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Bullpen Report: What's your closer worth?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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So far this season, we've ranked closers, identified their backups, taken a deeper look at holds and invented the term "SPARP." But now we're in June and owners are starting to get roused from their sedentary states of not panicking and holding off on moves. It's probably a good time to look at the trade value for closers.

Because trading is an inexact science -- different sized leagues, varied scoring rules, homers who only want the closer from their favorite team -- it's a near-impossible task to undertake in a column. But I'm trying anyway. Here's the scenario: you just received a message board post from an other owner in your league, you have an extra closer and you're looking to make a deal. Before we start, I'm going to lay down a few ideas to keep in mind while reading along:

1. Think of these trades taking place in a league where every closer should be owned, along with a few backups. In other words, we're living in a world where Steve Cishek is on someone's roster.
2. The "who you should aim for" suggestion is a player you probably won't get in the trade, but is within the range of possibility. He's good enough to make the trade tilt in your favor, but not so far ahead of the closer that the other owner will never speak to you again.
3. I tried to throw the closers in groupings, just to get more in there. They aren't precise, perfect matches, but they do share similar characteristics that make them about equal on the trade market.

Enough with the preamble. On to the Closer Trade Matrix!

Closers: Aroldis Chapman, Reds; Craig Kimbrel, Braves
Characteristics shared: Top-tier, dominant young closers with a ton of strikeout potential.
Who you should aim for: Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox; Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers; Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays
Who you should realistically expect: Domonic Brown, Of, Phillies; Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals; Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals

It's actually tougher to ascertain value for the top-tier closers, because you don't know how high to aim. But I think dangling one of the game's top closers for Ellsbury could at least get you a downgrade to Brown, who may eventually stop his power barrage and start adding steals and average.

Closers: Joe Nathan, Rangers; Mariano Rivera, Yankees; Sergio Romo, Giants
Characteristics shared: Awesome closers who you can depend on throughout the season.
Who you should aim for: Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox; Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers; Mike Napoli, C, Red Sox
Who you should realistically expect: Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros; Billy Butler, 1B, Royals; Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals

Nathan, Rivera and Romo may have carved out their own little niche as "1a" -- just below Chapman and Kimbrel, but still a level above the rest of the crowd. The Pedroia owner may balk at trading a top second baseman to fill a need at a position that can be had for a few FAAB dollars or timely waiver claims (just rotating in the Luke Gregersons and Vinnie Pestanos of the world), but these three are as solid as closers come, and having the comfort of a Mariano Rivera might be worth dropping down a level to someone like Jose Altuve for an owner in need of saves.

Closers: Jason Grilli, Pirates; Tom Wilhelmsen, Mariners
Characteristics shared: A couple closers who came out of nowhere and have produced in a big way for their owners.
Who you should aim for: Adam Jones, OF, Orioles; James Shields, SP, KC; Elvis Andrus, SS, TEX
Who you should realistically expect: Wil Myers, OF, Rays; Doug Fister, SP, Tigers; Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies

I can't see anyone giving up Adam Jones for Tom Wilhelmsen, but if the idea is argued correctly, you might be able to at least make a case for Wilhelmsen's usefulness to the point where a counter of Wil Myers (likely from a team already enjoying a stacked outfield without room for Myers) could come back your way. Wilhelmsen and Grilli don't have a very long track record, but their potential is through the roof and there's no reason -- other than not having that long track record -- to not believe in them keeping this up.

Closers: Huston Street, Padres; Rafael Betancourt, Rockies
Characteristics shared: Injured closers who are expected to return relatively soon.
Who you should aim for: Aaron Hill, 2B, Diamondbacks; Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies; Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs
Who you should realistically expect: Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves; Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins; Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers

It's always tricky to work injured players into a deal. In this case, with Street and Betancourt, you have to be dealing with an owner either desperate for saves or looking to buy low on closers. This one is all about perception. Both pitchers have 11 saves and both will most likely go back to being closers when they return from their injuries. Hill is a bit of a reach, but enough owners are down on Howard and Soriano for these proposals to be made. And the counters that could come back make plenty of sense, especially in deeper Roto formats where some teams roster three closers, making saves even more scarce.

Most Added Relievers (as of 6/7)
Player % change
1. Luke Gregerson, RP, Padres 25
2. Rex Brothers, RP, Rockies 18
3. Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Brewers 15
4. Jose Veras, RP, Astros 9
5. Bobby Parnell, RP, Mets 5
6. Justin Wilson, RP, Pirates 4
7. Grant Balfour, RP, Athletics 4
8. Hector Ambriz, RP, Astros 3
9. Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays 3
10. Casey Janssen, RP, Blue Jays 2

Closer: Chris Perez, Indians
Characteristics: An injured closer who may be facing some legal troubles.
Who you should aim for: Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers; Nick Swisher, OF, Indians; Alejandro De Aza, OF, White Sox
Who you should realistically expect: Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies; Adam Eaton, OF, Diamondbacks; Josh Reddick, OF, OAK

Perez is in a league of his own right now as he battles a re-aggravation of a shoulder injury he had in spring training while facing some legal problems, too. Making matters worse: Perez only has six saves on the season (one more than Steve Cishek). There's probably not much a Perez owner can do right now, outside of convincing a fellow owner that he's worth something. Snagging Swisher would be a dream, but settling on Eaton, who could need Tommy John or could be back by mid-July stealing bases and hitting for average, makes for a decent swapping of risky players.

