Closers


Closer Updates: A’s, Astros, Bucs, Cubs & Rangers

This week, there’s been a shakeup in Chicago, a development in Houston, some potential trouble by the Bay, and minor updates from Texas and western Pennsylvania. Basically, we’ll be digging into some updates from all over the place and hopefully give you a little something to push you through those fantasy playoffs.

Astros

Ugh. In the last week, Houston has had only one save opportunity and it went to Josh Fields. Because Fields has the last three save opportunities for the Astros, he seems like the guy to own if you’re really looking for those saves. Despite struggling earlier in the season, he’s rebounded nicely in the past month (2.00 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 9.00 K/9) and Chia-Jen Lo hasn’t done much to impress over the same time (7.84 ERA, 1.74 WHIP, 9.58 K/9).

Athletics

What in the world is eating Grant Balfour? A consistent closer all season, Balfour has struggled mightily of late. In his last 9.2 innings, he has one blown save, six earned runs, and allowed 17 base runners. While his job is not necessarily at stake, it’s quite possible that the A’s look to Ryan Cook if this continues. Cook has been a little rocky lately too, but he’ll be their first alternative plan for the ninth. With the Athletics looking to clinch the AL West, they’ll want to get Balfour rested and stop those ninth innings from slipping away.

Cubs

On Thursday afternoon, manager Dale Sveum declared that Pedro Strop would be receiving some save opportunities over the remainder of the season. While the exact time share, if any, is yet to be determined, it’s clear that they're trying out Strop for next season’s closer gig. Despite the highly productive Kevin Gregg, the Cubs are certainly looking to the future and Gregg isn't that guy. If you’re scrambling for saves at the end of the season, Strop may be an ideal waiver wire pickup as he’s widely available in leagues across all platforms.

Pirates

While it seemed that the Buccos were trying to bring Jason Grilli back to the ninth, that plan may be on hold for now. While Grilli has begun to regain his form, he may remain a potent reliever instead of a saves guy over the last few weeks. Rather than simply re-inserting him into the closer role, he will likely be setting up Mark Melancon and, unless Melancon struggles or is injured, it’s clear Pittsburgh is comfortable with him closing games for here on out. Melancon owners shouldn’t be concerned about his recent blown save as he’d converted nine consecutive saves prior to Wednesday.

Rangers

While Joe Nathan is certainly not at risk to lose his job, the once-depleted Rangers bullpen is becoming fully healthy for the first time in a long time. Tanner Scheppers has excelled as a setup man, with an incredibly strong season (1.99 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 6.62 K/9). However, a friendly competition may be brewing between Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz. Both are rebounding from significant injuries and have the stuff to be top closers if in the right position. Since returning in July, Soria has had 22 appearances and only allowed runs in four of them. While that is not an elite record, his six holds and 10.18 K/9 show that he’s starting to show glimpses of old times. On the other hand, Feliz has looked great, with no earned runs, a 1.29 WHIP, and 7.71 K/9 since returning at the beginning of September. If Soria and Feliz come around, the Rangers bullpen will have a surplus of weapons headed into the playoff chase.

Add-Vice

Should you be desperate for a save this weekend, B.J. Rosenberg may be a nice speculative pickup. He has dazzled in the last month (1.59 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 11.12 K/9) and simultaneously taken over the eighth inning in Philly. Jonathan Papelbon’s struggles this season are well documented, so Rosenberg may be in for a save or two in the last two weeks.

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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Astros, Cubbies, Mets, Pirates & Tigers

Once again, the closer newswire has been fairly calm this week. Although this is unfortunate for fantasy managers hoping to scavenge a save in the midst of the playoffs, it does allow us to take a look at some bullpens that might otherwise go ignored.

Astros

At this point, it wouldn’t be a Closer Updates article without some attempt to figure out what’s been going on in Houston since Jose Veras was sent to Detroit. The only traditional save opportunity this week went to Josh Fields, who gave up a solo shot but still converted his fourth save of the season. It seems that Fields is the best option to own in this unpredictable bullpen, as Chia-Jen Lo struggled this week with a blown save on Monday. Fields is not setting the world on fire for the Astros, but he is converting the few saves that come his way.

Cubs

After starting the season with the Carlos Marmol experiment, Chicago quickly turned to journeyman closer Kevin Gregg at the end of April and were handsomely rewarded. Gregg is six saves away from his career high (37) and is posting a career-best 3.00 ERA. That being said, Gregg is definitely not the future closer in Wrigleyville and Pedro Strop could step into the ninth for the occasional save opportunity before the season ends. If he succeeds, Strop could be the guy going into next season.

