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Closer Updates: Trade Bait & Bullpen Check-Ins

With the trade deadline just a few hours away, plenty of changes could still be ahead for baseball this season. Saves-seekers might be pushing their luck, however, if they expect several major bullpen shakeups before the deadline comes. After the earlier Huston Street trade and Jason Grilli for Ernesto Frieri swap, it might be a quiet afternoon. Just in case, we’ll explore a couple of names that have been floated as trade bait and discuss a few other bullpen situations who utilized the closer-by-committee approach not too long ago.

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Joaquin Benoit – Even though the Padres have already dealt Street, they may not be done dealing and Benoit’s name keeps coming up after a strong start to the season (1.88 ERA, 0.84 WHIP). If he’s moved before the trade deadline, Dale Thayer (2.09 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) will likely get the first opportunity to close in San Diego.

LaTroy Hawkins – When Hawkins was first signed, many thought that it would be temporary and a different closer would be manning the ninth in the Mile High City before season’s end. However, most thought that the Rockies closer of the future was Rex Brothers (4.57 ERA, 1.62), who has fallen well below expectations thus far. Adam Ottavino is making a strong case (3.88 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) and could just beat Brothers in grabbing the first save opportunity if Hawkins is dealt.

Jonathan Papelbon – Although Papelbon’s name has been floated a few times, he has made it clear that he will not pitch for a team that does not intend to have him close. He has good numbers on the season (25 saves, 1.83 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) and the Phillies are willing to absorb some of his contract, but it’s still unlikely he’ll be moved. If that does happen, Ken Giles (0.93 ERA, 0.83 WHIP) has the early need on that particular scramble for the ninth.

Chad Qualls – Another popular name is down in Houston and many believe that Qualls could be a dependable setup guy given his strong numbers (11 saves, 3.19 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.1 K/9). If he’s moved, it’s unclear exactly how the Astros bullpen will shake out. However, Qualls is somebody who might be able to provide value in a reliever role and could even continue to be a strong closer if given the chance elsewhere.

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Chicago White Sox – This bullpen has been a roller coaster this season, with a number of different relievers sitting in the closer chair. After an injury to Zach Putnam (3 saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.20 WHIP), Jake Petricka has become king-of-the-hill over Ronald Belisario (5.22 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) and Javy Guerra (2.81 ERA, 1.36 WHIP). Like Putnam, Matt Lindstrom (6 saves, 3.3 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) is also working back from injury and could wrestle the gig away shortly after being activated from the disabled list (assuming he returns to form).

Houston Astros – Qualls settled into the closer role nicely and provided a surprising amount of stability for the H-town bullpen. If he’s dealt, they could spiral into oblivion again and fast. Josh Fields (4.08 ERA, 1.13 WHIP), Jose Veras (6.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP), and Tony Sipp (2.56 ERA, 0.85 WHIP) are all potential options, but nothing it set in stone. Jesse Crain is rumored to be returning to the mound soon, but it’s questionable where he pitches this season. Stay tuned… if you dare.

Oakland Athletics – After the Jim Johnson debacle this season (7.14 ERA, 2.06 WHIP), the A’s struggled to find their closer. Luke Gregerson (1.97 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) had a few chances early and many expected Ryan Cook (2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) might inherit the gig at some point. However, Sean Doolittle took the job and seems to have no intention of giving it up (16 saves, 2.59 ERA, 0.64 WHIP).

Tampa Bay Rays – With a motley crew of saves contenders, many did not know who would emerge from the battle for the ninth inning in Tampa. Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour both had solid resumes (95 career saves combined), and so did young right-hander Brad Boxberger – who has pitched quite well in 41 appearances this season (2.11 ERA, 0.82 WHIP). In the end, Jake McGee emerged as the guy and has been strong this year (12 saves, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP).

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.




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