2. Jose Leclerc
The Texas Rangers are going nowhere, regardless of how you look at it. That’s why they remain one of the most intriguing squads for teams to call prior to the trade deadline, and one of their most valuable pieces could be back-end reliever Jose Leclerc.
Though they haven’t yet committed to him as their closer, he’s likely to claim the job unless Jonathan Hernandez dominates this spring while Leclerc falters. Nonetheless, Leclerc is a strikeout machine and could stand to benefit by getting out of the hellhole that is Texas.
His recent campaigns haven’t exactly been impressive, but he’s got 263 strikeouts across 189 career innings since debuting in 2016, and his 2018 season stands out above the rest. There’s reason to believe he can replicate that if he’s amongst other capable relievers and isn’t on a bottom-feeding roster.
That year, he maintained a 1.56 ERA and 0.85 WHIP with 12 saves and 85 strikeouts in 57.2 innings of work. He was in the top 1% of relievers for expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, wOBA, hard-hit percentage, and expected ERA. He was also in the top 1% for expected batting average and expected slugging percentage in 2019 despite his ERA ballooning to a 4.33 — his expected 3.06 ERA that year was in the top 10%.
There’s a lot to like here, especially since he has four pitches in his arsenal (though his slider is rarely utilized) and the Dodgers could pounce given his contract situation. The right-hander is signed through 2022 and then has team options for 2023 and 2024 at only $6 million a pop.