Mets

As soon as it looks like LaTroy Hawkins has a firm grip on the ninth in Queens, guess who comes storming back from oblivion? Bobby Parnell? Nope. The immortal Billy Wagner? Sadly, no. The one and only Frank Francisco has returned to the Mets bullpen with fervor and gusto. In his first appearance back, Francisco earned the win in 0.2 innings (with one walk and no earned runs or strike outs). However, he’s been a little rocky since that first victory and manager Terry Collins doesn’t quite seem ready to pitch him in back-to-back days, let alone give him the ninth. However, the Mets have been patient with his recovery and may be willing to give him some save opportunities before the season ends.

Pirates

The time for Jason Grilli’s return to the closer role is nearly upon us. While Mark Melancon may be in the Pirates’ plans for next year, they are not paying Grilli to be a set up guy in 2013. Since returning to the bigs, Jason Grilli has been a little rusty but his recent promotion to higher-leverage situations indicates that he’ll being put in a position to regain his old gig sooner rather than later. Stayed tune and don’t be surprised if he’s officially the closer (again) by the time Closer Updates comes out next week.

Tigers

After beginning the year as one of the more precarious closer situations, Detroit has sorted out their bullpen situation quite nicely. With an early carousel of Phil Coke, Drew Smyly, and Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit emerged as the best and most dependable of the bunch. With a 2.05 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, Benoit has posted 18 saves and firmly held onto the closer role in Motown. Former Astros closer Jose Veras was acquired via trade and has been a holds machine since coming to the Tigers, while continuing to build on his solid season stats (2.88 ERA, 1.01 WHIP). With the emergence of Benoit and the acquisition of Veras, Detroit has gone from shaky shoals to smooth sailing in the bullpen seas.

Add-Vice

Due to the relatively quiet closer scene lately, much of our Add-Vice is speculative and this week is no different. If you’re in the middle of a playoff chase for your league title, Kelvin Herrera may be a sneaky pickup. Although he’s not a closer, he is a setup guy with a tremendous strikeout rate (11.4 K/9) who grabs a win from time to time (two in August). If you’ve got an open pitcher spot, he can add to your K's and maybe grab you that one win you’ll need to get over the top this week.

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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, BoSox, Marlins, & Pirates

For the most part, this week has been all quiet on the closer front. That means, in addition to regular updates, we’ll toss in a taste of next year by looking at a couple of closers who didn’t start the season with a firm grip on the ninth but have proven themselves thus far and seem to be going into 2014 with closer credentials.

Angels

The war may not be over, but the battle for the Halos closer seems to be done. Ernesto Frieri is earning back the skipper’s trust with three consecutive saves and nine consecutive appearances without allowing an earned run. Dane De La Rosa has performed admirably in his mini-audition for the gig (with an August ERA of 0.97) and he’ll be trusted with saves if Frieri is on short rest moving forward. If Frieri struggles again, he’ll be the first to step in and may even be able to steal a win or two down the stretch in relief situations.

Astros

The struggle for the Astros’ ninth inning continues. While the battle for Angels’ closer is more of a fistfight, the Houston position battle is a thumb war. Josh Fields had only one appearance in the last week, allowing one run and earning the hold. Then, he received the four-out save opportunity on Thursday night and converted with relative ease (he did not allow a walk or strike out a batter). Chia-Jen Lo, on the other hand, has seen his season ERA balloon to 5.25 after allowing four runs in one inning on Monday. This may have led the Astros to give Fields the most recent opportunity and if he can continue not to blow saves, the job might be his. That being said, tread lightly as any of these guys can be a serious liability across the fantasy board until one can prove himself in consecutive outings.

Marlins

When you think about dominant closers, you certainly do not think about Steve Cishek. And while the term dominant may be too bold, Cishek’s numbers aren’t too far off from the good stuff (29 saves, 2.52 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.75 K/9). If the Marlins were in a position to win more ballgames, Cishek could be a top closer. While his historical numbers aren’t the greatest, his contract isn’t high and he’ll likely have the Marlins gig in 2014. If they go on a spending spree this offseason, he may be a serious sleeper next year.

Pirates

Since we last visited the Steel City, Mark Melancon was proving to be a great replacement to Jason Grilli, who was rehabbing with the anticipation of an early September return. In that time period, lots have changed. Grilli’s return to the major leagues came in a blowout, putting very little pressure on the 30 save closer. He performed well, striking out two Brewers in one inning and proving his effectiveness. Look for him to get a few higher pressure outings this week before being inserted back into the closer’s role.

Red Sox

While Koji Uehara may be in dominant form now, the early debate was whether him or Junichi Tazawa would get the closer’s gig in Beantown. Koji took the job and ran with it, having a great 2013 season. With a severely depleted bullpen, Boston has leaned on Uehara and he’s delivered. Despite the return of many guys from injury, he could be their closer in 2014 or, at the very least, serious trade bait in the offseason. If you’re in a keeper league and snagged him off the waiver wire earlier in the year, keep this in mind.

Add-Vice

After triumphing in the battle for Seattle, Danny Farquhar has proven to be quite the ninth inning guy. He’s put up six saves in the last two weeks, with only one earned run in his last nine appearances. Furthermore, he’s striking out more than a batter an inning over that stretch and could be the guy in Seattle going into next season.

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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, Orioles, Pirates, & Rockies

Welcome back! This week we’ll take a look at two position battles and provide some insight into other happenings in the closer world. Without “hold”ing you up, it’s time to “close” the introduction and “save” you from any more of these puns...

Angels

The Battle for Los Angeles Angels closer continued this week with yet another save split. Ernesto Frieri had two saves in three innings, looking good in his quasi-triumphant return to the ninth inning. In those appearances, Frieri gave up no runs, allowed one hit and one walk, with a K/9 of 9.0. On the other hand, Dane De La Rosa has pitched well with one save in 2.3 innings over the same time span. Although not as flashy, he’s been effective by scattering groundballs and popping batters up, giving up two walks, no earned runs and no hits. Although we’re not quite sure if Frieri has re-taken the reins out west, he’s well on his way to having the gig back.

Astros

If you’re looking for another closer job up for grabs, take a gander at Houston. This week, Jordan Lyles has the Astros' only save and he started against the Mariners on Thursday. While Chia-Jen Lo struggled in one appearance, Josh Fields has steadily made a strong case for himself. Since our last column, Fields has had four appearances and impressed with his consistency (2.2 innings pitched, two hits, four strikeouts, no walks or earned runs). Right now, Fields seems like the guy to own. If you’re really looking for a sleeper, Kevin Chapman has been a good reliever for Houston and, despite his atypical closer profile (groundball guy, low K/9), he could inherit the role by default.

Orioles

Despite last week’s Tommy Hunter scare, it seems that Jim Johnson is still the guy to own in Baltimore. The closer-by-committee approach may have just been a motivation tactic, or may still prove to be true once the O's get a few more save opportunities, but Johnson has both of their saves in the last week and has pitched well since his struggles a few weeks ago.

Pirates

First-half stud Jason Grilli is still rehabbing from his forearm injury, but his progression is coming along nicely. On Wednesday, Grilli completed a simulated game and could return to Pittsburgh within the next two weeks. That being said, his promotion to the big leagues depends on his performance in AA (Saturday) and back-to-back gigs in AAA (early next week). If Grilli performs well, he’ll be back in the majors and pressuring Mark Melancon for his job back. Whether or not Grilli is given the ninth inning immediately is still unclear, but you’ll be in the loop when we find out.

Rockies

This just in, Rafael Betancourt’s injury was as serious as everyone thought. It appears he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery and the rest of his career may be in doubt. That being said, Rex Brothers is still the guy to own here and moving forward (especially if you’re in a keeper or dynasty league). It’s been clear in Denver that Brothers was their closer-of-the-future, but that time is now. With a career 11.1 K/9, Rex has the stuff and will be a good-to-great closer for quite some time.

Add-Vice

While it may have snuck past some, do not think that we haven’t noticed Drew Storen’s slow and steady return to the Nats’ bullpen. After struggling mightily at the beginning of the season and spending some time in the minors (5.47 ERA in 2013), Storen has regained a spot in the 7th inning. Since his return at the beginning of August, he’s had a very serviceable 7.0 innings (2.57 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 2 Ks). While Tyler Clippard is still ahead of him in the depth chart, Washington has always preferred to keep Clippard in a setup role. The Nationals are definitely not paying Rafael Soriano for long relief, but if he continues to struggle (giving up at least one run in five of his last nine appearances) and Storen keeps on keeping on, don’t be surprised to see him get a shot at the ninth.

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 drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Astros, Halos, O's, Pirates, Rockies and White Sox

Welcome back to the wide world of closers. As always, there have been a number of changes in the closer universe this week and we’ll be sure to explore them all. With further ado, to the ninth inning and beyond!

Angels

The battle for the Halos’ closer gig continued this week, with the first full round of Dane De La Rosa vs. Ernestro Frieri. Over the last seven days, De La Rosa has allowed one run in 2.2 innings, with three walks and strikeouts. Far from dazzling, Dane did not earn any saves in that time frame. On the other hand, Frieri has not earned a save either, but has pitched somewhat better than De La Rosa over the same stretch. In 3.0 innings this week, Ernesto has given up no runs, one walk and added six strikeouts. As you read, Ernesto Frieri is on the right track to getting his job back.

Astros

The Astros closer job remains an absolute mystery. At this point, Josh Fields and Chia-Jen Lo  are battling for a baseball rarity, the elusive Houston save opportunity. After appearing for the Astros last Friday night, where he earned the loss (1.1 innings pitched, two hits, one earned run), Josh Fields has not appeared since. Conversely, Chia-Jen Lo has had a similar performance history lately. He also appeared only once in the past week, earning a loss to the Rangers (1.2 innings pitched, one hit, one earned run, two walks). Regardless of which horse you back in this race, tread carefully. Neither of these pitchers have proven themselves in the ninth inning and both could be replaced at the drop of a hat.

Orioles

On Wednesday, Baltimore allowed Tommy Hunter to earn his fourth save of the season. While the Orioles have yet to publicly announce they’ve gone closer by committee, look for Tommy Hunter to continue to have save opportunities if Jim Johnson continues to struggle. The same can be said for Francisco Rodriguez, who will be leaned upon in the ninth if Jim Johnson performance requires it. On a side note, Tommy Hunter has SP-eligibility in a number of leagues if you’re looking for a way to fill one of those spots with a reliever.

Pirates

On Tuesday, injured closer Jason Grilli threw off a slope and he ended the week with a bullpen session. Assuming all has goes well, Jason will be throwing from a full mound within the week and should return to the big leagues by September 1st. While this is not great news for Mark Melancon owners, who has been outstanding in Grilli’s stead, it is great for the Buccos bullpen. Furthermore, Melancon may still have value as a top setup guy once Grilli returns to the ninth.

Rockies

Rafael Betancourt’s return from injury was both brief and not-so-sweet. After returning to the ninth inning role, Rafael left Thursday’s game with a serious elbow injury. While his immediate availability is definitely out of the question, the injury could be season-ending and impact next season if major surgery is necessary. Therefore, look for Rex Brothers to regain the closer’s role and keep it for the rest of the season. Brothers has been great on the year and will be a solid saves option for fantasy owners as the playoffs approach.

White Sox

White Sox closer Addison Reed has been scorching this August (12.1 innings pitched, 0.73 ERA, nine saves). Furthermore, Reed converted a save in six straight games this week, a feat which hasn’t been accomplished since the days of Eric Gagne. Although Chicago is not a lock for regular save chances, Reed may be an elite option for the rest of the season if the White Sox offense can put him in a position to close.

Add-Vice

As you may have noticed, Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson returned to the mound this week for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While this advice is more speculative than anything else, Wilson may be able to scavenge the occasional save for Los Angeles as we head down the stretch. If he returns to form, consider him a top setup guy from here on out.

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.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, Mariners, Mets, Pirates, Rockies

Edior's Note: This article is the product of Luckey Helms (not the author listed above) and is his RotoAuthority debut. Luckey has been managing the @CloserNews twitter feed and will bring his expertise to us in article form from now on.

As we close out the work week, come to the close of our fantasy regular seasons (be it roto or head-to-head), it’s time for some MLB closers. In order to do so, we’ll first have to open up a can of updates...

Angels

Per Closer Updates tradition, Ernesto Frieri was removed from the closer’s gig the night last week’s column went up. Since that demotion, the Halos have given their only save opportunity to Dane De La Rosa, who converted it. In the last week, De La Rosa has pitched 2.2 innings of no run baseball, with two strikeouts, one hit, and two walks.

While Dane De La Rosa may not be America’s Next Top Closer, he seems to have the job for now. Lurking in the background is Kevin Jepsen, who has struggled slightly since Frieri’s demotion. In those three innings, Jepsen has given up two runs, while walking two and striking out four. The K/9 is nice, but those runs cannot make Mike Scioscia happy.

 Frieri has been a stand-up reliever since losing his spot and has responded with two clean innings, three strikeouts, one hit and no walks. If De La Rosa and Jepsen struggle in the short-term while Frieri keeps it up, he may have his job back very soon.

Astros

 In the last week, Houston has had two saves. One went to Josh Fields, his second on the season, and the other to Chia-Jen Lo. Fields has not pitched much better since his blown save, lowering his season ERA from 7.59 to 6.85 in 2.2 innings, by striking out three and giving up two earned runs. Lo, on the other hand, seems like the guy for the job... for now. Since being promoted to the big leagues in July, Lo has posted an impressive 0.00 ERA, an interesting 1.11 WHIP, and an underwhelming 7.11 K/9. However, he’s getting the job done better than Fields at the moment and should get Houston’s few save opportunities in the near future.

