Jeremy Jeffress is currently a free agent. The Milwaukee Brewers released him over the weekend after posting a 5.04 ERA in 48 games this season. The soon-to-be 32-year-old was an All-Star in 2018, posting a 1.29 ERA with 15 saves for the Brewers in 76.2 innings. Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that the Reds, Mets, and Phillies are the three teams that have shown the most interest in bringing Jeffress in.
Obviously there’s a reason that Jeremy Jeffress is available to anyone for a little bit of money on September 5th. He’s struggled this season. Sort of. Until late July, he was performing well. In 37 games through July 21st he had a 3.63 ERA with 3 home runs allowed, 14 walks, and 38 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. At worst those are solid numbers.
Over the next month, though, things went south and in a hurry. The right-handed reliever threw 12.1 innings and allowed 13 earned runs (9.49 ERA) with 3 walks, 8 strikeouts, 2 home runs, and he allowed 18 hits. That month turned his season from good to poor, and with a quickness.
There are a lot of things different this season from a performance standpoint for Jeremy Jeffress than in the past. Historically he’s been a high ground ball rate pitcher, with rates between 56.4% and 60.3% dating back to 2014 – his first year with more than 20 innings in the Major Leagues. But this year he’s only at 48.4%.
His strikeout rate fell back to more of a career norm, 20.4%, too. Last season it was easily a career best 29.8%. Some of that could be due to his fastball losing 1.5 MPH compared to last season. 2018 was also the only year of his career where he threw less than 63% fastballs, and he did that by a full 10%. This year, and other years he’s been a lot heavier on his fastball usage.
There’s the obvious loss in velocity here for Jeremy Jeffress. That’s not something you can just ignore. But the pitch usage thing is interesting to see. Last year he was a very different guy and was using his pitches differently. Last year his pitching coach was Derek Johnson. And this year Derek Johnson is the pitching coach in Cincinnati, and we’ve seen what he’s been able to do with many of the Reds pitchers this season.
As with every player it depends on what the acquisition cost is. For a pitcher like Jeremy Jeffress, assuming he is physically ok, he seems like a guy worth taking a flier on and seeing if you can get him back to the guy he was from 2013-2018, and even a large part of 2019.