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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
Giants' Sabean: No plans to talk to Max Scherzer
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:40 pm ET) Giants general manager Brian Sabean said that the Giants have not talked to free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer and have no plans to do so, the Mercury News reports.

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(6:32 pm ET) Free-agent catcher Nick Hundley has a two-year offer on the table from an unidentified team, making him unlikely to return to the Orioles, masnsports.com reports.

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(6:29 pm ET) The Phillies could become involved in the market for free-agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, ESPN.com reports.

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Rangers release Ben Rowen
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(6:21 pm ET) The Rangers have released relief pitcher Ben Rowen . Rowen, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, posted a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2014 as well as a 3.45 ERA and 31:9 K:BB ratio in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock.

Nationals sign Mark Minicozzi to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:19 pm ET) The Nationals have signed infielder Mark Minicozzi to a minor-league deal.

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Indians sign pitcher Scott Downs to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1:07 pm ET) The Indians announced they signed pitcher Scott Downs to a minor-league contract Saturday.

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Red Sox, Padres complete Hanigan-for-Middlebrooks trade
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Red Sox and Padres completed a trade Friday, with catcher Ryan Hanigan heading to Boston in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox announced.

Hanigan, 34, is signed for two more seasons with a team option for 2017. He hit .218/.318/.324 with five home runs and 34 RBI in 225 at-bats in 2014.

Middlebrooks, 26, is eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2015 season. He hit .191/.256/.265 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 215 at-bats in 2014.


Giants get Class A hurlers for Marlins 3B McGehee
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Giants are trading minor league right-handers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo for Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee.

Both pitched at a Class A level last season and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.


Dodgers dump RHP Brian Wilson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) Three days after designating reliever Brian Wilson for assignment, the Dodgers have released him.

Wilson struggled in 2014 after a strong stint upon his arrival with Los Angeles in 2013. He finished the year with a 4.66 ERA and 29 walks in 48 1/3 innings.


Report: LHP Craig Breslow staying with Red Sox
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(12/19/2014) Left-hander reliever Craig Breslow is set to sign a one-year deal with the Red Sox for $2 million, per WEEI.com.

Breslow pitched for Boston the last two years, but collapsed in 2014 after compiling a 1.81 ERA the previous year. He finished with a 5.93 ERA and 73 hits in 54 1/3 innings.


 
 
 
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