Mariners

 Seattle brings us the week’s most uncomfortable postgame clubhouse setting. On Wednesday morning, the Mariner’s interim manager stated emphatically that Danny Farquhar was his closer. That evening, Farquhar gave up his first blown save to the Devil Rays. Awkward. However, that performance seems to be just a blip on the radar. In August, he’s had a strong track record with 83% save conversion rate and a 14.12 K/9. At the moment, Farquhar seems to have a firm grip on the closer job with little internal competition from the bullpen and Tom Wilhelmsen working things out in the minors.

Mets

 All was well in the world of LaTroy Hawkins until Wednesday evening. After earning the closer’s gig in the wake of Bobby Parnell’s injury, he had converted three consecutive saves and not allowed a walk in more than a month. During Wednesday’s blown save, Hawkins took a ground ball to his groin while not wearing a protective cup. Sorry LaTroy. Lesson learned.

 Hawkins stayed in, gave up a game-tying home run and hasn’t appeared since. This should not linger as a long term issue, but right now the Mets closer job is an uncertain situation and if he misses an extended period of time, look for Gonzalez Germen to get save chances over David Aarsma. On Thursday, Germen earned his first career save with a nice two-inning performance.

Pirates

 Jason Grilli has been in a throwing program, building up arm strength after what appeared to be a severe injury a few weeks ago. Although speculation that he’ll be back on the Pirates before September may be aggressive, he should be back closing for the Buccos soon. That being said, do not expect him to resume the closer role immediately. Mark Melancon has been outstanding and they’ll ease Grilli back into the job slowly.

Rockies

 It appears that Rafael Betancourt will be activated from the disabled list, after his recent bout with appendicitis, once he pitches at least one rehab inning in AAA. Depending on his initial performance, he may have more time in the minors or return to the bigs for low-pressure situations immediately. While Rex Brothers may have the stuff of a future closer, Betancourt will regain his job as soon as he returns to form.

Add-Vice

 This week’s version of things you haven’t seen before brings you the mystery of Mariano Rivera. The forty-three-year-old future hall of fame closer blew three consecutive saves for the first time in his career. If this is indicative of a slump, if even that’s possible with the likes of Mariano, David Robertson is worth a flyer. He may already be gone in your league, but look for him may snag saves and wins if Mariano’s recent issues continue.

 If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, I’ve got a scoop for you... For the latest updates on which closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



Closer Updates: Mets, Mariners, Pirates, Rockies, Angels, Astros

Closer changes seem always to happen on Saturdays, right after this column goes up. Or am I the only one that notices that? Fortunately, when changes came to the Mets and Mariners last Saturday, the full week in between has given us a chance to straighten out what's going on in those teams' bullpens. Unfortunately, every potential closing option on those teams has already been gobbled up in my daily-changes leagues. Fortunately, that means I didn't get David Aardsma for his blown saves....

Mets

Bobby Parnell has a herniated disc in his neck, and but he's eligible to come off the DL as early as August 15th. He also may have season-ending surgery. While the pitcher reportedly and understandably doesn't want the season to end like that, the Mets are likely to care more about their long-term investment in Parnell than in how many saves he can notch this year. Sure, he might be back next week (so don't release him yet), but my money is on done for the season.

Had Parnell's injury led to a DL trip before last week's article, I probably would have suggested you pick up former Seattle closer David Aardsma. Now, as a former Seattlite myself, I wish Aardsma well in his comeback attempt...but after blowing both of his save chances, I'll leave it at well-wishing and keep him off my fantasy teams.

Cue LaTroy Hawkins. Like a bad penny (or a good reliever) this guy just keeps turning up. He never seems to be a team's first choice to close, but he's usually more than capable when he does get the chance. He's owned in just 12% of Yahoo! leagues and 5% of CBS leagues, so chances are he's up for grabs. While he doesn't generate many strikeouts anymore, he does have a miniscule 1.64 BB/9. Hawkins may be closer for the rest of the week, or the rest of the year. It's well worth a waiver claim to hope for the latter.

Mariners

Sure, I managed to sneak in an update about Tom Wilhelmsen and the Mariners last Saturday, but I didn't expect him to get sent down. That might be the best place for him to sort out his struggles (as opposed to the ninth inning, with the game on the line). During his previous demotion, Wilhelmsen was allowed to be in the committee that replaced him, and he gradually took the job over. This time around is different: if you've still got him, release him.

Also different this time around is that someone has indeed stepped up and into the closer's role. That someone is Danny Farquhar. Farquhar has had an historically strange season this year, including a dazzling 13.62 K/9, a K/BB of 3.93, and a FIP of 1.89. And an ERA of 4.95. That last number is a little deceiving--it was 5.45 on August 1. Maybe the Mariner brain trust read the Fangraphs article linked above, or maybe they just saw the raw data themselves. Or maybe Farquhar's right-handedness is what gave him the edge over Oliver Perez and company. Whatever the reason, it seems clear that he's the guy to own in Seattle. With 39% Yahoo! league ownership and 30% CBS ownership, fantasy owners are getting that idea already. If you still can, pick him up fast, because every minute that goes by is a minute that one of your leaguemates could see this article and get the same idea....

Pirates

Jason Grilli remains worth holding onto, though his timetable for return is still uncertain. Grilli would like to be back in August, though Pittsburgh management isn't holding out hope for more than an early September return. Though downside exists, Grilli is a must-keep for any fantasy squad hoping for a playoff run. Actually, if you do play in a head-to-head format and Grilli's owner is out of or on the cusp of the playoffs, it might be a good idea to try trading for him now, since he'll have more value to you than his current owner. Conversely, if you're fighting for a playoff slot, the value Grill could give you if you make it to the playoffs might not be as valuable as what he could return in trade.

Mark Melancon update: he's still awesome. Keep throwing him out there until Grilli has come back and saved a couple games.

Rockies

Rafael Betancourt's original timetable was about three weeks...which is what it's been since he last pitched. Manager Walt Weiss isn't sure when Betancourt will be back, as he's rebuilding strength after his emergency appendectomy. (How are baseball players even in need of this procedure? With all the doctors and trainers around them all the time, you'd think they'd catch more warning signs.)

Rex Brothers continues to close in Betancourt's absence. Like Melancon, hang onto Brothers until Betancourt proves he can save games.

Angels

I wasn't shocked when Ernesto Frieri hit his current string of futility; if anything, I'm surprised that a new closer hasn't emerged. It seems like the Angels were hoping Frieri would be the guy that emerged from the committee situation, but that hasn't happened. On August 2nd, Frieri pitched a scoreless inning, struck out the side, and got the save. That outing was one of just two times he's finished the inning in his last seven appearances, also the only times in that span in which he's managed not to give up runs. So, it's been pretty bad.

Though no one else has stepped into the role, the Angels are probably thinking more seriously about letting Dane De La Rosa, Michael Kohn, or Kevin Jepsen take things over. If you've stashed one of these guys, hang onto him. And if you've stashed Frieri, keep him on your bench.

Astros

With Jose Cisnero headed to the minors, who will close for the Astros? Helpfully, their website doesn't list a closer. Josh Fields might be the guy, since he's actually gotten a save. But he's also blown one by allowing three runs to the Red Sox. The meltdown is more recent, so maybe he's closing and maybe he isn't. If Fields isn't the guy, Chia-Jen Lo might be. He's got an intriguing minor league track record, and Houston might want to see what they've got in him. Or maybe they won't even need a closer.

Add-Vice

Farquhar is the top add this week. Without much real competition for the job, he's more or less a full closer, and one who's generating tons of strikeouts. LaTroy Hawkins follows quickly after. Though he isn't elite, he has a decent chance of closing out games for the rest of the season. You've got plenty of options if you want to get involved in the messy situations in Los Angeles or Houston. I'd make De La Rosa my first choice from among those groups, but the whole thing is up in the air.

For the latest updates on the messy situations in Houston, LA, and every ninth-inning change, check out @CloserNews on Twitter. It may be only 140 characters, but it's up-to-the-minute.



Closer Updates: Astros, Angels, Tigers, Cubs, Brewers, and Who the Heck is Jose Cisnero?

In the aftermath of a trading deadline that displaced just two closers, the same question is on everybody's mind: who the heck is Jose Cisnero?

Astros

We all know the facts: Jose Veras was traded to Detroit and into a setup role, and Cisnero has the lead (in popular opinion, at least), in a committee situation. Veras taught us that even Houston isn't so bad that their closer isn't valuable, so there's a mad scramble to pick Cisnero up—in fact, he's already owned in 12% of CBS leagues and 16% of Yahoo! leagues; expect that number to go up this weekend as weekly formats get their picks in.

What do we know about Cisnero? Well, he's right-handed and throws about 93mph. (Also, he's 6’3” tall and weighs either 185 or 230lbs but you didn't really care about that, did you?) On the season, he's pitched to a 3.40 ERA with a 3.44 FIP and a somewhat worse 4.00xFIP. He's striking out 8.72 batters per nine innings, with a 4.04 BB/9. So, he’s decent enough. If you never heard of him before this week, I don't blame you.

If Cisnero isn't exactly a household name, the other guys in the Astros' pen are really far under the radar. You know that, if this article is their chance to shine. Travis Blackley, Chia-Jen Lo, and Wesley Wright could be in the mix for saves as manager Bo Porter sorts out his options. So could anybody else, theoretically. Since the 'Stros won't be getting that many leads to protect, keep an eye on everyone's performance in low-leverage situations, since those will comprise most of Porter's chances to evaluate his staff.

