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Chris Martin trade shows why the relief pitching market has been so quiet

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The Atlanta Braves acquired reliever Chris Martin in a trade with the Texas Rangers, sending pitching prospect Kolby Allard the other way, as reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Atlanta have been in the relief market over the last few weeks, as they look to bolster their bullpen ahead of a playoff run. With uncertainty in the rotation, lengthening the relief group helps Brian Snitker navigate through tricky situations in the mid-innings.

Martin might not be a big name, but he’s been as effective as any Major League reliever this season. His 3.08 ERA doesn’t tell the full story – the key for Martin has been the combination of command and strikeouts. That is a pretty solid formula in any baseball.

In 38 innings, the right-hander has struck out 43, which is a solid rate. It’s not exactly eyebrow raising considering some numbers that modern relievers put up. The really crazy thing is his walk rate. Martin has walked just four in 38 innings, good for 0.9 BB/9 and a strikeout to walk rate of 10.75.

The thing about this trade that made it a surprise, though, is Martin isn’t under control beyond the end of this season. Allard hasn’t pitched in the Majors this year, and he’s hardly been dominant in Triple-A, but he’s only a season and a half away from being ranked the 24th-best prospect in MLB by Baseball America.


Allard is ahead of schedule as a 21-year-old with a handful of Major League appearances. The stuff isn’t lights out, and his control needs work, but he’s got the potential to be a more than handy starter for a contending team. Atlanta are dealing from a position of strength – they had five pitchers above him on their latest MLB Pipeline prospect list – yet this feels like a high price for a rental reliever.

The Rangers took advantage of the Braves’ preposterous pitching depth. While Texas were contenders for much of the season, they have slipped out of the race in recent weeks. Allard, recently a top-100 prospect, was acquired for a pitcher in Martin that had little use to the Rangers.

It’s far from a groundbreaking deal, and it makes sense for the Braves, but this gives an interesting insight to what the relief market has been through July. While it’s not a total explanation, it perhaps makes it clearer why so few arms have moved up to this point. For most teams, that’s an exorbitant price for a rental reliever.

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