Three contenders were able to make key trades to bolster their bullpens today, as the Detroit Tigers added Jose Veras, the Atlanta Braves acquired Scott Downs and the Tampa Bay Rays landed Jesse Crain.
Veras, getting his first shot at closing, had 19 saves to go with a 2.93 ERA and 1.00 WHIP for the Houston Astros. The 32-year-old has limited free passes this season, dropping his walks per nine innings from 5.4 in 2012 to 2.9 this season while still averaging 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings. It’s unclear at this point whether the Tigers will insert Veras into the ninth-inning role, or stick with Joaquin Benoit.
The Astros signed Veras to a one-year, $2 million contract with a $3.25 million option for 2014. Their reward for uncovering Veras as a closer is 19-year-old Danry Vasquez and a player to be named later. An outfielder out of Venezuela, Vasquez was hitting .273/.308/.356 between three different levels of A-Ball on the season.
The Braves landed the left-hander they were searching for, sending Cory Rasmus to the Los Angeles Angels for the veteran Downs. Lefties Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty both underwent Tommy John Surgery in May, creating a huge hole in the Braves’ bullpen. Southpaw Luis Avilan has filled in nicely, posting a 1.29 ERA over 48 appearances, but Downs gives Atlanta another, more proven option.
Since moving to the pen full time in 2007 Downs has been one of baseball’s best relievers, compiling a 2.27 ERA over that span. This season, the 37-year-old has limited lefties to a .196/.255/.216 line and has surrendered just one extra-base hit (a double) over 55 plate appearances. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end.
Rasmus, younger brother of Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus, was drafted in the first round back in 2006, but has just three Major League appearances. This season in Triple-A, the 25-year-old has an impressive 1.72 ERA and 14 saves while averaging 11.8 SO/9.
Crain had been on the Chicago White Sox’s disabled list with a sore shoulder. According to Ken Rosenthal, it could be weeks before the White Sox return is figured out, with the two teams negotiating cash and/or a player to be named. Crain has a 0.74 ERA over 36 ⅔ innings this season, and ends his tenure in Chicago having amassed a 2.10 ERA the past three seasons. The 32-year-old will be a free agent this offseason.
There could be another big bullpen move later tonight, as Brian Wilson is close to signing. Scott Miller of CBS Sports listed the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers as teams with known interest in the former closer.
Wilson, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, appeared in just two games for the Giants last season. The 31-year-old has 171 career saves and a 3.21 ERA.
Trade deadline is Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET