Andrew Friedman hates trading for relievers. He’s done a pretty good job of cobbling together bullpens in recent years, but there are a couple of holes in this year’s bullpen thanks to injury and regression. So, perhaps this is an opportunity to right a wrong and bring back old friend Scott Barlow, who is really good, despite a couple bad outings this week.
- Juan Soto (July 19)
- Luis Castillo (July 22)
- Joe Jimenez, Mychal Givens, Garrett Richards (July 25)
- Frankie Montas (July 26)
- Nathan Eovaldi (July 28)
Editor’s Note: All statistics through July 28.
Barlow, the Dodgers’ 6th-round pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, has done quite well for himself since leaving the Dodgers. He elected free agency after the 2017 season and signed a Major League deal wit the Royals a month later. It took a season to get fully established in Kansas City, but he has done just that. Barlow has carved out a pretty nice career thus far with KC as a sometimes-closer. He has a 3.17 ERA, 3.21 FIP, 19.5 K-BB% and has established himself as a Top 15 reliever since debuting in 2018. This season, he has a 2.11 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 17.8 K-BB% and 16 saves. It’s interesting to see him doing as well as he is in 2022 because he has seen his average fastball velocity decline 1.6 MPH — from 95.3 MPH to 93.7 … and that’s thanks to a significant increase starting in May.
Early on, he was average less than 93 MPH on his heater. That’s about average fastball velocity these days, but for a guy who averaged 95 MPH last season, the early season drop in velo was cause for concern.
He actually paired lower velocity with decreased usage in his 4-seamer. Here are his usage rates since 2019.
- 2019: 35.2%
- 2020: 37.1%
- 2021: 33.1%
- 2022: 23.9%
Barlow has made up the usage with his curveball. He threw it 20.3% of the time in 2021, but that is up to 31.9% this season. And for good reason — he has a .115 batting average against and .171 wOBA against on it and an 81.8 MPH average exit velocity. It’s his best pitch, and it’s similar to the curveball Charlie Morton throws, at least in horizontal movement (but definitely not RPM). Here’s how the horizontal movement compares.
|Player||CB Mov (in.)||vs. Avg|
The vertical movement is almost a carbon copy of Nathan Eovaldi‘s curveball, who was the topic of discussion in yesterday’s trade deadline piece.
|Player||CB Mov (in.)||vs. Avg|
So, you’re basically getting the reliever version of Morton/Eovaldi, when it comes to his curveball, at least. Also, because he’s a former starting pitcher (in the minors), he has a third pitch — a quality 84.4 MPH slider that is his most-used offering at 44.4%. It has a .191 BAA, .248 wOBA and an average exit velo of 87.4 MPH.
All that is to say, the dude knows how to pitch.
Quite encouraged with the Average Exit Velocity, Hard Hit% and Chase Rate percentile rankings. The most problematic part of his game is he’s a bit home prone (1.15 HR/9, 13.3 HR/FB) despite doing a good job of keeping the ball on the ground (46.8 GB%). He is running a career-best .235 BABIP, which is down from .324 mark from 2018-21. So, that’s something to monitor going forward. He’s also capable of pitching more than one inning at a time. He has gone more than one inning in 12 of his 29 appearances.
Barlow isn’t going to be mistaken for prime Craig Kimbrel, but he might very well be the best reliever available and traded this deadline. The Royals would do well to cash in on him. He’s not a free agent until after the 2024 season, so there’d be a non-zero chance the Dodgers would be acquiring their closer for the 2023-24 seasons in this deal.
It’s a bit of a steep price, but that’s what happens at the trade deadline. Knack is the biggest get, as he could step into the Royals’ rotation sometime next season. They’ve missed on some of their college pitching draftees in recent years, and Knack would give them a chance to correct that. They’d also be getting a couple of lower-level lottery tickets, including a guy in De Jesus I really like. They might be able to place him next to Bobby Witt Jr., in a few seasons. Ramos’ power is intriguing and would play well in Kauffman Stadium.
Call me crazy, but bringing in Greinke could be a way to guard against regression and injury in the second half — when it comes to the rotation. Greinke isn’t the guy he was when he was with the Dodgers from 2013-15, but he could provide 4-5 decent innings a start and would be a much cheaper option than going after a Castillo, Montas or someone else. It could be shades of the Dodgers acquiring Greg Maddux (the second time), with, hopefully, better results.
Henriquez would give the Royals a nice, low-level pitcher with big upside. Outman could slide into center field by September and Leonard could look to bounce back and become the super utility guy (in a year or two) to replace Whitt Merrifield, whom the Royals are likely to trade.
With Phil Bickford and Alex Vesia regressing a bit, Brusdar Graterol hurting and Reyes Moronta being a complete wild card, the Dodgers’ middle relief is a bit shaky. Adding Barlow would allow them to shift some guys in higher-leverage situations back down, or at least allow Barlow to share the middle relief workload, and improve the bullpen overall.