The pool of players on the 2021 MLB Free Agents market is certainly stacked when it comes to relievers. Dominant high-profile closers such as Brad Hand, Liam Hendriks, and Kirby Yates, as well as other relief pitchers, will be subject to high demand this offseason. This is as high as it can be in 2020-2021, at least.
There is another name, however, that could make a difference in any struggling bullpen. Moreover, he has surely left a big hole in the Marlins‘ staff that will be difficult to fill considering the club’s budget. That, of course, is none other than former Marlins, Twins, and Cubs closer Brandon Kintzler.
The 36-year-old has enjoyed a stellar 11-season career with the Brewers, Twins, Nationals, Cubs, and Marlins. Since his rookie year in 2010, he has posted an ERA south of 4.00 in every campaign except for two. That includes his past two seasons in Illinois and Florida, where this figure has been sub-3.00.
With his most productive period right behind him, Kintzler could be amongst the quiet strong signings for any team that inquires for him. Furthermore, a detailed breakdown of his numbers shows he can still be reliable, even at 36.
2021 MLB Free Agents: Kintzler’s Remarkable Two-Year Span
The 2019 season was undoubtedly one of Kintzler’s strongest on the major-league level. Moreover, despite a down year in 2020, he didn’t dramatically fall off his near-career-high figures.
In 2019, Kintzler was Chicago’s most efficient reliever en route to putting on a 2.68 ERA. He also had one of his most prolific campaigns regarding the three true outcomes that he has full control over. Firstly, he struck out an average of 7.2 batters per nine innings, a significant number for a pitcher who isn’t heavy in the strikeout department. His previous career-high for a campaign with over 20 innings pitched was 6.8.
In addition, Kintzler also allowed just 2.1 walks per nine, a noticeable drop from 2018’s 3.3 BB/9. He also managed to hold onto his impressive home run figure, climbing just a tenth to 0.8 HR/9. He was better than almost ever at ball control while keeping up his success against the long ball.
His age might point to a possible decline from his previous dominance. At the same time, however, his statistical achievements that year are indicative of the sustainability that he is capable of.
The downward trend in his 2020 performance was as noticeable as his improvement was in 2019. Brandon Kintzler posted negative increases in the bases on balls and the home runs he conceded this past campaign. He allowed more than one home run per nine for the first time since 2015 and more than four walks for the first time ever. Furthermore, his strikeouts per nine innings also decreased to the lowest in three years.
This occurred with Kintzler pitching less than half of his 2019 workload, however. The 24.1 innings he played for Miami were roughly a third of his 2013 career-high. Therefore, the 2020 decline is discredited until confirmed in a full-workload campaign.
The upcoming MLB season will prompt one of the top relief 2021 MLB free agents to prove that he has a place in the league for the next few seasons. Nonetheless, his potential suitors can be excited by the signs of sustainability.
2021 MLB Free Agents: Demand and Market Value
Brandon Kintzler received $3.25 million for his duties in 2020. If this past season can play a part in discussions about the 2021 MLB free agents, it is that bad general managers will buy into 2020 numbers too. As the workload of most players is far smaller than during a 162-game campaign, these figures could be disillusioning as regards a player’s capabilities in three times more innings (or at-bats).
Therefore, Kintzler’s price should be bound to go down due to his walk and homerun woes. This would be inconvenient for an old reliever who could, in the worst-case scenario, experience a serious downfall. Meanwhile, it provides some teams with other offseason focuses or without financial capabilities a chance to make a bargain during the winter.
Another note could be one of his previous MLB deals. In 2018, Kintzler signed a two-year contract with Washington which he ultimately finished in The Windy City. The deal was worth five million dollars a year after solid walks and homers numbers for him in an All-Star 2017 season. He experienced drops in these fields in 2020, however. Add to that the league’s current financial issues and he has little chance to land a more expensive deal, let alone anything close to five million dollars.
2021 MLB Free Agents: Potential Suitors for Brandon Kintzler
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have had one of the worst bullpens in Major League Baseball. This statement applies to both the full-schedule 2019 season and the shortened 2020 campaign.
In 2020, the Red Sox posted a bullpen ERA of 5.79, ranking as the fourth-worst in MLB. During the 2020 season, the group lost a reliable closer in Brandon Workman. Replacing him was Matt Barnes, who excelled in the strikeout department but struggled mightily with 5.5 BB/9. This poses a serious threat concerning his display in a full season.
That puts the Boston bullpen on the top of their buy list. This is one of the components they are likely to spend the most on, however, they might also seek to bring in a starter. The Sox might be reluctant to throw a fortune at the likes of Brad Hand or Liam Hendriks. Therefore, Kintzler is their answer at closer.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are a few pieces away from being a constant postseason contender. One of them is a good bullpen, with the biggest need being a new closer.
Toronto ended the past season seventh in terms of the highest ERA posted by the bullpen with 4.71. Their best relief pitcher and closer, Ken Giles, pitched just over three innings in an injury-ridden year. He eventually got a Tommy John surgery that will prevent him from playing in 2021. Therefore, the Jays let him go in free agency.
Rafael Dolis and young pitcher Jordan Romano are said to be competing for the spot. However, these moves would be too risky. Dolis and Romano still lack the reliability for either to be the closer next season. Instead, Toronto could take it to the free-agent market to address their biggest need. Kintzler, as one of the best closers on the market, could be worth GM Ross Atkins’ attention.
The Diamondbacks are said to not be overly active on inquiring for 2021 MLB free agents. After losing Archie Bradley, among others, one of their biggest needs remains the bullpen.
The unit posted a weak year in 2020, posting a 4.50 ERA en route to a 12th-place rank in the league. Unless Arizona takes care of it, the bullpen could be a liability for the postseason-hopeful Dbacks. In the meantime, Arizona might also be interested in adding batters to a subpar lineup that finished 19th in runs scored. If the club is indeed unwilling to spend much, Kintzler could be a preferable option to Hand or Hendricks.
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