MLB teams will surely rush to the relief pitching market once the lockout is lifted and transactions are allowed.
It’s rare to find young, high-impact relievers in free agency, but the veterans that currently populate the market are quite good.
These three are all well over 30, but remain good investments because they have been excellent for long enough and were highly effective in 2021.
3. Collin McHugh
Already a solid starter back when he was with the Houston Astros from 2014 to 2019, the team did not have any room for Collin McHugh in the rotation in 2018, so they sent him to the bullpen.
The experiment worked wonders, as he had a 1.99 ERA in 72.1 innings, with 11.70 strikeouts per nine frames.
After a not-so-good 2019, he missed 2020 to rehab an elbow injury.
He returned to elite status in 2021, this time with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The 34-year-old righty had a minuscule 1.55 ERA in 64 frames, with 10.41 whiffs per nine innings.
He is a true weapon in the bullpen, and can fill a variety of roles with ease.
He thrives as a multi-inning reliever covering a couple of frames per game, but he can also be an opener.
McHugh is one of the top veteran arms available for teams looking for a quality reliever.
2. Ryan Tepera
34-year-old Ryan Tepera showed a lot of things during the 2021 MLB season.
First, he proved he is a very reliable reliever, as his career 3.48 ERA suggests.
Last season, he posted a solid 2.79 ERA between two teams, covering 61.1 frames.
He showed he can pitch for a rebuilding team like the Chicago Cubs (2.91 ERA in 43.1 innings) and was equally brilliant for a contender in the Chicago White Sox (2.50 ERA in 18 frames).
Tepera may be on the wrong side of 30, but he remains a solid contributor for any major league bullpen.
Last year, he actually had the best season of his career, with 1.6 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
That should be enough to show MLB teams he can still get the best hitters of the world out in any scenario.
I would rather them re-sign Ryan Tepera or if not sign Collin McHugh
And maybe sign Brad Miller to a 1-2 year deal so he can provide depth off the bench 🤷🏽♂️
Im being honest bro I’m not asking for much, this team in some ways is set up already
— Nick ✨ (@Sox_Nick) January 8, 2022
1. Kenley Jansen
At times, it looked like Kenley Jansen, who has been the Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer for the better part of the last decade, was finished as a high-leverage contributor.
But he kept working on his pitches and finished the campaign with excellent numbers once again.
In fact, he had his best performance in at least five years.
In 69 frames, the 34-year-old right-hander had a 2.22 ERA and a 3.08 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching).
It was his lowest ERA since 2017, when he finished at 1.32.
The Dodgers would be happy to bring him back into the fold for the 2022 campaign, but other teams could be in on the splitter artist.
Jansen had a few lapses with his control, evidenced by his high 4.70 walks per nine innings, but remains an excellent reliever.
9 RPs had 3 pitches with ≥30% Whiffs in 2021
Kenley Jansen: FC, FS, SL
Seth Lugo: FF, SL, CU
Raisel Iglesias: FF, SL, CH
Collin McHugh FF, FC, SL
Chris Stratton: CU, SL, CH
AJ Minter: FF, FC, CH
Tejay Antone: FS, SL, CU
Enyel De Los Santos: FF, SL, CH
Brandon Bielak: SL, CU, CH pic.twitter.com/LcdjdGcbVo
— James Schiano (@JeterHadNoRange) January 11, 2022
There is a lot of mileage in Jansen’s right arm, because in addition to the regular season innings, he has pitched a lot in the playoffs, but he should have at least a couple of years in the elite.