Reliever Trades Highlight Monday

Who Got the Best Reliever?

7/30/13 in MLB   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Jul 4, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels reliever Scott Downs (37) delivers a pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals at Angel Stadium. The Angels defeated the Cardinals 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.Three playoff contenders made some small, quiet moves on Monday to pad each of their respective bullpens, all acquiring players in contract years playing on struggling ball clubs.  But who put themselves in the best position for the upcoming playoff push?
 
The Detroit Tigers acquire Jose Veras from the Houston Astros
 
Detroit’s search for a late-inning reliever has been widely publicized ever since the Valverde explosion in the 2012 ALCS.  There were whispers surrounding a Carlos Marmol acquisition in the offseason and a more recent attempt to snag either Luke Gregerson or Huston Street from San Diego, but the right deal just never came along.
 
In comes 7-year veteran Jose Veras.  After 4 rocky seasons with the Yankees, Veras became a journeyman middle reliever, playing for 5 different teams from 2009 to 2013.  The Tigers are now his 6th team in the 5-year span.
 
Right now, Veras is pitching the best ball of his career.  He converted 19 of 22 save opportunities in Houston, with a 2.93 ERA and .192 opponent average.  With the recent success of Joaquin Benoit as the 9th inning man in Detroit, it’s likely that Veras will be used primarily as a set-up man at least at first.
 
The Tampa Bay Rays acquire Jesse Crain from the White Sox
 
The longtime Twins righty has been lights-out so far this season.  In 36.2 innings, Crain has allowed a mere 3 earned runs.  He’s struck out 46 batters compared with only 11 walks.  With the struggles of Kyle Farnsworth and few questionable, unproven arms setting up closer Fernando Rodney, Crain will be the team’s new top set-up man.
 
He’s currently on the 15-day DL with a shoulder sprain, but he’s expected to return relatively soon. 
 
The Atlanta Braves acquire Scott Downs from the Los Angeles Angels
 
In the past 2 and a half seasons, there have been few set-up men as reliable and consistently good as Downs has been for the Angels.  Even in his 6 seasons in Toronto he was just about as dependable a middle-reliever as you could ask for.
 
So far this season, Downs has posted a 1.84 ERA in 29.1 innings.  Coach Mike Scioscia loved using Downs in situational roles, lefty on lefty matchups, and the strategy rarely failed him.
 
A great late-inning option, Downs is a dangerous weapon to add to an already solid Atlanta bullpen.
 
Who comes out on top?
 
All three teams are really winners on the day, but the Braves to me got the most dependable, refined pitcher of the trio.  Crain’s been the best reliever so far this season but he doesn’t have as much experience as Downs, especially in the playoffs.  And Veras is still a bit of a question mark on the whole, but still a good gamble. 
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