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Fantasy Relief: The trade market for closers

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Doesn't it seem like the closer market this season is mirroring that of the stock market? It seems like there is so much unpredictability with closers that the day-to-day fluctuation is reminiscent of how fragile our economy is at the hint of bad news.

I only drudge up that comparison because we are about a month away from the July 31 trade deadline and the chaos we have seen with bullpen situations isn't likely to slow down.

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Long relievers, specialists, setup men and closers are all potential trade targets this summer, so in the spirit of the upcoming trade frenzy, we'll highlight some relievers that might have new address this summer and once again leave Fantasy owners dashing to waivers trying to chase saves.

Brett Myers, Astros: Myers' contract is arguably going to be the Astros' biggest hindrance in dealing him. Myers has a $10 million vesting option for the 2013 season, which includes a $3 million buyout. It's a similar situation to what the Mets had to deal with last summer in trying to trade Francisco Rodriguez. New York eventually unloaded K-Rod to Milwaukee and he restructured his contract, which could be an option for a team looking to add Myers. But K-Rod didn't finish the year as a closer and Myers might be facing a similar fate. If dealt, Houston could turn the closer's role back over to Brandon Lyon, who is striking out 9.0 batters per nine innings and sports a 2.79 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Wilton Lopez, who has closer experience in the minors, could be a darkhorse candidate, but he's on the disabled list with an elbow injury and there's no timetable for his return.

Jonathan Broxton, Royals: Kansas City continues to evaluate Broxton's worth to the ballclub. He's been spectacular as a fill-in closer for the injured Joakim Soria, who is out for the season following elbow surgery. However, Broxton is only in town on a one-year deal and Soria is due back next season. Unless the team has doubts about Soria's recovery or if youngsters like Greg Holland or Aaron Crow can't handle the closer's role the rest of the year, then it seems like Broxton has a better chance of being traded than landing a contract extension. A perfect landing spot for Broxton could be with the Mets, who need to upgrade their bullpen and have an unstable closer in Frank Francisco, who is now on the disabled list with an oblique injury.

Huston Street, Padres: Street is headed for free agency and the Padres are going nowhere fast. The Padres gambled last season by not trading closer Heath Bell, who left for Miami in free agency. The Padres received a supplemental first-round pick in this year's draft as compensation for losing Bell, but could get a better haul if they trade Street, who has a $9 million mutual option for 2013 with a relatively cheap buyout of $500,000. Street has his durability issues, but he's an effective closer when healthy. Street could be an attractive option for teams like the Reds, Red Sox, Giants, Blue Jays and Orioles. If dealt, the Padres would probably turn the closer's role back over to Dale Thayer, who filled in admirably earlier this season when Street was on the disabled list.

J.J. Putz, Diamondbacks: This is a long-shot scenario since Arizona is in contention, but July is going to be a key month for them. If they slip further out of contention before the trade deadline, then Putz might be put in play, especially since Arizona just locked up setup man David Hernandez with a two-year contract. Putz has a $6.5 million team option for 2013 with a $1.5 million buyout. Putz has been a closer and setup man in his career, so he could be a nice addition to any contender's bullpen. He doesn't necessarily have to close games.

Carlos Marmol, Cubs: It's been rumored that Cubs are willing to listen to trade offers on pretty much their entire roster. I'm going to speculate that might have played a part in manager Dale Sveum rushing Carlos Marmol back into the closer's role. The erratic reliever certainly would have more value as a closer than just another bullpen arm. Marmol still has electric stuff, but he's probably too unreliable to land a role as a closer on a contender. He still could be a nice addition as a setup man and backup closer, but you have to figure a trade would be bad for Marmol's Fantasy value. Surprisingly, Fantasy owners will probably want Marmol to stay put because at least we know he is the Cubs' closer and will see regular save chances. If Marmol is traded, then Sveum will likely go back to using James Russell and Shawn Camp in a co-closer situation.

