Last Minute Shopping: Relief for the Relievers
By Sean Davis
Time is running out, it’s August 30th and there are less than two days for teams in the MLB to make trades and bring players into their organization who are eligible to play on their postseason rosters. As we’ve discussed, MLB GMs have been hard at work all year long, and just about every one of them still has needs to be dealt with and holes to be filled. For the Athletics, one of the most glaring holes and one that has been largely ignored all year has been the bullpen.
Jul 13, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Matt Lindstrom (27) pitches during seventh inning against the Philadelphia Phillies during game one of a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Thought to be a strength of the team coming into the season, the bullpen has come back to Earth a little bit and has shown itself to be vulnerable. No bigger example of this can be found than the loss Thursday afternoon in Detroit. Jerry Blevins gave up two of the six runs the Tigers needed to come back and shock the A’s, Grant Balfour took care of the other four in the ninth. Blevins has become a popular member of the Athletics team, but his performance on the field hasn’t equaled his level of popularity. His ERA has ballooned to 3.61 and it’s questionable if he can be trusted in anything but mop up situations at this point.
The bullpen can break an otherwise talented team suffer painful loss after painful loss, much like Thursday brought to us. While the loss itself falls on the shoulders of Grant Balfour, there have been numerous instances recently where the bullpen as a unit has been unable to hold a lead during the mid-to-late innings before Balfour even becomes a factor. That’s where an acquisition of a reliever such as Matt Lindstrom of the Chicago White Sox could prove extremely useful for the A’s. Lindstrom is the only known reliever to clear waivers this month according to the tracker at MLB Trade Rumors. Lindstrom has posted a 3.04 ERA in 53.1 innings of work and has tallied 39 strikeouts. He throws hard, and could slot in as a useful middle reliever.
Ideally the A’s would be able to add a quality left handed reliever, but if it was that easy chances are they would have already done that. Javier Lopez of the San Francisco Giants would have been a perfect fit, but the Giants exorbitant asking price ensured he would finish the season in orange and black. The most prominent lefty available would be Mike Gonzalez of the Milwaukee Brewers, but he doesn’t really represent an upgrade over anyone in the Athletics bullpen currently.
What may end up happening though is Brett Anderson himself may have to be that bullpen addition that makes a difference for the A’s. Despite his rough numbers thus far, he will likely be placed into some high leverage situations in the near future. This is of course assuming he doesn’t move over to the starting rotation at some point. Anderson has the talent, and a bullpen role could help keep him on the mound and off the trainers table.
What seems like a small part of the team, could prove to be the part that keeps the A’s from reaching their full potential. While the going has been rough lately, this team does have the talent to make some noise this season and it would be a shame for bullpen ineffectiveness to drag the team down. There’s still time, although not much for Billy Beane to work his magic and bring in some help for the A’s, they desperately need it.