Would you be open to trading with a division rival? If not, you should at least be open to the concept. Heck, the Astros just made a trade with the Angels.
During the span of one week, the Astros have seen two AL rivals add talent to their bullpens. Another postseason hopeful addressed the starting rotation. For better or worse, there doesn’t seem to be much urgency in Houston. While it is debatable if the Astros have a pressing need in the bullpen, another arm, specifically a left-hander, wouldn’t hurt. That’s why general manager Jeff Luhnow heavily pursued Zach Britton in 2017 and 2018.
Unfortunately, the Yankees ended up with Britton. Another favorite target of the fanbase, Brad Hand, wound up in Cleveland. Both Britton and Hand were likely the best left-handed relievers available. Options still exist, though. One name proposed by R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports of potentially available relief southpaws has recently caught my eye: Rangers’ lefty Jake Diekman.
Wait, did I hear the entire Houston fanbase collectively groan? But let’s not sell Diekman short because of the uniform he wears.
The age-31 pitcher was originally with the Phillies before he was sent to Texas as part of the Cole Hamels deal back in 2015. Diekman has generally been a solid left-handed reliever throughout his major league career in Philadelphia and Arlington as he sports a career 3.60 ERA and 3.27 FIP over 294 2/3 innings.
Nowadays, he exclusively throws a sinker-and-slider combination as Diekman dropped his changeup following the 2016 season. The Rangers’ lefty also maintains a 49.6% groundball rate, which is an attribute that the Astros have been fond of in the past. In terms of whiffs, Diekman’s slider does the most damage. At its peak in 2014, his slider generated a 58% whiff rate.
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Interestingly enough, Diekman’s velocity has declined, yet he still averages a mid-nineties sinker. But his average slider velocity is currently 3 MPH slower than his 85.9 MPH average velocity back in 2016. The horizontal and vertical movement on his slider has also changed in recent years. The sinker has remained relatively constant, though. If another team can fix his slider, Diekman could recapture some of his past form.
Alas, Diekman does walk plenty of batters — 12.4% career walk rate — but he has experienced past success in spite of it. And while his numbers this season — 4.00 ERA and 3.72 FIP — do little to inspire, contenders should be interested in a reliever that can provide valuable depth. Again, can a team out there fix his slider?
If the Rangers do make the lefty available, who is scheduled to be a free-agent this winter, there could be plenty of contenders interested. The Astros should be one of those interested parties.