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Andrew Chafin trade return sets floor on what Marlins could get for Richard Bleier

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One of the few holdovers from the 2020 Marlins bullpen, Bleier has upped his market value with his great performance.

Miami Marlins relief pitcher Richard Bleier (35) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning at Chase Field Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Any contending MLB team could use Marlins lefty Richard Bleier. He’s relatively cheap, owed less than $500,000 from Friday’s trade deadline through the end of the 2021 season. He has hundreds of games’ worth of major league experience, including in the playoffs. And he’s pitching as well as ever right now with scoreless appearances in 22 of his last 24 tries.

The Marlins do not need to move Bleier this week—he has one more year of arbitration eligibility left—but they probably should. It is hard to imagine his value getting any higher considering his limited role. Meanwhile, the Fish are 11 games back of the nearest National League postseason spot and lack the sufficient healthy talent to erase that deficit, and even my Bleier-crazed deputy editor Louis Addeo-Weiss would admit that middle relievers don’t drive ticket sales or boost local television ratings.

Last summer, in the aftermath of the club’s notorious COVID outbreak, the Marlins acquired Bleier in exchange for unheralded minor league infielder Isaac De Leon. Flipping him prior to this deadline should result in a big net gain.

The Cubs completed a deal Monday night that sent fellow veteran southpaw Andrew Chafin to the Athletics. In return, they got Triple-A outfielder Greg Deichmann and Low-A right-hander Daniel Palencia.

Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

For a brief breakdown, I’ll defer to Baseball Trade Values and their player valuation model:

It’s shaping up to be a seller’s market, at least in terms of relief pitching.

I’m highlighting the Chafin deal in particular because of the remarkable similarities between him and Bleier. Let’s compare their production from 2016 to the present which comprises Bleier’s whole career and the majority of Chafin’s (via Stathead):

Bleier is an extreme pitch-to-contact guy who finds success by inducing ground balls and refusing to walk opponents. Chafin is well above average in terms of strikeout rate but he allows far more free passes as well. Although Bleier’s edge in earned run average is three-quarters of a run, that gap is cut in half when you account for overall run prevention (3.45 RA9 for Bleier vs. 3.84 RA9 for Chafin). The most significant difference between them is age (three-plus years). However, old man Bleier is thriving despite being in MLB’s seventh percentile in fastball velocity—Father Time isn’t as much of a threat to him as it is for pitchers with more conventional styles. Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement formula prefers Bleier, but FanGraphs’ version sees it the other way around.

The bottom line is that both lefties can be trusted to prevent home runs better than anybody else who’s currently on the trade block.

Ultimately, I expect Bleier to command a better return due to the all-important financial factor. His salary is barely half of Chafin’s in 2021 and the acquiring team will have full control of him for 2022—early arb estimate is roughly $2.5 million—whereas Chafin comes with a $5.25 million mutual option.

It is unclear which teams were in on Chafin and came up short, but all of them should be turning their attention to Bleier.