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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
Rangers LF Josh Hamilton returns from latest injury setback
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:42 pm ET) Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton is back from his latest injury setback, as he returned to the starting lineup Tuesday against the Diamondbacks after missing two games due to a groin injury.

Hamilton appeared in just his 11th game for Texas on Monday since his acquisition from Los Angeles. Since coming off the disabled list June 30, he is batting .364 (4 for 11) with one double, one run and five strikeouts in three games.


Orioles' Matt Wieters catches back-to-back days
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(4:39 pm ET) Orioles catcher Matt Wieters is making a rather significant step in his recent return from Tommy John surgery. Wieters is in the starting lineup on Tuesday against the Twins, making it the first time he has caught in back-to-back days since last season.

Wieters was activated from the disabled list in early June, but he had been starting every other day behind the plate. 

The former All-Star catcher is batting .254 with three home runs since returning from the DL.


Reds SP David Holmberg to make 2015 debut on Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:30 pm ET) The Reds will recall starting pitcher David Holmberg from Triple-A Louisville to start Thursday against the Marlins. It will be his season debut for the Reds.

The left-hander is 4-6 with a 4.78 ERA through 16 appearances (15 starts) for Louisville this season. He is 2-2 with a 5.08 ERA in eight career appearances (six starts) in the majors.


Braves' Andrelton Simmons sits on Tuesday as struggles continue
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(4:26 pm ET) Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is not in the starting lineup for Tuesday's contest against the Brewers. Simmons had started each of the last 10 games, struggling to a .143 batting average with just one RBI over that stretch.

Pedro Ciriaco is getting the start at shortstop, while batting seventh on Tuesday.


Braves SP Manny Banuelos set to start on Tuesday vs. Brewers
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(4:22 pm ET) Braves rookie Manny Banuelos has been confirmed as Tuesday's starter against the Brewers. Banuelos was forced to leave his last start on Thursday, which was his Major League debut, due to dehydration and cramps. 

But the right-hander appears good to go for Tuesday in Milwaukee. He threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings in his debut on Thursday prior to exiting. 


Nationals OF Jayson Werth says pain in wrist is gone
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:11 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth (wrist) is hitting baseballs off a tee with a fungo bat, according to MLB.com. He said the pain in his wrist is gone.

Yankees' Andrew Miller (forearm) to return from DL Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(4:08 pm ET) Yankees reliever Andrew Miller is expected to return from the disabled list on Wednesday, manager Joe Girardi said. Miller has been sidelined with a forearm injury since June 11.

The left-hander appeared in his first rehab game on Monday, allowing two hits in a scoreless inning. Giardi said Miller will return as the team's closer, moving Dellin Betances back to a set-up role.


Yankees moving Dellin Betances back into setup role
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:02 pm ET) Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters Tuesday that reliever Andrew Miller (forearm) will be activated off the disabled list Wednesday. He also added Miller will return to the closer's role, which means Dellin Betances will head back to a setup role.

Betances suffered his second blown save of the season Saturday against the Rays. However, he still picked up the win, as New York plated the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Since Miller went on the DL on June 11, Betances went 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA in eight outings. He went 5 for 6 in save chances in that span.


Yankees' skipper confirms Jacoby Ellsbury's return on Wednesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(4:02 pm ET) Yankees manager Joe Giardi said he expects center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to return from the disabled list on Wednesday. Girardi echoed the comments made by general manager Brian Cashman on Monday, stating the Ellsbury would be activated on Wednesday.

Ellsbury, who has been down with a knee injury since May 19, had been struggling before landing on the DL. Over his last 10 games, he's batting .200 with one extra-base hit. He does sport a nice .324 batting average for the season.


Rockies claim RP Gonzalez Germen off waivers Tuesday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(3:50 pm ET) The Rockies have claimed right-hander Gonzalez Germen off waivers from the Cubs on Tuesday, and optioned him to Triple-A Alburquerque. 

Germen was designated for assignment by the Cubs over the weekend. He made six appearances with Chicago at the end of April and beginning of May, posting a 7.50 ERA in six innings of relief.

First baseman Justin Morneau, out with a concussion, was also transferred to the 60-day DL on Tuesday.


 
 
 
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