Angels

A week ago, Ernesto Frieri seemed like a pretty safe closer. One who gave up more than his share of walks, to be sure, but pretty safe all things considered. After a disaster week, the Angels are rolling with a committee. It isn't time to cut Frieri yet, since, like Tom Wilhelmsen before him, he might emerge from the situation with a job if the Angels decide there just aren't more fish in the sea after all.

His biggest competition, however, does deserve to be picked up. Dane De La Rosa (just 2% owned in Yahoo! Leagues and 1% in CBS leagues) seems most likely to run with the job if given a chance. He throws over 94mph and has put up a much better FIP (2.94) than ERA (3.93) this season, while his xFIP splits the difference (3.30). He’s got an 8.23 K/9 and a 2.88K/BB. 

Watch for the Halos' other bullpen options, who could include Michael Kohn (3.00 ERA and 9.27 K/9, 94+mph fastball) and Kevin Jepsen (4.23 ERA, 9.43K/9, 95+mph fastball).

Tigers

Supposedly, the Tigers had been looking for a full-time, "proven closer." Then they saw the price tags  and now they've changed their tune about closer Joaquin Benoit. He's definitely the closer, making at least one Internet author regret not pursuing Benoit more aggressively in trades. Jose Veras is no more a threat to Benoit's job than Detroit's internal options were.

Cubs

Pedro Strop, you were this close to closing for the Cubs! Until every other team in baseball remembered that they didn't really want Kevin Gregg before the season started for the price of a minor league contract, let alone for a decent prospect. So Gregg gets to stay in the closer's seat. Hopefully, you didn't drop him prematurely. If someone else did, snatch him right up. While Gregg could be dangled for trade in August, his low salary makes him unlikely to pass through waivers, so my guess is he stays put. As for Strop...wait till next year.

Brewers

After Francisco Rodriguez was dealt to the Orioles, John Axford and Jim Henderson were supposed to be battling it out for saves. That battle doesn't seem particularly fair when one pitcher gets two save opps in the same day, but that's what Henderson got on Tuesday. He converted both saves, and has to be considered the leader in the closing competition, if not the official closer. Maybe the Brew Crew wants to keep Axford's arbitration price down, or maybe they'd just rather go with the better pitcher. Nothing appears to be official yet, so hang onto the Ax Man just in case something changes. If Henderson is unowned, pick him up. He makes a good trade target, as you might be able to get a discounted price because of the job-share situation. Another reason to own Henderson going forward is that Axford's high salary means that only teams that want him will claim him on waivers in August, making a trade potentially more likely for him than for someone like Gregg.

Add-Vice

For me, Jim Henderson is the top add, and he’s available in more leagues than I expected (owned in 63% of Yahoo! Leagues and 49% of CBS leagues). Dane de la Rosa is next for me. I know he's got an incumbent to face, unlike Jose Cisnero, but both are technically in committees. Given that, the Angels are better than the Astros by a lot, and whoever closes for them will get more opportunities to get saves. It doesn't hurt that de la Rosa seems to be a somewhat better pitcher. Don't get me wrong, though—Cisnero should definitely be owned.

 Update: Tom Wilhelmsen has been removed from the closers role again (at least for now), and the Mariners have several options to turn to, including Oliver Perez, Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina, and Danny Farquhar. No pitcher emerged as a real replacement for Wilhelmsen the last time he was removed from the ninth, so none of the four are an immediate pickup outside of deep leagues in which every last save is gold.



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.

Orioles
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.

Brewers
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.

Pirates
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. 

Rockies
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.

Diamondbacks
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...

Angels
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.

Add-Vice 
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.



Closer Updates: 14 Saves

Sometimes I get an idea for a column before I even set out to research it. (Yes, I do research.) Usually, this works out fine, just like it did in college. So today, when I set out to find hidden gems of the relief world via Fangraphs.com's Steamer projection system, I expected to find a small cadre of pitchers that could be projected for more saves than most over the final two-and-a-half months of the season. (Why can't the All-Star break just be in the middle?)

That's not what I found. In fact, I discovered that the opposite was true: pretty much everyone is predicted to get about 14 more saves over the course of the season. Obviously, this isn't what will happen, but it speaks to the unpredictability of saves and the pitchers who earn them. Not only was there low variation, but the number itself seems pretty conservative--the system isn't willing to assume that any closer or team will have particularly good luck getting save opps. Some pitchers will have that good luck--just as Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli had in the first half--but it's impossible to know which ones will.

