Even though the three serviceable southpaws that I profiled late last night could potentially be traded for, they weren’t the elite among left-handed relievers, and this next group of relievers rounds out this mini-series on southpaw relievers the Jays could target this offseason.
They represent a more significant upgrade over a guy like Luis Perez, but they’ll be a lot harder to obtain from their respective clubs. Check out the poll at the bottom of the post as well to have your say in terms of what kind of reliever you think the Jays should go after this offseason.
Sean Marshall (CHC) | 2011 salary: $1.6 million
In the unlikely event that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is able to pull a fast one on new Cubs GM Theo Epstein, he should look to acquire a guy like Marshall, who would dramatically bolster the Jays’ pen.
In addition to ranking second among all left-handed relievers with 75.2 innings pitched, Marshall had perhaps the best season of his career this year. He managed a sparkling, career-low 2.26 ERA in 78 appearances, but his career-low 1.86 FIP this past season was even more ridiculous, as it ranked fourth in the National League among full-time relievers (min. 10 IP) and sixth in all of baseball. Marshall set new career-lows in walk and home run rates, and his 79 strikeouts in his 75.2 innings were close behind the 90 batters he fanned last season in the same amount of innings.
One of the main reasons that Marshall is so dominant is because he has the ability to throw five different pitches for strikes. Though he’s practically eliminated his changeup from his repertoire, Marshall is somewhat unorthodox given the fact that he throws his curveball a lot more than his other three offerings. This mix of pitches helped him record a career-high ground ball percentage of 57.5, and career-low fly ball percentage of 24.5; both of which would fare well in the friendly confines of Rogers Centre.
With the Cubs looking to completely overhaul their roster this offseason now that Epstein’s at the helm, it would be interesting to see if Anthopoulos could send the right player(s) to the Windy City, or even take on some salary and to the Cubs a favor to get a deal done and acquire one of baseball’s best relievers over the last two years. Marshall’s salary will double next season to $3.1 million in final year of the two-year, $4.7 million contract he signed in January.
Rex Brothers (COL) | 2011 salary: league minimum
Young pitchers aren’t normally drafted to be Major League relievers, but that’s exactly what the Colorado Rockies did when they drafted Brothers with the 34th overall pick of the 2009 draft to be their closer of the future.
Armed with a big league fastball that can touch 99 and a lethal slider that can make any hitter look foolish, Brothers’ mastering of his two-pitch repertoire helped him make it all the way up to Double-A after his first full Major League season last year. Then, after pitching just 28 innings in Triple-A, Brothers was called up to the Rockies in June of this year and hasn’t looked back since.
His effortful delivery has given him some problems locating the strike zone, as he averaged five walks per nine innings in the minor leagues before issuing 20 free passes in 40.2 Major League innings, but he also struck out an uncanny 59 big league hitters in that time as well, good for a 13.1 K/9. Overall, he finished the year with an identical ERA and FIP of 2.88, as well as an impressive 12.2 swinging strike percentage. He’s supposed to start incorporating a changeup to his already devastating fastball-slider combination. Even as purely a reliever, Baseball America ranked him as the Rockies’ seventh-best prospect heading into the season, since his stuff is that good.
Brothers certainly fits Anthopoulos’ young, controllable mantra, as he turns just 24 years old in December. It’s unlikely that the Rockies would tolerate letting go of him, but we’ve seen Anthopoulos acquire one of an organization’s top prospects before, so Brothers could be an interesting option.
Eric O’Flaherty (ATL) | 2011 salary: $895k
The last reliever to round out this list was a mere two frames behind Marshall at No. 3 among all left-handed relievers with a career-high 73.2 innings pitched. O’Flaherty was one of the main reasons why the Atlanta Braves led all of baseball in terms of bullpen ERA, as he allowed just 59 hits in those 73.2 innings while striking out 67 and walking 21. He finished the year with a microscopic 0.98 ERA (2.54 FIP), and while his numbers against right-handed hitters were dominant (.33 average, .599 OPS, 0.90 ERA), his numbers against lefties were just as, if not more video-game like (.195 average, .512 OPS, 1.13 ERA).
His three-pitch repertoire — low 90s fastball, mid-80s slider, and changeup — combined with his tendency to attack hitters while on the mound by being aggressive has made him one of the game’s elite relief pitchers. That means that’s it’s virtually impossible that the Braves would deal him, especially since one of their other relievers, George Sherrill, is likely to depart via free agency.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to ignore what O’Flaherty did in 2011, specifically his mind-blowing 36:7 ratio of shutdowns (if he improved his team’s chances of winning) to meltdowns (if he made his team more likely to lose). To put into perspective just how crazy that is, the league average is 1.73 shutdowns for every meltdown.