It’s bullpen upgrade day. A few hours after the Tigers added Jose Veras, the Braves got the lefty reliever they’ve been hunting for, landing Scott Downs from the Angels, and they got him for what amounts to a hill of beans.
Working against Downs’ value was his age (37), his contract (remainder of $5M salary), and his splits (basically a LOOGY at this point). Adding a couple of million in payroll for a guy who is probably a situational reliever at this point in his career seems to have been enough to scare off most bidders, because the Braves only had to give up reliever Cory Rasmus to get him.
Rasmus isn’t completely without talent, as he’s 25 and posted a 32.4% strikeout rate in Triple-A this year. But his command is terrible (14.9% BB%), the stuff is more good than great, and at the end of the day, he’s basically a run of the mill relief prospect. Every organization in baseball has 20 relievers in the minors who sit at 93 and would be good if only they could throw strikes. These guys are everywhere.
Maybe Rasmus figures things out and becomes a solid middle reliever. Given Downs’ age and impending free agent status, there wasn’t any value to the Angels keeping him around, and so they turned nothing into something just north of nothing. But, as far as value goes, generic relief prospects who don’t throw strikes are about as close to nothing as you can get.
The Braves, meanwhile, are building their playoff roster. They’re basically a near lock for postseason play, and Downs fits in well as a death-to-lefties specialist who can be matched up against the likes of Joey Votto or Adrian Gonzalez in October. He’s declined enough to where he probably shouldn’t ever face a right-handed hitter in a high leverage situation, but there’s definitely a spot on winning teams for specialist relievers, especially with the way bullpens are arranged in the playoffs.
It’s going to be one of the more minor trades of the deadline, but don’t be too surprised to see Downs feature prominently in Atlanta’s playoff games this fall. He won’t stick around long, but for a batter or two, he’s going to be very useful in important situations.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.