Here’s the story of the offseason, so far: after having missed out on Shohei Ohtani, passed on Giancarlo Stanton, signed starter Tyler Chatwood, and added free agent reliever Brandon Morrow, the Cubs are likely looking to add (at least) another quality starting pitcher and back-end reliever (in addition, potentially, to a veteran back-up catcher and “fourth” outfielder) before things are said and done this winter.
And while the Cubs and free agent starter Alex Cobb continue to be connected almost daily (providing some semblance of clarity and direction in that search), the relief targets are far wider reaching.
By most accounts, the Cubs are at least entertaining the idea of going after the top tier free agent arms like Wade Davis and Greg Holland, or even making a trade for someone like Zach Britton or Alex Colome. Of course, there’s also a very expansive mid-tier, back-end bullpen market, including names like Addison Reed, Jake McGee, and … Brandon Kintzler:
The #Twins, #Dbacks, #Nationals, #Rangers and #Cubs are among the clubs monitoring Brandon Kintzler’s market. #Cubs could divvy up their save opportunities if Wade Davis moves on. Kintzler is probably looking at a 2-year deal.
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 11, 2017
This isn’t the first time the Cubs have been connected to Kintzler this winter. In fact, just last week, a Jon Morosi source suggested that even though things were progressing slowly, the Cubs were interested in the 33-year-old free agent reliever.
Kintzler managed 71.1 innings this year, split between the Twins and Nationals, and posted an excellent 3.03 ERA. How he did it, though, was extremely unique: his strikeout rate was modest 13.5%, the fourth lowest among all relievers. His 5.6% walk rate, however, was very good, top 17 in baseball.
That means Kintzler allowed an absurd amount of balls in play, and he must have been pretty good on that front, right? Right! His 54.9% groundball rate was 21st in baseball, his 19.1% soft contact rate was just about league average, and his 25.7% hard contact rate was 25th best in baseball.
Is he a guy you can project for a 3ish ERA going forward? No. Is he a guy you’d want at the back end of the bullpen on a nightly basis? Probably not. But is he a strike-thrower who keeps the ball on the ground who can be a very good middle reliever? Yup.
One important bit of info I’ll add to Brett’s analysis there is that both last season and for his career, Kintzler has been a fairly significant reverse split guy.
Versus LHH (Career): .269 wOBA
Versus RHH (Career): .323 wOBA
Though I wouldn’t necessarily expect much of a matchup-induced bonus, as this appears not to news to anyone (35.1 IP v. Lefties, 36.0 IP v. Righties this season). It is, however, an important piece of the puzzle, given that the Cubs really only have Mike Montgomery (split neutral, swing man) and Justin Wilson (reverse split, more potential as a full-inning reliever) as “lefties” in the bullpen.
Kintzler’s contract projections range from two years and $14 million at FanGraphs and MLBTR, to three years and $21/$24 million from Jon Heyman. We stand by our initial evaluation that, on a two year deal in that general AAV range, you’re probably pretty happy/comfortable with Kintzler’s ability to contribute effectively, whereas anything more than that might make you a little squeamish.
There’s no doubt that he’d be a good pitcher to add, so it really all comes down to how good the deal is for the Cubs. Stay tuned, because multiple pundits are predicting an imminent landslide of reliever singings.