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Pittsburgh Pirates Free Agent Target: Blake Treinen

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Blake Treinen presents an excellent option as a setup man or closer for the Bucs

Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees
Blake Treinen
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates looked to have their franchise closer for the foreseeable future in All-Star Felipe Vazquez, but following his surprising arrest on multiple felonious counts stemming from the alleged sexual assault of a minor, that notion is no longer valid. As a result, the Pirates will likely be searching for depth for the back end of their bullpen this offseason. Blake Treinen would make an excellent option for them to pursue if that is in fact the case.

In 2020, the Pirates may decide to fill the closer role vacated by Vazquez with setup man Keone Kela, who has 28 career saves and was called upon to save the one save opportunity following Vazquez’s arrest. Kela, who was a closer with the Texas Rangers prior to being traded to the Pirates, has proven that he can close out games with regularity, as he had a career high 24 saves prior to being traded at the 2018 deadline.

However, Kela is more likely a better option to be a setup man for the Pirates, as his 3.23 career earned run average is higher than what one would typically want to see from their closer. In addition, he has shown the propensity to pitch to better peripherals as a setup man than a closer.

Enter free agent Blake Treinen, who is coming off a career worst year, following a career best year the season before. Treinen, who was traded from the Washington Nationals to the Oakland Athletics at the 2017 trade deadline, pitched admirably for the Athletics down the stretch in 2017, saving 13 games while pitching to a 2.13 earned run average. This is a stark contrast to the 5.73 earned run average that he had posted in 2017 with the Nationals prior to being traded.

Treinen would parlay his 2017 second half success into a career year with the Athletics in 2018. He would throw a career high 80 13 innings to the tune of a 0.78 earned run average, 0.83 WHIP, while accumulating 100 strikeouts and 38 saves on the season. That year, Treinen was arguably the best reliever in all of baseball. He would go on to finish second behind the Seattle Mariners Edwin Diaz for the American League Mariano Rivera Award, given to the league’s best reliever.

After putting up the career year in 2018, the following season would be arguably the worst of Treinen’s career. He would pitch to a 4.91 earned run average, 1.62 WHIP, in 58 23 innings pitched. The 31-year-old righty would lose his closer role early on in the season, recording only 16 saves for the A’s. Given that Treinen has a career earned run average of 2.97 and WHIP of 1.28, one has to wonder if the career high in innings pitched in 2018 may have caused Treinen to be fatigued in 2019, leading to the dismal results.

Regardless of the 2019 results, the Pirates should take a long hard look at Treinen during free agency, in hopes that they can sign him and have him revert back to his 2017-2018 version of himself. If he is able to recapture his All-Star form from those seasons, then the Pirates have an elite closer at the back end of their bullpen. If he reverts back to just his career averages, then at worst, they possess a legitimate setup man to bridge the gap to Kela.

Prior to the 2019 season, Treinen signed a one-year $6.4 million extension with the A’s. Due to the poor performance last season, it is likely that he can be had for much less, making him a potential steal for the Bucs. As a result, Ben Cherington should be strongly considering him as an option to fill the void left by Vazquez. If the Pirates are able to sign him to even a one-year “show me” type deal and he is able to recapture some of his former magic, then he presents a player who could yield significant return at the trade deadline. As a result, Blake Treinen should most certainly be a top free agent prospect for Pittsburgh this offseason.