Matt Capps, Twins: Capps' shoulder injury has clearly dimmed the hopes of Minnesota potentially trading him. Capps has a $6 million team option for 2013 and a fairly cheap $250,000 buyout. Unless the Twins feel he is their long-term closer, then Capps could be a nice veteran arm for any contender's bullpen, especially since it wouldn't cost them much to part ways with Capps in the offseason. But much like Marmol, Capps would probably have more Fantasy value if he stays put. The Twins are currently using the tandem of Glen Perkins and Jared Burton as closers with Capps sidelined. If a Capps trade forces Minnesota to pick a closer, my gut tells me the Twins would give Burton, who has closer's experience in the minors, the nod over Perkins, who might be more valuable as a left-handed setup reliever.

Top non-closers Week 12 (H2H)
Player Points
1. Dallas Keuchel, RP, Astros 30.5
2. Charlie Furbush, RP, Mariners 28
3. Brad Lincoln, RP, Pirates 27.5
4. Michael Fiers, RP, Brewers 26.5
5. Chris Sale, RP, White Sox 25.5
6. Jose Quintana, RP, White Sox 23
7. Franklin Morales, RP, Red Sox 22
8. Darren Oliver, RP, Blue Jays 22
9. Scott Feldman, RP, Rangers 21.5
10. Jared Burton, RP, Twins 21.5

Francisco Rodriguez, Brewers: It's too early to count out the Brewers, but if the tide doesn't turn in July, then they could become sellers at the deadline. K-Rod would then be a very attractive option because of an expiring contract. And while he hasn't been a full-time closer for nearly a year that doesn't mean a contender wouldn't toy with the idea of using K-Rod in a closer's role. It's doubtful the Mets would kick the tires on Rodriguez again, but Toronto has been known to load up on relievers and K-Rod could bring some stability to the back-end of the bullpen with Sergio Santos' return date unknown. It seems more likely, however, that K-Rod would end up in the bullpen of a top contender like the Yankees, Red Sox or Reds to bolster their depth for the stretch run.

Brandon League, Mariners: Don't be surprised if League is one of the most-sought after relievers in July. He is set to become a free agent and the Mariners now have a stable closer in Tom Wilhelmsen. Seattle is building toward the future anyway, so getting some value for League before he tests the free-agent market seems likely. League's experience as a closer will also play big. Teams like the Mets, Dodgers, Giants, Cardinals, Red Sox and Yankees could all be players for a quality arm like League.

Grant Balfour, A's: I'd be shocked if Balfour finishes the year in Oakland. He has a $4.5 million team option for 2013 ($350,000 buyout) and was unhappy when he was removed from the closer's role. Ever since his last save, Balfour has posted a 1.59 ERA with seven holds in his last 21 appearances (22 2/3 innings). You know Oakland general manager Billy Beane likes stocking up on prospects. Balfour might be one of the more valuable relievers available in a trade, so it could net Oakland a good haul. Balfour could get the chance to close games again, but he would have to end up in an ideal situation, which would be a contending team with an unstable bullpen like the Mets. Or if a closer on a contender gets hurt then players like Balfour, League, K-Rod and Capps could be cheap options to close.

Closing Time

Each week we'll break down closer situations worthy of further examination ...

N.Y. Mets: Mets manager Terry Collins is turning the closer's role over to Bobby Parnell while Frank Francisco is on the mend from an oblique injury. Collins tried using Parnell in the closer's role late last season, but the results were disastrous. However, Collins chose Parnell over Jon Rauch this time because he said Parnell's "confidence is much better." Parnell believes he will be much more effective this time around because he is not just a hard thrower anymore. Parnell has dialed back the velocity on his fastball, so he could emphasize pitching lower in the strike zone. Last season, he averaged 96.7 mph on his four-seam fastball and 96.4 mph on his two-seamer, which are his two most-used pitches, according to PitchFX data compiled by TexasLeaguers.com. He had a 7.8 percent whiff rate on his four-seamer and a 9.2 percent whiff rate on his two-seamer. This year, Parnell is averaging 95.6 mph on his four-seamer and 95.4 on his two-seamer. His whiff rate has increased to 9.5 percent on the four-seamer and 12.0 percent on the two-seamer. Parnell could certainly be used as a stopgap option for saves in deep formats.

