.

5. Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Brewers
37 appearances, 2.45 ERA, 0.93 WHIP

Brewers general manager David Stearns finds himself in a nice spot, with three quality arms to deal as he accumulates talent in an organizational reset. Thornburg has three pitches, but his 95-mph fastball is a swing-and-miss weapon.

Thornburg fans Pham, escapes jam

6. Jeffress, RHP, Brewers
40 appearances, 2.35 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

Jeffress has been one of the better relievers in the game the past four seasons, compiling a 2.48 ERA in 154 appearances. He keeps the ball consistently low in the zone, and he could be perfect for a team looking for a setup guy to come in and generate a ground ball.

7. Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Rays
37 appearances, 3.97 ERA, 1.29 WHIP

Ramirez is a control specialist whose fastball/slider/change combination is around the zone and gets soft contact. The righty has handled a variety of setup roles for the Rays nicely and would deepen almost any 'pen.

8. Brad Hand, LHP, Padres
46 appearances, 2.94 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

Hand is the only lefty on this list other than the two Yankees, so that increases his value. His fastball/slider combination has limited left-handed hitters to a .146 batting average this season.

Hand fans Belt, escapes jam

9. Barrett, RHP, D-backs
38 appearances, 3.06 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

It would take an exceptional offer to get Barrett from the D-backs, since he's only 24 years old. He has two power pitches, a fastball and a slider, and uses both effectively.

10. Carlos Torres, RHP, Brewers
39 appearances, 3.02 ERA, 1.28 WHIP

Torres rebuilt his repertoire around a cutter he's throwing over 70 percent of the time, according to fangraphs.com. His four-seam fastball is still his strikeout pitch.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.