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Tigers, Nationals Relievers Drawing Trade Interest

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Now that the calendar has flipped to June and the trade deadline is just over the horizon, teams will be starting to line up their plans for the deadline. Relief pitchers tend to always be in demand since just about every contender could squeeze another quality arm or two or three into their bullpen.

With the expanded playoffs, there are few obvious sellers at the moment, which puts a spotlight on those that do make sense to have players on the block. As such, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that clubs with bullpen needs are interested in the relievers of the Tigers and Nationals. He specifically mentions Kyle Finnegan, Hunter Harvey, Carl Edwards Jr., Alex Lange, Will Vest and Jason Foley as those being targeted.

It’s not terribly surprising to see either club being eyed up by competitors. The Nats have been firmly in rebuild mode for a few years now, trading away established players like Trea Turner, Max Scherzer and Juan Soto. Their 25-35 record this season has them in the basement of the National League East. The Tigers are a bit more murky, as they tried to come out of their rebuild last year but ended up at 66-96. Their 26-33 record this year isn’t great but that leaves them only four games back in a weak American League Central. Perhaps they could hang around for the next couple of months but they recently lost both their best pitcher and position player when Riley Greene and Eduardo Rodriguez hit the injured list. That doesn’t guarantee they will slide out further back in the coming weeks but the possibility is there.

Of course, each individual player will require a different calculus based on their performance, years of control, age, etc. Let’s take a look at all six of those names that were mentioned and see what the sellers and the buyers will be looking at. Most of these guys have multiple years of control, meaning the Tigers/Nationals don’t strictly need to pull the trigger on a trade this summer. However, relievers are often volatile from year to year and there’s the ever-present injury risk, meaning there’s always a temptation to sell high when the opportunity is there.

Alex Lange, Tigers

Lange, 27, is in his third major league season and is seemingly improving every time the calendar flips over. He posted a 4.04 ERA in 2021, 3.41 last year and is down to 2.55 this year. His strikeout rate has also ticked up at the same time, going from 24.1% to 30.3% to 35%. However, the same is true of his walk rate, which has grown from 9.9% to 11.4% to 13%. That’s a bit concerning but his overall results are still trending in a positive direction as he’s taken on a higher-leverage role. He earned 21 holds last year and has jumped into the closer’s role this year with 10 saves already. He likely won’t even reach arbitration after this season and he’s not slated for free agency until after the 2027 campaign.

Will Vest, Tigers

Vest, 28, is similarly improving year over year like Lange. He had a 6.17 ERA with the Mariners in 2021 as a Rule 5 pick before getting sent back to the Tigers in July. They are surely glad the M’s made that decision as he then had an ERA of 4.00 last year and is down to 2.74 this year. He’s striking out 27.5% of opponents this year while walking just 8.8% and getting grounders on half of the balls in play he’s allowed. He hasn’t been in as many high-leverage spots, only notching a couple of holds on the year. Much like Lange, he’ll likely come up short of Super Two status this winter and won’t be on path for free agency until the 2027-28 offseason.

Jason Foley, Tigers

Foley, 27, made a brief debut in 2021 with a 2.61 ERA in 11 outings. He got a lengthier showing last year and his ERA jumped up but was still at a respectable 3.88. He’s cut that way down to 1.42 this year thanks to an incredible 61.4% ground ball rate. His 21.6% strikeout rate is a bit below average but his 5.2% walk rate is very good. He’s been moved into a setup role, earning 10 holds and a couple of saves on the year so far. Like his two teammates listed above, he’s yet to qualify for arbitration and isn’t scheduled for free agency until after the 2027 campaign.

Kyle Finnegan, Nationals

Finnegan, 31, moved into a high-leverage role with the Nats in recent years. He earned 22 saves and 27 holds over 2021 and 2022 with a 3.53 ERA in that time as well as a 24.6% strikeout rate, 10% walk rate and 47.9% ground ball rate. His ERA has ticked up to 4.56 this year, but that’s mostly due to one really bad outing early in the season. The Rays put a five spot on him on April 4 and he has a 2.11 ERA since. Every pitcher’s stats would look better if you took out their worst game, but his peripherals are fairly close to his career norms and it’s possible that he continues to even things out over time. He drew some trade interest a year ago but ultimately stayed in Washington. He came into this season with exactly three years of service time and is making a salary of $2.3MM. He’ll be in line for raises in the next two years before qualifying for free agency after 2025.

Hunter Harvey, Nationals

Harvey, 28, got some brief time in the big leagues with the Orioles earlier in his career but was put on waivers after the 2021 season. He was claimed by the Giants and then the Nationals on a second waiver claim. Last year, he got his first extended stretch in the big leagues and responded with a 2.52 ERA in 38 outings. He struck out 28.7% of batters faced while walking 7.6%. This year, his strikeout rate is up to 31.4% but some extra home runs have pushed his ERA to 3.33. He got six holds last year but is already up to 11 this season, along with a trio of saves. He’s making $870K this year and would be able to go through arbitration two more times before reaching free agency after 2025.

Carl Edwards Jr., Nationals

Edwards, 31, had some solid seasons with the Cubs earlier in his career but he didn’t pitch much over the 2019-2021 period due to various injuries. He signed a minor league deal with the Nats prior to 2022 and has been able to bounce back. He had a 2.76 ERA in 57 appearances last year and is at 3.28 this year. He’s only striking out 18.2% of opponents this season and is walking 12.7% but he’s getting grounders at a strong 48% clip. He had 13 holds and a couple of saves last year and is at 12 holds and one save already this year. Unlike the other names on this list, he’s a pure rental, making $2.25MM and slated for free agency this winter.

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