What’s poppin, Razzpimples?
Apologies for skipping last week. I was on the DTD list with lower-back issues. Flares up every now and then and I just didn’t feel like a-sittin and a-writin.
Back at it this week with what will be my last entry of the 2023 fantasy baseball season: looking ahead to the free agent class of 2024 and how that might shake things up for fantasy purposes. I can’t predict the future of course, but I aim to help you at least keep some names in the back of your mind when heading into the 2024 fantasy draft season. Namely, guys who could replace the any given free agency departure. Hope ya’s enjoy!
Josh Hader is the biggest name on the board. I don’t need to spend much time talking about how good is, I reckon. Y’all know. If you remember Ewin Diaz’s Statcast profile at the end of last season, that’s pretty much what Hader’s looks like. Spotrac (a very handy site for contracts and free agents and whatnot if you don’t know about it) estimates Hader’s market value at $14.5 million annually. The Dads are also potentially losing Blake Snell as well, so I’m wondering if they’ll have what it takes to get one or both back for 2024 and, if it’s just one of ’em, who it’d be. I ain’t smart enough to work all that out. I just wanted to bring to your attention that Hader may be wearing a different hat in a few months. If that’s the case, they either 1). sign a new closer or 2). slide Robert Suarez and/or Scott Barlow up the depth chart to be the ninth-inning guy(s). As for Hader, he’ll make bank either way, as he’s only 29 and has plenty left in that tank. Not exactly the case for the majority of the rest of the free agent RP pack. I can’t foresee a situation where someone is willing to pay the man and not let him continue being an elite closer, so his draft capital doesn’t change a lick.
Next up is Craig Kimbrel. At times this year he’s looked as good as he ever has, and I firmly stand by the fact that that’s because the Phillies finally wised up to using him as a sole closer for most of this season. He’s not the closer he was at his peak, of course, but he’s still plenty good at the job and brings a wealth of experience in what will undoubtedly be a Hall of Fame career. Kimbrel is 35 years old, however. He got a one-year deal for this season. Is that in order again for 2024? Will the next team that signs him (assuming he doesn’t get extended) make him a closer? Let’s assume he walks…who’s next up in Philly? Gotta be Jose Alvarado, doesn’t it? Been one of the better arms in the league and he’ll be the guy getting paid the most next year in that pen. He’s locked up thru the 2026 season. Wouldn’t that be somethin if the Dads let Hader go and replaced him with a cheaper Kimbrel? I could see that reunion happening.
Will Smith and Aroldis Chapman go hand in hand since they’re both lefty veteran closers who currently pitch for the Texas Rangers yet are set to be UFAs come this winter. Both have also been fantastic and times and not-so-fantastic at others. Smith has a slight age advantage at 33 years old to Chapman’s geezerly 35. Chapman, however, has been better of late and has a much higher pedigree. I mean, dat Statcast doe. Someone will pay for that, and I’d wager that someone will want to give him the ninth. Maybe it’s Texas. Maybe it’s San Diego lol. It feels like every free agent is potentially going to Slam Diego. They want everyone. Anywho, I’m very intrigued by where Aroldis ends up. Curious what becomes of Smith, too. He was as lockdown a closer as there was at one point this year, and then he just kinda started falling apart in August (to his credit, he’s gone six straight outings without allowing a run). He’s got history as a successful closer in his favor. I’ll admit, when he signed with Texas before the season, I saw almost zero possibility that he’d get looks. So of course he went and got all the looks for a long time and did well. Maybe there are more saves in his future, it just depends where he ultimately lands.
David Robertson will be a free agent soon as well. Safe to say his stint in Miami hasn’t gone as planned, and at the ripe old age of 38 (will be 39 in early April), I don’t know that anyone takes a shot at signing him to be an outright closer. That’s not to say he doesn’t end up somewhere and get looks here and there, it’s just kinda hard to see steady saves coming aside from injury or something. DRob rocked a 48:13 K:BB across 44 IP with the Mets, yet floundered to a 17:10 K:BB in 14 IP so far with the Marlins (fish pun intended; you’re welcome), amassing an ugly 6.43 ERA (5.05 FIP) and .268 OBA along the way. With at least one more year of control for Tanner Scott, I’d imagine he’s one of the favorites to lock down the ninth given they don’t sign someone sexier ahead of him. A.J. Puk is under team control for a few more years. His name isn’t out of the mix either. Scott’s the guy on my radar entering next year, for what it’s worth.