The saves category is the One Main Reason why we bother with closers, and the only reason to take them over the best of the overall relief pitching market, but if there's no way to tell who might get the most saves for the rest of the season, then the only thing to do is try to get the best 14 saves you can...or the cheapest.

There is a caveat: Steamer may not know much about Kevin Gregg's or Joaquin Benoit's job security,* but we do and we can price them accordingly.

*Actually, Steamer seems to, as neither pitcher is projected to accumulate many more saves. The point remains that you are free to use your baseball knowledge and common sense to weed out any pitchers unlikely to get a full complement of saves for the rest of the season.

The Best 14 Saves

Notice that this is not a list of the best 14 closers--simply your high-end trade targets. If you need saves but also want to shore up your rate stats, these are the guys to go for. Teams in Roto leagues with high IP totals may be most interested in these players, and most able to pay for them with high-level starters.

A relatively simple sorting by 2013 xFIP gives us these top closers:

Greg Holland (1.37)
Jason Grilli (2.08)
Craig Kimbrel (2.14)
Kenley Jansen (2.24)
Glen Perkins (2.25)
Koji Uehara (2.35)
Aroldis Chapman (2.57)
Joaquin Benoit (2.64)

If strikeouts are your main concern, worry not: each of these pitchers has a K/9 of 11.74 or better. Of the group, Benoit is by far the most worrisome, as the Tigers remain a prime candidate to deal for an outside closer. Why they aren't satisfied by Benoit is beyond me. The production from him should be great, so if the trade deadline passes, pounce on him. Or, if you need a big risk, go for it early and expect his cost to be low. Uehara also poses some threat to be removed from the role, as he wasn't the first (or second, or third) choice for the job. The latest trade chatter suggests that Perkins will not be traded, so he looks like a risk worth taking.

Obviously, no closer is a sure bet for anything (except, basically Mariano Rivera), but this Squad of Seven is poised to pitch extremely well in the second half. Once you've got that, all you can do is hope that the saves fall into place.

If you don't like Benoit, but still want this list to round out to seven, feel free to add Fernando Rodney. Seriously, he's next on the list with his 2.91 xFIP, and his K/9 is 12.50. Go figure.

Worth noting: when I sort the Steamer projections by end-of-season FIP, Bobby Parnell and Sergio Romo  insert themselves into this list. Neither has the strikeout rate to match the Seven above, but both have more job security than Benoit. Parnell's low current save total could make him a good bargain play, which helpfully brings us to....

Bargain Bin Saves

Just as the list above wasn't necessarily the "best" closers, and certainly not the ones with the highest save totals, this list isn't the worst, or those with the lowest. It's simply the closers whom you should expect to be able to pay a little less for. In head-to-head formats, these might be the best closers to target; similarly, if you need saves in a Roto league, but don't have the luxury of shedding all your starting pitchers (or base stealers, or home run hitters, or whatever) to get them.

Fernando Rodney was a surprise mention above, but he makes it here because of his intense struggles early in the season, not to mention the impossible expectations he could never have lived up to. His ERA sits at 3.79, and his FIP at 3.11, but his 2.91 xFIP suggests better things are still to come. Having weathered problems that would have gotten most pitchers demoted, Rodney has a lot of job security now that he's pitching well. It doesn't hurt that the Rays are in a pennant race.

Steve Cishek has spent the season dealing with trade rumors, but the Marlins want a top prospect for him, which isn't going to happen. The Fish won't win a lot of games, but Cishek could still get his 14 saves. Trade rumors, a bad team, a low save total, and the fact that he isn't even an elite reliever should keep his price pretty low.

Bobby Parnell is only projected by Steamer for four more saves over the course of the season, but his low profile and high job security make him a good trade candidate.

Casey Janssen has kept a pretty low profile too, after returning from injury and sparring with Sergio Santos in Spring Training. Playing north of the border probably doesn't help.

Jim Johnson might be leading the league in saves, but that's probably all the more reason for his owners to want to trade him. He's had more rough patches than most closers, and he's really not an elite pitcher--but he isn't bad and Buck Showalter hasn't shown any sign of wanting to replace him in the role.

Warning: Stay Away

Even at a good price, I don't advise these powder kegs:

Rafael Soriano (6.53 K/9, 4.07 xFIP)
Tom Wilhelmsen (6.80 K/9, 4.49 xFIP, tenuous job security)
Huston Street (5.34 K/9, 4.65 xFIP, 6.95 FIP)

Just say no. And if you happen to own them, deal them for pennies on the dollar if you have to.

As always, follow @CloserNews on Twitter for all the latest information on closers and relievers around MLB and keep up with MLBTradeRumors.com as the trading deadline approaches.





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