Closer Report: Trade Winds Abound

This is the fine time of year for real life baseball; for fantasy players though, it’s a time to batten down the hatches, cross your fingers and hope your closer doesn’t end up a setup man for another team.  The first shoe dropped this week in Texas (ok it was last week in San Diego, first things first)  as the Rangers traded Joakim Soria to Detroit.  This is a good news bad news situation.  The good news is those looking for a free agent closers can pick up Neftali Feliz (if you haven’t done so already).  Feliz has pitched well since being recalled from the minors, although we would prefer to see a few more strikeouts.  The Rangers bullpen takes a hit overall, but it’s not like they were going to do anything this year anyway (It’s a sad day when Houston is looking down on you in the standings).

Now the bad news.  Joakim Soria is no longer a closer, but that may only be temporary and even if he does take over the closer role, that may only be temporary as well.  You see, there’s this guy there named Joe Nathan and the Tigers are paying him BIG money to close out games.  Unfortunately he hasn’t done a very good job at it and for over a month, fantasy owners have been clamoring for Joba chamberlain or even Al Alburquerque to take the job.  With Soria on board, there is no dilemma on who’s next in line should the Tigers make a change.  The only question now is, if and when will the Tigers reach their breaking point and insert Soria into the 9th inning.  If you’re an owner of either man, sit tight, cross your fingers and hope things work out in your favor.  Nathan has been pitching better as of late so odds are, he’ll remain the closer.

The Padres and Angels made a swap as I mentioned earlier, and this one put the final nail in Joe “Ho Hum” Smith’s coffin.  Huston Street is now the closer for the Angels and Joaquin Benoit is enjoying life as a closer again.  Benoit is still available in leagues but he won’t be for long so hurry up.  Those current and prospective owners who are worried that Benoit will be traded as well, I would relax.  Benoit is under club control through next season along with a club option for 2016.  He should remain a member of the Padres until next summer when we can revisit this conversation.

Over in Philly, Jonathan Papelbon has been rumored to be on the move.  The Phillies will probably have to include cash in the deal as Paps is owed 13 million next year.  As much as they would like to move him, I expect Cliff Lee to find a new home first considering all the teams in need of pitching.  Not to mention that most teams (well, playoff bound teams) are set at the closer position.  I can’t see a team paying Papelbon that much money to be a set up man (which is why Joe Nathan is still a closer).  Still, keep Ken Giles and Antonio Bastardo on your watch list for another week.

Chad Qualls could be moved and if that happens, everybody loses.  More than likely his new team would have him in the setup role or middle relief someplace.  Whoever replaces Qualls in Houston will have little value considering the limited saved opportunities Qualls has received so far.  Qualls will only make 3 million next year so financially, it makes sense for him to stay put.

Of all the remaining closers, the one that has the best possible chance to be traded is Steve Cishek.  He’ll make 3.8 million this season and has 3 years of arbitration left before free agency.  While his contract makes him affordable for several more years, it’s that affordability combined with his abilities that could fetch a nifty new toy for the ever rebuilding Marlins.  They started off hot but now find themselves in a battle for 3rd place with the Mets and the Phillies haven’t called the fat lady yet.  Boston would make for a nice landing spot as Uehara will be gone after the season, and the same can be said for the Blue Jays and Casey Janssen.  Expect this deal to come fast with little notice if it does happen (and have Bryan Morris on speed dial).

Former Closers – What are they doing:

  • The A’s had several suitors for reliever Jim Johnson; in the end, they decided to designate/release him (30% ownership in Yahoo, a lot of dead teams or just Really BAD owners).
  • Grant Balfour still can’t make it through 5 innings without giving up an earned run.
  • John Axford has allowed only 3 hits, 2 walks and 1 earned run in July.  He could throw a wrench in Cody Allen owners hand in September if he keeps this up.
  • Tommy Hunter is all better now as his ERA since June 1st is under 2.5.  He’s still not getting his job back, but he’s a viable alternative should the Zach attack get smacked.
  • Jason Grilli went from closer to setup man to a new team and now to the back of the line.  He’s still a little too hittable but he’s only allowed 2 earned runs in July.
  • Sergio Romo looked to be coming around before his hiccup last Saturday.  The soon to be free agent could work his way back into the closer role if he can limited the damage he allows in relief.

