A look at each bullpen a month before camp


The free-agent market has moved relatively slowly so far this offseason, but one area in which several moves have been made is among relievers. With relief performance crucial in the quest to reach the postseason, we take a look at the projected bullpen for each club with Spring Training a little over a month away.

These projections, put together by all 30 MLB.com beat reporters, are based on what the bullpen might look like if the season started today, and could change based on reliever health and further offseason moves:

Angels: Two veteran relievers who pitched well for the Angels last season, Yusmeiro Petit and Bud Norris, leave some holes for the club to fill, as Petit signed with the A’s and Norris is expected to leave via free agency. While the Angels have signed right-handers Jim Johnson and Felix Pena, they hope to see a bounceback season from Cam Bedrosian and may need to add more left-handers to the mix. More >

Astros: Coming off their first World Series title in franchise history, the Astros’ biggest question mark is the bullpen. While there are undoubtedly strong relievers in the group, which has been bolstered with the offseason additions of Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, there were some inconsistent performances in big moments last season, particularly from closer Ken Giles in the postseason. More >

Athletics: The A’s made it a priority this offseason to bolster a bullpen that struggled mightily in 2017, and they began that process early on by signing veteran Petit and Emilio Pagan. That pair adds a level of versatility to Oakland’s relief corps that will be important given the potential limitations of a young starting rotation. More >

Video: SEA@BAL: Pagan gets Jones to pop out, escapes a jam

Blue Jays: Toronto enters the 2018 season with a deep bullpen, including a trio of setup arms around closer Roberto Osuna that had strong seasons in 2017. Between Ryan Tepera, Danny Barnes and Dominic Leone, the Jays have depth to fall back on in case one of them regresses next season. More >

Braves: Left-hander A.J. Minter, who made his MLB debut last August and struck out 17 of the final 31 batters he faced in 2017, could take big strides in 2018 to solidify his place as Atlanta’s closer of the future. The Braves’ No. 20 prospect struck out 26 and walked two with a 3.00 ERA in 16 appearances overall. Arodys Vizcaino, likely the club’s closer to open the season, and Jose Ramirez are the other two strong late-inning options. More >

Brewers: Milwaukee’s bullpen logged the fifth-most innings in MLB last season (572 2/3), and 2018 will likely bring another hefty workload. With starter Jimmy Nelson sidelined to start the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, and manager Craig Counsell’s strategic utilization of his relief corps, the Brewers’ ‘pen will look for continued success from Corey Knebel, Josh Hader and company. More >

Video: MIL@PIT: Knebel K’s Mercer, records save in shutout

Cardinals: St. Louis added Luke Gregerson to its bullpen this offseason, but the composition of late-inning relievers for the Cards remains in flux. Without a proven closer outside of Gregerson, who closed for the Astros in 2015, will St. Louis dip into the free-agent market for the ninth inning? The Cards do have depth in the form of young pitching prospects who could use seasoning in the bullpen before moving into starting roles. More >

Cubs: For the fourth consecutive season, the Cubs will have a new closer. At the moment, it looks to be Brandon Morrow, whom Chicago signed as a free agent after he pitched for the Dodgers against the Cubs in the National League Championship Series last October. The Cubs have been active in bolstering a bullpen that battled bouts of wildness in 2017, also adding Steve Cishek and Dario Alvarez. More >

D-backs: Arizona’s bullpen showed great improvement in 2017, posting the Majors’ fifth-best ERA (3.78). But the D-backs have a hole to fill in the closer’s role after Fernando Rodney left via free agency. The only D-backs reliever with closing experience is Brad Boxberger, who has 44 career saves. Boxberger will compete for the role along with Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano, whom the D-backs acquired from Japan. More >

Video: Hazen discusses the D-backs’ signing of Hirano

Dodgers: The defending NL champions continue to put forward one of the best bullpens in baseball, with Kenley Jansen closing and a deep pool of relievers for manager Dave Roberts to deploy. Los Angeles recently acquired ground-ball specialist Scott Alexander, who could help alleviate the loss of Morrow. The question is: Who will be the setup man? There are several candidates, including Alexander, Pedro Baez and Tony Cingrani. More >

Giants: The big key for the Giants’ relief corps in 2018 will be whether closer Mark Melancon bounces back following surgery on an injured forearm. If he is able to regain his All-Star form, it will strengthen the rest of the ‘pen as well. One area where Giants relievers must improve: strikeouts. While strikeouts have continued to go up around baseball, San Francisco’s relievers were third-to-last in MLB in strikeouts per nine innings. More >

Indians: The bullpen with the Majors’ lowest ERA in 2017 (2.89) will be tested now that reliever Bryan Shaw has signed with the Rockies. No reliever has made more appearances than Shaw over the past four seasons, and the Tribe will need replace those crucial innings somehow. Still, Cleveland boasts two of the best late-inning relievers in the game in Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen. More >

Video: NYY@CLE Gm5: Miller fans five Yankees in relief

Mariners: Seattle looks ahead to the 2018 season with one of the most talented and deep bullpens it’s had in years. The club returns the six relievers who tossed the most innings out of Seattle’s ‘pen in 2017, and it has added late-inning help in Juan Nicasio, who posted a 2.61 ERA last season and could slot in nicely ahead of closer Edwin Diaz. More >

Marlins: What they lack in high-leverage experience, Marlins relievers will hope to make up for in velocity as they head into the 2018 season. Miami’s relief corps includes several hard-throwing candidates, but after walking 271 batters in 2017 (tied for second-most in MLB), command will be key. More >