Top non-closers Week 12 (Rotisserie)
Player Rank
1. Charlie Furbush, RP, Mariners 10
2. Darren Oliver, RP, Blue Jays 17
3. Jared Burton, RP, Twins 44
4. Clay Rapada, RP, Yankees 45
5. Jim Miller, RP, A's 52
6. Boone Logan, RP, Yankees 57
7. Rex Brothers, RP, Rockies 59
8. Pedro Strop, RP, Orioles 62
9. Brandon Gomes, RP, Rays 63
10. Craig Breslow, RP, Diamondbacks 69

Washington: Nationals manager Davey Johnson dropped a bomb on everyone this past weekend when he said if Tyler Clippard continues at his current pace he will retain the closer's role once Drew Storen (elbow surgery) comes off the disabled list in July. One thing we have learned about the Nationals' closer situation this season is that it has been one of the most unsettled in the majors. I think Clippard would keep the closer's role had he been on a team without a proven closer on the roster. I feel Storen will eventually be back in that role at some point this summer. Two numbers that really concern me with Clippard are his line-drive and first-pitch strike rates. Clippard's line-drive rate is 7.2 percent, which is well below his career average (14.6) and well below the norm. His first-pitch strike percent is 63.3, which is well above his career rate (56.3). I don't think Clippard is going to self-destruct, but Storen is Washington's long-term closer and shouldn't lose his job because of injury.

Cincinnati: Aroldis Chapman is showing he is human. The hard-throwing lefty was 0-4 with three blown saves and an 11.37 ERA in his last seven outings (6 1/3 innings) prior to Tuesday's save. Chapman has been battling some back issues, but skipper Dusty Baker said that's not the reason for his struggles. He said Chapman needs to throw more breaking pitches. According to data compiled by TexasLeaguers.com, Baker is right. During his recent seven-outing slide, Chapman has thrown 123 fastballs and just 24 offspeed pitches. When Chapman posted a 0.00 ERA through his first 24 outings, he threw fastballs just 75.6 percent of the time, which is well below the 84.8 percent rate he had during his seven-game slide. If the Reds make a change at closer, I think they will do it via a trade and not put Sean Marshall back in that role.

St. Louis: Jason Motte hasn't exactly been a model reliever the last month, posting a 0-2 record and 4.86 ERA in his last 14 outings (16 2/3 innings). However, he has just one blown save in that span, so I think the hot seat in St. Louis is lukewarm. I still believe St. Louis might look to upgrade its bullpen as the trade deadline nears, but I don't feel any internal candidates are a major threat to Motte at this time.

San Francisco: Sadly, I don't have the same confidence in Giants' closer Santiago Casilla. He had a 27.00 ERA and one blown save in his previous three appearances (5 ER in 1 2/3 innings) prior to Tuesday's save against the Dodgers. The Giants have plenty of internal options for manager Bruce Bochy to make a change, with Sergio Romo being the leading candidate. Also, general manager Brian Sabean has shown in the past to be aggressive at the trade deadline, so if the team isn't confident in Casilla for the stretch run, then they could be in the market for a closer before the July 31 trade deadline.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Michael Hurcomb at @CBSHurc . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com

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Player News
Nationals SP Max Scherzer earns fifth win of season Friday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:49 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer allowed one run on four hits over eight innings of work to earn his fifth win of the season during Friday's 2-1 win over the Phillies.

By going eight innings, Scherzer became the first Nationals pitcher since Livan Hernandez in 2005 to pitch at least seven innings in seven-straight starts.

Scherzer (5-3) struck out six batters and walked one during Friday's start. He was able to lower his ERA from 1.75 to 1.67. The one run Scherzer allowed during the game came in the second inning when Odubel Herrera doubled in Maikel Franco.

His next expected start is scheduled for Wednesday at the Chicago Cubs.


Pirates' Mark Melancon earns save against Mets
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:49 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Mark Melancon recorded his 10th save of the season in Friday night's 4-1 win over the Mets. 