 

Below are the current closer rankings based upon our most recent top 100 pitchers list.  These rankings are for the ROS, job security is bases upon their current performance as well as potential trade rumors.  Some teams have one clear-cut choice when it comes to who is next in line for saves, but for teams with several options I’ve listed the alternative player who may play a role in the saves game.

Job security (1 = All Clear, 2 = solid ground, 3 = shaky ground, 4 = rocky ground, 5 = Avalanche…RUN

  Closer Security Team Next in Line Alternative Options
1 Craig Kimbrel 1 Braves Jordan Walden  
2 Aroldis Chapman 1 Reds Jonathan Broxton  
3 Kenley Jansen 1 Dodgers Brian Wilson J.P. Howell
4 Greg Holland 1 Royals Wade Davis  
5 Trevor Rosenthal 1 Cardinals  Pat Neshek Jason Motte
6 David Robertson 1 Yankees  Dellin Betances Shawn Kelley
7 Koji Uehara 1 RedSox Andrew Miller  
8 Francisco Rodriguez 1 Brewers  Will Smith Zach Duke
9 Glen Perkins 1 Twins Casey Fien  
10 Rafael Soriano 1 Nationals Tyler Clippard Drew Storen
11 Sean Doolittle 1 Athletics Luke Gregerson  
12 Mark Melancon 2 Pirates Tony Watson Ernesto Frieri
13 Huston Street 2 Angels Joe Smith Jason Grilli
14 Joaquin Benoit 2 Padres Kevin Quackenbush Dale Thayer
15 Zach Britton 2 Orioles Darren O’Day Tommy Hunter

If you own any of the closers in the top 10, you should feel confident in the fact that short of an injury their jobs are secure.  Koji Uehara has been rumored to be on the move, but I would not panic if you’re a Uehara owner.  Glen Perkins has also been mentioned several times, but considering he’s under contract until 2017 (and at a reasonable price for a closer of his caliber) I don’t see the Twins shipping him off just yet.  You should have the same confidence for those ranked 11-15 as well.  Each one got their job either through a trade or demotion of the opening day closer and haven’t done anything to cause their team any concern.

  Closer Security Team Next in Line Alternative Options
16 Steve Cishek 2 Marlins A.J. Ramos Byran Morris
17 Cody Allen 3 Indians Bryan Shaw John Axford
18 Jonathan Papelbon 2 Phillies Antonio Bastardo Ken Giles
19 Casey Janssen 2 Blue Jays Aaron Loop Brett Cecil
20 Fernando Rodney 2 Mariners Danny Farquhar  
21 Joe Nathan 2.5 Tigers Joakim Soria
22 Jake McGee 3.5 Rays Joel Peralta Grant Balfour
23 Chad Qualls 3 Astros Tony Sipp Jose Veres
24 Addison Reed 2 Diamondbacks Brad Ziegler  
25 Santiago Casilla 2 Giants Sergio Romo Jean Machi
26 Hector Rondon 2.5 Cubs Neil Ramirez Pedro Strop
27 Jenrry Mejia 3 Mets Jeurys Familia Vic Black
28 LaTroy Hawkins  2.5 Rockies Adam Ottavino Rex Brothers
29 Neftali Feliz 4 Rangers Neal Cotts Shawn Tolleson
30 Jacob Petricka 5 White Sox Daniel Webb Javy Guerra

There are some reliable names mixed in here with a bunch of coin flips.  Jannsen, Rodney, Cishek, Qualls & Nathan (for the most part) are the safe bets.  Reed should be included in this group as he has the confidence of the management staff (regardless of what his numbers say).   McGee, Feliz, Putnam, Hawkins & Mejia are on thin ice either due to inconsistency or lack of trust by their team.  Casilla & Rondon should be safe, but each has a capable body right behind them.  Allen is in a tough spot because Axford has been pitching better as of late.  If he does lose his job, it won’t be because of anything he did wrong.  Finally we have the White Sox.  I liked Putnam to keep the job, but he’s broken now.  Petricka is unofficially the man now, but considering the revolving door policy in the Sox pen, don’t get too excited about that.

Jim Finch

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The self proclaimed Grand High Exhausted Mystic Ruler of Fantasy Baseball. While I am not related to Jennie or Sidd Finch, I will attempt to uphold the integrity of the Finch family name as it relates to baseball.