Brandon Kintzler was something of a lesser-known, very-successful reliever when he was traded to the Washington Nationals at midseason this year as part of their bullpen rebuild.
It’s easy to see why: now 33, Kintzler didn’t really emerge as a quality reliever for the Brewers until he was almost 30, and then he was bad for a couple years, and then he re-emerged as a successful reliever for the Twins in 2016 and the first half of 2017.
So, then, his market being quiet this offseason would be par for the course. We haven’t heard much on him at all. Until now:
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 6, 2017
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.
I’m interested. The Cubs are interested. I think there has to be some level of prudence on how aggressively you’d pursue a guy with Kintzler’s profile, especially given the deep reliever market. The projections range from two years and $14 million at FanGraphs and MLBTR, to three years and $21/$24 million from Jon Heyman. I can see a compelling case on the two-year deal, I get a little squeamish on the three-year ones.
Aside: Kintzler comes with a pretty incredible backstory, and must have a top tier work ethic. All the way back when he was 21, he was essentially booted from baseball for having a slow, straight fastball and a need for shoulder surgery.