Melancon took over for starter Gerrit Cole in the ninth inning and recorded the game's final two outs. This marked Melancon's fourth appearance in a row without allowing an earned run. He now holds an ERA of 3.15 this season. 


Pirates P Gerrit Cole strikes out 10 in win
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:46 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole allowed only six hits in 111 pitches during Friday night's 4-1 victory over the Mets. 

Cole gave up one run though it was unearned. It was a result of a Josh Harrison throwing error. Other than that, Cole pitched a great game, striking out 10 batters while walking just one. He went 8 1/3 innings. 

Cole has had an exceptional start to the season as he's allowed only 13 earned runs in 48 2/3 innings. He'd posted eight strikeouts three times this year with his total of 10 on Friday being a season-high. 

Cole now boasts a 2.05 ERA for the season. 

His next start is projected for May 27 against the Marlins. 


Brewers SP Wily Peralta leaves Friday's start with tightness in side
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:41 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta was forced to exit Friday's start against the Braves with tightness in his left side, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Peralta pitched four scoreless innings before leaving with the injury. He left with a 9-0 lead, but received a no-decision. He allowed one hit while walking two batters and striking out two.

His next scheduled start was set for Wednesday against the Giants.


Red Sox OF Hanley Ramirez leaves game due to hand soreness
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:35 pm ET) Red Sox outfielder Hanley Ramirez was forced to exit Friday night's game against the Angels due to left hand soreness, according to The Boston Globe

The injury was likely sustained when Ramirez was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning. 

Ramirez's day finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. He's now hitting .257/.306/.486 for the season. 


Marlins RP Steve Cishek leaves game after being hit on leg
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:19 pm ET) Marlins pitcher Steve Cishek was forced to leave Friday's game against the Orioles after taking a comebacker off his leg, reports MASNsports.com.

Cishek entered in the sixth inning and allowed two hits over 2/3 innings before leaving with the injury.


Cubs not sure when Neil Ramirez (shoulder) will return
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(9:08 pm ET) Cubs manager Joe Maddon said the club is not sure when pitcher Neil Ramirez will be able to return to the team, reports CSN Chicago.

"Status quo," he said. "Nothing awful, nothing a lot better, pretty much still in that limbo state."

Ramirez is on the disabled list and he has not pitched since April 15 because of shoulder inflammation.


Padres plan bullpen, then simulated game for Brandon Morrow
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:45 pm ET) Padres pitcher Brandon Morrow will throw a bullpen over the weekend, per the Union-Tribune

Morrow is battling shoulder inflammation that landed him on the disabled list. He threw his first bullpen session on Thursday.

Assuming the weekend's session goes well, the team plans to have Morrow pitch a simulated game next week.  


Angels' deciding if C.J. Cron should sit bench or play in minors
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8:31 pm ET) Angels DH C.J. Cron is mired in a slump to start the season. Cron is hitting .200 with a .496 OPS. 

As a result, Cron has seen his playing time dwindle, starting just twice in the last 10 games.

Of course, with limited at bats, it will be tough for Cron to find his swing. The question the Angels must answer is whether Cron should stay on the Major League bench or go down to Triple-A to get regular playing time. 

"If you are getting at bats at the major league level you don’t have to get them seven days a week, but if you are getting them one day a week then there’s a discussion of what’s best for the team and what’s best for the player," manager Mike Scioscia said, per the Orange County Register. "C.J. has gotten enough at-bats where if he’s swinging like he can, he’d be contributing, but he hasn’t found that swing yet."


Dodgers trade Blake Smith for White Sox's Eric Surkamp
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:00 pm ET) The Dodgers traded pitcher Blake Smith for White Sox pitcher Eric Surkamp on Friday, the clubs announced.

Surkamp began the year on the 15-day disabled list before being optioned to Triple-A Charlotte by the White Sox. With the White Sox a year ago, he posted a 4.81 ERA in 35 appearances. 

According to SB Nation's True Blue LA, Surkamp will report to Triple-A Oklahoma City

With Charlotte, Surkamp posted a 2.81 ERA in 11 appearances. 


 
 
 
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