Closers: Jim Johnson, Orioles; Addison Reed, White Sox; Grant Balfour, Athletics; Glen Perkins, Twins
Characteristics shared: Underrated closers who, despite recent success, still are not being fully bought into.
Who you should aim for: Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals; Matt Carpenter, 2B, Cardinals; Jedd Gyorko, 2B, Padres
Who you should realistically expect: Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers; Kyle Seager, 3B, Mariners; Neil Walker, 2B, Pirates

Seager-for-Balfour was an actual trade made in one of our many Fantasy leagues at the office. It's pretty fair, considering what each team needed. I'm not sure if the original offer was for Carpenter, but I could see trade talks starting there and then settling on Seager.

Closers: Heath Bell, Diamondbacks; Edward Mujica, Cardinals; Jose Valverde, Tigers; Kevin Gregg, Cubs
Characteristics shared: Closers picked up off the waiver wire this season who show no signs of going away anytime soon.
Who you should aim for: Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves; Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays; Hunter Pence, OF, Giants
Who you should realistically expect: Stephen Drew, SS, Red Sox; Anthony Rendon, 2B, Nationals; Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees

There's a fair amount of pushing pride aside when looking at this group -- is the other owner really going to trade a player he drafted for someone scooped up off he waiver wire? If he needs saves, then absolutely. Bell, Valverde, Gregg and Mujica are pretty much locked into their jobs right now, with only Bell really in some kind of danger of being usurped (by J.J. Putz, who hasn't even thrown off a mound yet). Factor in the damaged pride and a swap of Valverde for Stephen Drew seems like an even swap, especially if you believe in Drew's .324 average and 1.040 OPS over his last 11 games.

Closers: Brandon League and Kenley Jansen, Dodgers
Characteristics shared: They both pitch for the Dodgers
Who you should aim for: Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves; Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals; Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
Who you should realistically expect: Omar Infante, 2B, Tigers; Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox; Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees

I'm actually a little reluctant to even include this duo here because their values are almost wholly reliant on the opinion of your trading partner. You could offer Jansen and get one of two very different reactions: Awesome, he's going to be the closer soon! or Why would I want this guy, he's not even the closer? And it's similar with League. So this is almost a stab in the dark as far as value. In fact, if you can package both in a deal, I would maybe bump them up to the "closers picked up off the wire" category, as it helps to have both pitchers in the saves mix, but trading them requires your partner to dedicate an extra roster spot to the backup.

Closers: Bobby Parnell, Mets; Jose Veras, Astros
Characteristics shared: Good closers on bad teams.
Who you should aim for: Alexei Ramirez, SS, White Sox; Michael Morse, OF, Mariners; Jose Fernandez, SP, Marlis
Who you should realistically expect: Zack Cozart, SS, Reds; Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers; Mike Leake, SP, Reds

There's a decent history of good closers on bad teams getting saves. And I suppose the staus of Veras being "good" is subjective -- I happen to like his low WHIP and high K/9 (believing the ERA will eventually come down) and I would guess most people don't realize he already has 11 saves in 2013. And that's where his value comes in -- not in the ratios, but in the fact that he is going to get saves and doesn't have any ready-made replacement on the Houston roster. Getting a fallen star like Andre Ethier back for Veras might have seemed silly two months ago, but it ends up being a deal where you can present it to a third party, they'd say "I'd absolutely do that deal," and you're not sure which side they're referring to as the winner.

Closer: Steve Cishek, Marlins
Characteristic: Decent closer on a very bad team.
Who you should aim for: Denard Span, OF, Nationals; Mark Reynolds, 3B, Indians; Dan Straily, SP, Athletics
Who you should realistically expect: Drew Stubbs, OF, Indians; Nolan Arenado, 3B, Rockies; Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians

Steve Cishek has five saves, a 4.50 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 24 innings this year. His 7.9 K/9 stands in stark contrast to his 9.4 from the previous two years. I'm not sure he has much to offer outside of being the closer for the Marlins -- and, as of a couple weeks ago, his hold on that title was tenuous -- at best. He hasn't recorded a save since May 10 and the team is going nowhere fast. Still, a desperate owner is a desperate owner, and if you come across someone in grave need of saves you may be able to get something back for a closer who has basically been dormant for a month.

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

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