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Closer Updates: Athletics, Rangers, Giants

The pursuit of saves is a tiresome business, so if you need to "get fresh," in the words of Ron Washington, let @closernews do the dirty work for you. On with the updates ...

Athletics
"Wait till your honeymoon's over."

A caustic Pete Campbell shared these cautionary words with the love-smitten Don Draper in Season 5 of Mad Men, reminding our protagonist that life cannot be spent skipping through flowery fields with our lovers. Somewhere in this muddled metaphor I'm constructing an analogy for A's closer Ryan Cook, whose owners are too well aware of the adage about familiarity and contempt now that the right-hander has slumped badly in recent weeks.

I was wary of Cook from the get-go, because the numbers just don't add up. There's too little daylight between his strikeout and walk rates (2.09 K/BB), and the .180 BABIP and 83.3% strand rate look fishy, too. All told, something had to give between what is now a 3.63 SIERA and what was once a sub-1.00 ERA, and we've found out which one it is.

A's manager Bob Melvin said before Monday night's game that Cook's job is safe, but I can only envision an in-contention team suffering a slumping rookie closer for so long before looking elsewhere. So, Cook owners should consider handcuffing Grant Balfour, whose surface stats have rebounded nicely after his early-season slump that cost him the ninth-inning job. Cook's and Balfour's peripherals are comically similar, so I'm not sure Balfour is any more of an improvement than Cook was, but bullpens sometimes chase their tails.

For those who don't own Cook, I'd probably pass on Balfour; this one could get hairy, and the payoff may not be worth the frustration.

Rangers
Joe Nathan's return to dominance this season has been a great, and perhaps underreported, story. Based on his age and injury history (Tommy John surgery in 2010), I had little faith before the season started that he could recapture the form that made him one of MLB's best closers for the better part of a decade. But, here we are on Aug. 6, with Nathan sitting on 21 saves and a tidy 2.31 SIERA.

That being said, if there is any lingering concern about Nathan, it's whether he can hold up at age 37 over the course of a long season in the heat of Texas. And after he allowed runs in four of seven post-break outings, the Rangers were apparently concerned enough to rest Nathan over the weekend, instead deferring to Alexi Ogando for two save chances, which he converted.

I think there's enough here to speculate that an injury could be in play, although I can't hazard a guess at the nature or severity of it. In the meanwhile, nervous Nathan owners should definitely look to handcuff Ogando, and even those who don't own Nathan might want a piece of the action. We'll need a post-rest outing or two out of Nathan before we can gauge whether something is seriously askew, but in the meanwhile, it's not a bad idea to hedge against the worst.

It's also worth noting that ace setup man Mike Adams seems to have been skipped over as Nathan's stand-in. It's not entirely shocking, considering he hasn't enjoyed the kind of success in Texas that he did in San Diego, but it certainly underscores the argument that he was perhaps a Petco Park creation to some extent.

Giants
The Lads went ahead and pulled the trigger on one of those seemingly insignificant moves that could actually prove to have big fantasy implications. In acquiring Jose Mijares from the Royals, the Giants now have another LOOGY to pair with Javier Lopez, freeing up Jeremy Affeldt to claim a substantial role in what manager Bruce Bochy unapologetically said will be a closer-by-committee. Damn if that ain't the saber-ist thing Botchy Bochy ever did. Actually, in fairness, the Giants kind of went with a committee when Brian Wilson missed a whole bunch of time last season.

Anyway, I like Affeldt a lot -- and Sergio Romo a little more and Santiago Casilla a little less -- but I think this one is about to get pretty muddled. So, while deep leaguers and NL-only types will want to get any and all of these fellas, standard leaguers may want to pass unless they're desperate.

Quickly
Nationals right-hander Drew Storen earned a save Sunday while incumbent Tyler Clippard rested after pitching on three consecutive days. I'm not reading too much into this, as Clippard is still the primary closer, but it sounds like the Nats will be fairly liberal in allowing Storen to close occasionally. ... Frank Francisco has returned to closing for the Mets, bailing out Bobby Parnell in his first game back from the disabled list. ... Red Sox right-hander Andrew Bailey is progressing through his minor league rehab stint and is slated for a mid-month return from the DL, but I think Alfredo Aceves holds onto the job for the season's balance.



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