Trevor May has finished the 2023 season looking rather good, I must say. One more save and he enters the 20-SV club. Not too shabby. Sure didn’t expect any A’s guy to get there. That being said, I said back around the trade deadline that I thought he’d get dealt and that he wouldn’t close anywhere else. I expect if he gets signed somewhere else then that would hold true. Might have some SVHD value depending on his new squad, but SV-only is tough to picture, even if he does have 17 SV, a shiny 1.80 ERA (4.02 FIP though), and a .200 OBA in his last 25 IP. We’re still talking about a dude with a WHIP near 1.50 for the season. Dany Jimenez, Zach Jackson, and Lucas Erceg will all be around next year. I thought Jackson would be a majority-shares type this year, but dude can’t stay healthy. Same story for Jimenez really. Probably a situation best avoided in 2024, but I think we can count on May being on a new team regardless. Outside of AL-only or very deep formats, it’s gonna be tough to recommend an Oakland closer until it’s clear they’re committed to one dude back there.
Jordan Hicks is a free agent after this season, which figures given he was dealt at the trade deadline by phoning-it-in Cardinals. Blue Jays have gotten good use out of him but he hasn’t seen a decision (a save) since Aug. 28, despite being called upon four times since then. He’s one to keep on your holds radar in 2024 drafts, and he may even remain a saves option, who knows. Has the chops for it obviously, as lazy Statcast analysis can tell you. There’s a chance he’s a nice bargain next year as a guy most people don’t think to draft.
Robert Stephenson has quietly been one of the most consistent and most filthy relievers this year. Picked a great year — a contract year — to pop off as a trusted arm in high-leverage situations. Tampa didn’t use him in high-leverage innings for a while, but even so, his line since moving to Tampa is absolutely boss: 33 IP, 15 H, 9 ER, 8 BB, 52 (!!!) K, and .135 (!!!!!!!!!!!) OBA. That shiz is insane! Did you have any idea he was that good? I didn’t! He should be a top priority for someone this offseason. Maybe the Rays just ultimately extend him. Numbers like that make me think he could even have an opportunity to close in the right situation. Dude is 100th percentile in chase rate and whiffs, and 99th in K%. He’s started leaning on his cutter way more, and it’s paying off immensely. You know what I hope happens? I hope St. Louis gets this guy.
Matt Moore is the last guy I’ll take time to elaborate on. His 2022 season was legit, and he followed it up with a high-quality sequel. A lefty who can handle late innings is always desirable. The K% improved a little this year, and the overall WHIP so far this year (1.09) is a good deal better than last year’s total (1.18). With only three appearances for the Guardians thus far, his numbers there look terrible. But let’s ignore ’em, cuz we just should. With the Angels, he was borderline elite. I can easily foresee SVHD value in 2024 on the right team. Angels were perfect, dammit! That pen is booty. Now that he’s in Cleveland, he’s behind Stephan.
Alrighty that about does it for names that matter in the 2024 free agency class of relief pitchers. There are other guys like Reynaldo Lopez, Shintaro Fujinami, Luis Garcia, Wandy Peralta, Joe Jimenez, Carl Edwards Jr., Jose Cisnero, etc., but they don’t strike me as guys who would come in and necessarily demand usage that would amount to fantasy relevancy. Of course, some of these names will absolutely become fantasy relevant in some type of format. That’s just the nature of bullpen guys these days.
Hope y’all enjoyed my stuff this year! Had a lot of fun. Miss you, love you.
I specialize in bullpens, and I used to do some fantasy hockey as well here at Razzball. Find me on Twitter: @jkj0787. DMs are always open for questions, comments, concerns, complaints, etc. Odds are good I’m drinking black coffee, dark beer, or some form of bourbon at any given time of day.