Mets: If closer Jeurys Familia returns to form following blood clot surgery last May, the Mets’ bullpen could be a strength with the moves New York has made over the past several months. Most recently, the club added right-hander Anthony Swarzak, who had a 2.33 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings last season. He’ll be an option along with AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins in case Familia falters in the ninth inning. More >

Video: NYM@PHI: Familia fans Rupp to earn the save

Nationals: Washington’s bullpen is as strong as it’s been in several years by this point in the offseason, particularly with the trio of Brandon Kintzler, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson at the back end. And if they can stay healthy, Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley and Sammy Solis could give the Nats a big boost after an injury-plagued 2017. More >

Orioles: Baltimore was dealt a big blow when closer Zach Britton ruptured his right Achilles tendon. With Britton sidelined, Brad Brach will move into the closer role, with Mychal Givens serving as the setup man. Fortunately for the O’s, those two have experience in those roles, particularly with Britton spending time on the disabled list last season. The staff could use more left-handed relief help. More >

Padres: San Diego has made several moves this offseason to add to its bullpen, including re-signing Craig Stammen and signing Japanese submariner Kazuhisa Makita, each on two-year deals. With one of the best closers in the game in Brad Hand, the key for the Padres in 2018 will be getting the ball to him in the ninth inning. More >

Video: COL@SD: Hand K’s side to complete shutout, earn save

Phillies: New manager Gabe Kapler has said he is “not married to any specific role” among his relievers, signaling he could use setup men and closers earlier in games if the situation warrants it. Philadelphia may need that type of flexibility if its young starting rotation is unable to go deep into games. The additions this offseason of Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter further bolster the relief corps to that end. More >

Pirates: Felipe Rivero had a stellar season in 2017, locking down the closer role for the foreseeable future in Pittsburgh by posting a 1.67 ERA in 75 1/3 innings. The Pirates return the core members of a bullpen that posted a 2.59 ERA last September, though how the Bucs will get the ball to Rivero in the ninth remains to be seen. George Kontos could help in that area. More >

Rangers: Much of what happens with the Rangers’ bullpen in 2018 will depend on how the club decides to utilize Matt Bush. Texas is considering moving him to the rotation, but another alternative could be to have him close. At this point, the closer role could fall to left-hander Alex Claudio, who handled it in the second half last season. If Keone Kela stays healthy and Jose Leclerc finds his command, Texas’ bullpen could be formidable. More >

Video: Jeff Banister discusses improving the bullpen

Rays: Will Alex Colome be the Rays’ closer when Spring Training rolls around? He’s been the subject of trade talks this offseason, and if he is dealt, the Rays could go with one of their young power arms or a closer-by-committee approach. Harnessing the velocity in terms of control will be key for Tampa Bay’s young relievers, particularly Ryne Stanek and Jose Alvarado. More >

Red Sox: With every member set to return except for free agent Addison Reed, Boston’s bullpen once again figures to be one of the best in baseball. While the Red Sox are looking to add a left-hander to the mix, having Carson Smith ready to start a full season following Tommy John surgery and Joe Kelly now fully immersed in a relief role, Boston is in great shape. The question is: Who will step into the setup role ahead of Craig Kimbrel? More >

Reds: Cincinnati’s bullpen looks to improve following a 2017 campaign in which it ranked second-to-last in the NL in ERA (4.65) and led the Majors in walks and hit batters. The good news for the Reds is that Raisel Iglesias blossomed into a solid closer last season. The question will be whether the Reds can get strong performances in the middle innings, particularly after the starting rotation tossed the fewest innings in MLB last season. More >

Rockies: Colorado has invested heavily in its bullpen this offseason, signing three-time All-Star closer Wade Davis to a three-year, $52 million deal, and also bringing in former Indians reliever Shaw on a three-year, $27 million deal. Meanwhile, the club re-signed lefty Jake McGee and looks forward to seeing if long reliever Chris Rusin can duplicate a great 2017 campaign (2.65 ERA in 60 appearances). Even with a formidable offense, the Rockies’ bullpen could be their biggest strength. More >

Video: Harding on Rockies trying to improve their bullpen

Royals: With Kansas City in rebuild mode, having traded relievers Alexander and Joakim Soria, and with Mike Minor leaving via free agency, several hard-throwing young hurlers will get a chance. The question is: Who will close? With Minor gone, Kelvin Herrera could return to the role after becoming the setup man in 2017, but he may also be traded before Spring Training. More >

Tigers: Shane Greene enters the 2018 season as Detroit’s closer, having performed well following the trade of Justin Wilson to the Cubs last July. He and setup man Alex Wilson will anchor a new-look bullpen intent on laying the foundation for a strong relief corps in years to come. More >

Twins: Minnesota reached the postseason for the first time in seven years with an appearance in the 2017 American League Wild Card Game. As the Twins look to take the next step, a strong bullpen will be critical. To bolster their relief corps, they’ve acquired free-agent closer Rodney and left-hander Zach Duke in an effort to add veteran experience to a young group of relievers. More >

Video: Bollinger on impact of Twins inking Rodney

White Sox: Chicago recently acquired veteran relievers Luis Avilan and Soria in a three-team trade with the Royals and Dodgers. While it’s not clear who the White Sox’s closer will be, the club has several late-inning options, including Nate Jones, Juan Minaya and Gregory Infante. More >

Yankees: A Yankees bullpen that set a Major League record with 10.92 strikeouts per nine innings in 2017 returns intact for new manager Aaron Boone. With Aroldis Chapman closing, and the arms of David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Chad Green in the late innings, New York’s relief corps is among the best in baseball. The big question is: Will Betances regain his command after faltering late last season? More >

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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