July 24, 2018

Bullpen Options Should Come From Within

It’s no secret the Braves would like to add a reliever before the trade deadline.  They have the prospects to trade for any available reliever, most likely.  But, even if they trade for relief help, they should also consider taking advantage of their pitching prospect depth in another way.  They should bring up any of their young pitchers who have shown they are ready for the majors and put them in the bullpen.

The Braves’ rebuild was centered around pitching.  Pitching is expensive on the open market, even relievers these days.  The trend for a while has been starters going fewer innings and relievers going more, because teams now understand how much worse starters generally are the more times through the opposing order they are allowed to pitch.  The Braves loaded up on pitching so they would not have to pay big on the free agent and trade markets.

Teams often hesitate moving starting pitchers to the bullpen, favoring keeping starters in their starting roles in the minors instead of calling them up to pitch in the major league bullpen.  But, it’s not unheard of for pitchers to come to the majors as relievers and convert back to starting later on.  Teams should do it more often than they do.

If a team has to worry about handling a pitcher with kid gloves, because he’s used to starting or they are worried about injury with such a switch, he may not be the type of pitcher they want anyway.  Yes, there is some oversimplification there.  Teams probably should be cautious with pitchers with significant injury history and with extremely young pitchers, as perhaps a change in routine would risk injury.  And teams should be cautious with overuse of young pitchers, and perhaps resist using a good, young arm as often as they would a veteran reliever.  But, relieving in the majors, where a good pitcher can impact games that matter could be a good way to limit innings, rather than a hindrance.

Obviously, a team should only bring a pitcher to the majors as a reliever if he’s ready for the majors.  Otherwise, if a pitcher is used to starting, it’s best to have him developing what scouts call pitchability: setting up hitters, working on sequencing, and working on his full repertoire in order to get the same hitters out at least a couple of times in the same game.  But, if a pitcher is ready and can help now, development should be secondary to helping a contending team win major league games.

The one factor teams should worry about, more so than others that they shouldn’t, is rushing a pitcher and starting the service time clock on a potential impact starting pitcher.  For example, the Braves shouldn’t rush a guy like Kyle Wright for the purposes of bullpen help.  But, again, a team should only bring up a pitcher for the bullpen if he’s ready for the majors anyway.

Bringing up young pitchers who have been starting in the minors, for the major league bullpen, should not preclude them from making a deal for a reliever.  They should not use this strategy in lieu of making a trade but in addition to.  The more arms for the bullpen (or for the rotation, for that matter), the better.  Loading up on bullpen arms without having a pay a premium is a luxury most contending teams don’t have.  This is just as much of a benefit of having so many pitching prospects as is developing a good, young, cheap rotation.



2 Responses to “Bullpen Options Should Come From Within”

  1. 1
    Chop Chop Rupert Says:

    Yeah except they’ve tried this idea and it’s failed miserably with Simms, Weisler, Fried, Gohara, Blair (last year). Oh and all those guys have seen their value drop because of it.

  2. 2
    Shaun Says:

    They didn’t try all those guys in the bullpen, at least not consistently.

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