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Closer Updates: Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, Tigers

It's been a week of upheaval in the ninth inning, which means mostly bad things for fantasy owners that spent money on saves. Of course, those issues could (or already did) bring a windfall to those canny managers quicker with the waiver wire trigger than real-life managers were to call out new names in the ninth.

As you already know, John Axford is out as closer and still pitching abominably. Jim Henderson (59% owned in Yahoo!/71% in ESPN) will be seen in the ninth for the moment. As with nearly all closer transitions, the new guy will have a short leash as the team sorts things out, though the Brew Crew has few viable options. The team (including Henderson) expects Axford to be reinstalled at some point. Seeing as they did this last year too, I think there's a good chance of that happening. There's even a good chance that he pitches well when it does, though the odds of both seem to go down every time he sets foot on the mound. Henderson is a clear own, but Axford should probably be held onto, except in very shallow leagues.

Another NL central team made a "temporary" change in the closer role this week. Carlos Marmol is out--again, just like last year--but the Cubs hope to reinstate him. The only reason I can think of for that is so that they can trade him for a B-level prospect at the deadline. The problem with that plan (and for Marmol owners) is that this year's replacement is a lot better than the guys who tried to take over last year. Kyuji Fujikawa (ownership: 66% Yahoo!/83% ESPN) may be sporting an 8.10 ERA, but he's already notched two saves and was expected to be a future closer when Chicago signed him. There is a very good chance he keeps the closer job and Marmol gets shipped out of town for minimal return. In the few leagues where he is available, Fujikawa should be picked up immediately. If you have roster space, keep Marmol around for now, but don't hold your breath that he gets the job back.

Jason Motte's injury is appearing very serious, and the team is expecting to make a May 1 decision on Tommy John surgery. Even if he doesn't go under the knife, there's no way to be sure what his timetable might be. If you don't have DL slots or room on your bench, I'd seriously consider cutting him loose. The only thing that gives me pause is the fact that he'll almost certainly close whenever it is that he does return.

In other news, Mitchell Boggs (51% Yahoo!/60% ESPN) is Motte's replacement for now, but he's been more than a little shaky (to the tune of an ERA north of 11.00). Luckily for his owners, Trevor Rosenthal (17% Yahoo!/8% ESPN) earned a blown save for work in the eighth inning earlier this week. Not so luckily for Boggs owners, Rosenthal is still pitching very well and has the mark of a future closer. I would advise picking him up as a precaution. Of course, there are plenty of leagues in which Boggs is still going unowned; don't let yours be one, as he could still right the ship.

Greg Holland has been in a bit of trouble early in the season, with a 12.00 ERA and a 3.67 WHIP through his first three innings. He's managed to get a pair of saves, but that's exactly how many his top competition, Kelvin Herrera (53% Yahoo!/38% ESPN), has. Too bad for Holland's owners that Herrera's WHIP is nearly three full points better, at 0.69 and he has yet to allow a run. Clearly, Herrera should be owned as a handcuff, though Holland has the stuff to be a high-quality closer and hasn't been quite the disaster train that Axford and Marmol have been.

Joaquin Benoit (38% Yahoo!/33% ESPN/owned in all my leagues with daily changes) should be seeing his ownership rates skyrocket. After two weeks of pitching out of the ninth, it's been confirmed that he'll be the primary guy for save chances. While he's not exactly been named "closer," there seems like a good chance that he'll get 80% or more of the Tigers' chances. The situation reminds me of Kyle Farnsworth's 2011 with the Rays, in which he was never really called a closer by the team, but he racked up saves nonetheless. Benoit should be owned in all leagues, as he's an above average reliever and should be relatively safe in the role. Just don't freak out if Octavio Dotel or Phil Coke steals some of the opportunities.



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