A lot has changed in the reliever market since my last closers-in-waiting article in early-June. We’re getting to the time of year when back-end bullpen arms are in high demand.
The simplest bit of advice I can offer fantasy owners scrambling for saves is to look at the MLB teams that are falling out of contention and add their top set-up man. Let’s say there are 10 teams out of contention. I’d bet a hefty sum of money that five of them trade their closers to contenders looking for set-up help.
It happens every single year. The most useless thing to have on a bad baseball team is a great closer. That’s why you see so many bad teams trade them for a package of prospects. Just look at what the Yankees did last year. They were falling out of contention, so they dealt Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs and Andrew Miller to Cleveland. The haul of prospects they received back is already starting to make an impact in the majors, and the Evil Empire is right back in contention.
With the trade deadline less than two weeks away, trade speculation is going to continue to grow. Adding one of the names below now could help you secure one of the next wave of top-notch closers. Keep up to date on all the rumors and pounce before it’s too late.
- Andrew Miller: Still in the set-up role. Likely to stay there.
- Tommy Kahnle: Traded to NYY. No longer next in line for saves. Thanks a lot, Chicago!
- Felipe Rivero: Current Pittsburgh closer.
- Archie Bradley: Still in the set-up role. Fernando Rodney, unfortunately, hasn’t lost the job yet.
- Brad Hand: Still in the set-up role.
- Chris Devenski: Still in the set-up role. Ken Giles performing well enough to keep job.
- Trevor Rosenthal: Part of closer-by-committee in St. Louis.
- Blake Parker: Still in the set-up role. Others ahead of him in the pecking order now.
- Carl Edwards: Still in the set-up role.
- Mike Minor: Still in the set-up role. Kansas City back in the mix.
Note: After working his way back from injury, Zach Britton hasn’t regained the closer role yet. He’s also one of the key bullpen names being mentioned in trade rumors. The Dodgers are rumored to have major interest but would make him the set-up man for stud closer Kenley Jansen. Keep an eye on him because this doesn’t only affect him, but current Baltimore closer Brad Brach as well.
10. Kyle Barraclough (RP – MIA)
Barraclough gets mentioned here mostly because he’s next in line for saves in Miami. His 6.2 BB/9 has caused his WHIP to balloon to 1.55, but he strikes out over a batter per inning and should get save opportunities when/if A.J. Ramos gets dealt since David Phelps is now out of the picture. If you’re desperate for saves, Barraclough might be able to help you out.
9. The Cardinals’ Closer-by-Committee Trio
I’m cheating here because this is technically three pitchers. The back end of the bullpen has become a chaotic situation in St. Louis. To start the season, Seung Hwan Oh was the closer after a strong rookie season. However, he has been incredibly shaky, and he’s been yanked from full-time closing duties. None of the three members of this current committee has been a great option this season. If you look below, the only number that jumps out is Rosenthal’s strikeout rate. Somebody is bound to distance themselves here and seize the role. My money is on Rosenthal.
Oh: 42 IP, 4.07 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 2.6 BB/9, 8.1 K/9.
Rosenthal: 37 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, 14.1 K/9.
Cecil: 39 IP, 3.69 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.8 BB/9, 8.1 K.9.
8. Arodys Vizcaino (RP – ATL)Vizcaino could become the Braves closer via two different ways. First, Atlanta isn’t going to make the playoffs, so Jim Johnson could be dealt soon. Secondly, Johnson has been faltering of late, and his ERA is now pushing 4.00. Vizcaino has a lively arm and has been producing well for Atlanta this season with a 2.52 ERA and 10.1 K/9. He’s certainly one to keep an eye on.
7. Michael Lorenzen (RP – CIN)
Current Cincinnati closer, Raisel Iglesias, has been one of the most dominant closers in the National League this year. The rest of the team, sans Joey Votto, hasn’t followed suit. The Reds are way out of playoff contention, so expect the trade rumors surrounding Iglesias to intensify.
Lorenzen hasn’t been setting the world on fire, but he’s the best internal option the Reds have to close if they deal Iglesias. His walk rate has almost doubled from last season, which is a big reason why his ERA has risen from 2.88 to 3.83. However, if you’re desperate for a closer, Lorenzen could get you 10-15 saves down the stretch if given the opportunity.
6. Brad Hand (RP – SD)
Teams won’t be fighting each other to acquire Brandon Maurer, but he has been better of late. Over the last month, he has eight saves and a 1.69 ERA. If he is dealt, Hand is more than qualified to inherit the closer role in San Diego. Over 49 innings, Hand has a pristine 2.20 ERA to go along with 11.4 K/9. It would be wise for San Diego to get whatever they can for Maurer, and with the deadline less than two weeks away, now is the time to pick him up. He could lend a hand down the stretch.
5. Chris Devenski (RP – HOU)
The bullpen, mainly closer Ken Giles, hasn’t been an issue for Houston this season. However, Giles has proven to be extremely inconsistent over his career and could implode at any moment. If he does, the Astros shouldn’t hesitate to switch to Chris Devenski. He’s been a weapon out of Houston’s bullpen this season with a 2.73 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 12.4 K/9 in 56 innings. He can already help your fantasy team right now and would be a top-10 closer if given the chance.
4. Cam Bedrosian (RP – LAA)
Bud Norris has been fine in the closer’s role and is in no danger of losing his job. He is, however, a veteran reliever on a mediocre team. Those are incredibly valuable this time of year. The Angels aren’t lacking solid options in their pen and have a lackluster farm system, so trading Norris makes sense.
After missing some time due to injury, Bedrosian is back to his dominant ways with a 2.50 ERA and 11.5 K/9. If he gets the closer role back, he would be a borderline top-10 option the rest of the way.
3. Archie Bradley (RP – ARI)
I’ve been trying to figure out how Fernando Rodney still is the Arizona closer, but every time I think about it smoke comes out of my ears. It’s mind-boggling how a playoff contending team can stick with a 5.40 ERA guy in the closer role. Hey, Torey Lovullo, what if I told you that you had a guy in your bullpen with a 1.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 10.6 K/9. You’d be interested, right?
Well, you do, and his name is Archie Bradley. Do yourself a favor and yank that pile of junk from the closer role and replace him with your best arm. Trust me, your team and your fans will thank you. Fantasy owners will, too.
2. Keone Kela (RP – TEX)
Kela has been the best arm in the Rangers bullpen this season. He briefly had a chance to close earlier in the season but landed on the DL. Now back, expect Kela to be in the mix for saves immediately.
Through 30.2 innings this season, he’s registered a 2.64 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and 12.3 K/9. Texas currently has left-hander Alex Claudio in the closer role, but he’s never been a high strikeout pitcher and doesn’t really have the look of a lockdown closer. Expect Kela to get some chances over the rest of the season.
1. Anthony Swarzak (RP – CHW)
After the White Sox traded David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees, I immediately recommended Swarzak as the arm to add in the new-look White Sox bullpen. For reasons I can’t fathom at the moment, Chicago decided to anoint newly acquired Tyler Clippard as the new closer. To put it simply, Swarzak has been money this year, and Clippard has been pure garbage. I really don’t need to explain this one. Just look at their stats below and you’ll be able to see why Swarzak should be closing in Chicago.
Clippard: 36.1 IP, 4.95 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 4.7 BB/9, 10.4 K/9.
Swarzak: 44.0 IP, 2.45 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9, 9.8 K/9.
Thank you for reading another edition of the Fantrax weekly top-10. I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Check back next Saturday for another list. Got a question about a player not covered here? Ask in the comments below or follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.