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Closer Update: Orioles, Brewers, Pirates, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Angels

Thank you, Trade Deadline! After a couple weeks in which the only things changing the closer landscape were happening in Arizona, we finally get a closer trade. We'll discuss the deal and its fantasy implications, as well as situations arising from injuries and further potential trades.

The receivers in the Francisco Rodriguez for prospect deal, the O's have shored up their bullpen and replaced their closer. No, they haven't replaced Jim Johnson, who will continue getting the saves for the O's. Though Johnson isn't a stellar reliever, and he's taken more lumps this season than in the past, he'll hold onto the job as long as he's capable. K-Rod owners, can't be pleased by this arrangement, though the silver lining is that he probably will get the first crack at the job if Johnson gets injured or does manage to blow the job.

More fantasy opportunity is to be had here, as Jim Henderson and John Axford are presumed to be sharing the closing duties (for now). While either one might emerge as closer in the coming weeks, both are worth picking up immediately. (Or feeling a bit triumphant about if you've been holding them all this time.)  While Henderson has been great throughout the season, Axford has been pretty stellar in the 18 innings he's pitched since May and could retake the job easily enough. Actually, August has been his only truly bad month of the season.

The bad news for owners of these two pitchers is that either or both may be traded by the giving-it-all-up Brewers in the next couple weeks, and neither is any more likely to close in another location than K-Rod was.

Baseball's favorite upstart team (likemost of my fantasy squads) was dealt a huge blow when Jason Grilli left a game in pain and went on the DL. The Pirates are optimistic: their initial forecast is that he'll only be out for seven to ten days. They're also realistic: this is only the initial word, and shouldn't be taken for final knowledge on the extent of Grilli's forearm injury. Fantasy owners will have to wait and see, but he's clearly a pitcher to hang onto in all formats that involve saves, DL slots or not.

Mark Melancon will be sliding right into the closer's role. He's been nearly as goo as Grilli while setting up, so there's no reason not to pick him up for however long he'll be closing. Even if Grilli is out for an extended period of time, don't expect them to make a trade for a ninth inning this easy to fill. 

Rafael Betancourt has hit the DL again, leaving owners unsurprised. If you hung onto Rex Brothers assuming that Betancourt wouldn't stay healthy all season, good choice. If not...try picking Brothers up. Of course, getting your appendix removed isn't the most predictable of injuries, so don't feel bad if you didn't see this one coming. The good news for owners is that Betancourt's appendix won't hurt him long-term, affect his delivery, or lead to cascading injuries, or any other of the typical baseball-injury problems that can lengthen the typical stay on the DL. He isn't expected to miss more than three weeks, which is plenty long enough to pick Brothers up for, but certainly not long enough to consider dropping Betancourt. There is currently no reason to think that Betancourt won't get his job back upon his return.

Brad Ziegler has been getting the job done in the desert, but for how long remains to be seen. With a low strikeout rate and the sort of sidearm delivery that leaves him relatively vulnerable to lefties, Ziegler doesn't seem like "closer material." That doesn't mean he can't hold onto the job for the rest of the season (three-run leads aren't that hard to protect), just that he's less likely than others. If he's still available, pick him up and hope for the best.

J.J. Putz will probably get the first crack at the job if Ziegler falters. As bad as Heath Bell has been, I wouldn't expect him to be retaking the ninth anytime soon. In previous years (when Putz was too good to replace) David Hernandez was looked at as a top future closing candidate...now that the D-Backs have a need at closer, Hernandez hasn't been particularly good. Cruel timing...

Ernesto Frieri endured a brutal outing on Tuesday, but came back for Wednesday's save. What do we learn? Well, pretty much what we already knew: when Frieri is bad, he's really bad. There's no indication that his job is in trouble (seeing as he came back the very next day), but his owners may be leery of him after that. If you need saves, Frieri might come at an affordable price.

Trade Watch
Jose Veras of the Astros is drawing trade interest--consider him more than likely to get dealt at this point. Don't consider him likely to close after a trade. The Tigers are presumed to be still looking for relievers, whether or not their additions close depends on...well, I don't know what it will really depend on, since Joaquin Benoit is better than most relievers on the market. Maybe on how many saves the New Guy has this season, or how hard he throws? Kevin Gregg could be on the move, as could Henderson or Axford. I bet the Padres would deal Huston Street or Luke Gregerson, but there don't seem to be any rumors about the Mariners trying to deal Tom Wilhelmsen.

If Brad Ziegler is unowned, he's the top pickup prospect. Possession is 9/10's of the law in closerland. Melancon is a strong, immediate add, given his excellence and the uncertainty of Grilli's timetable. Brothers isn't far behind, since three weeks of a closer is pretty valuable. Henderson and Axford should both be picked up, with Henderson prioritized just above the Ax-Man.

As always, keep up with MLBTradeRumors.com and @CloserNews on Twitter for all the latest information on closers around baseball.

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