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“On Bzdek” Bullpen Briefing: Week 16

The trade deadline is just one week away, but we’ve seen several relievers on the move already. We’ll start with the impact of these changes before taking a look at other potential trade candidates. Finally, we’ll get into the two closer committees, one of which saw a closer candidate return from the Disabled List this week. Shall we begin?

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees made the biggest splash in reliever news last week when they acquired David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and 3B Todd Frazier for Tyler Clippard and a couple prospects. The move filled a need for the Yankees at third base and added some much-needed bullpen depth. Aroldis Chapman will remain the team’s closer, however, I expect manager Joe Girardi to mix and match a bit more in the middle innings. Dellin Betances, Robertson, and Kahnle are all capable of getting big outs in high leverage situations, so don’t be surprised to see them used in various roles to get important outs as the game dictates. The Yankees also have Chad Greene and Adam Warren, arguably the Yankees’ two best relievers in 2017, who may find themselves a hold or relief win here or there.

Chicago White Sox

As noted above, Robertson and Kahnle were shipped to the Yankees and the only major league piece coming back was Tyler Clippard. The White Sox will be Clippard’s fifth team in the last four years. He’s a free agent this off-season and there is a chance he gets moved again if any team is interested. I find this unlikely because of the way Clippard has struggled this season (5.15 ERA, 1.36 WHIP). A change of scenery sometimes helps a struggling player, but both of his appearances since arriving in Chicago ended in walk-off losses. In the first appearance, Clippard entered a tie game in the 10th inning, loaded the bases and allowed a sac fly for the loss. In the second, Clippard entered with runners on and allowed a hit for the go-ahead run to score. For now, Clippard assumed the closing role for the ChiSox so if you’re desperate for saves give him an add, however, Anthony Swarzack has had a better season and is waiting in the wings if Clippard doesn’t right the ship quickly.

Miami Marlins

The Marlins sent middle-reliever David Phelps to Seattle last week, receiving four minor league players in return. Phelps will take on a similar middle inning role in Seattle so his fantasy status is unchanged. Marlins current closer AJ Ramos remains with the team for now but is still likely to be traded before the trade deadline. Kyle Barraclough moves up a slot in the Marlins’ hierarchy with the Phelps trade and stands to move into the closer role if Ramos is dealt. If he’s still available on your waiver wire he’s worth a speculative add.

Baltimore Orioles

Zach Britton recorded his sixth save of the season yesterday. The save was also his 55th consecutive save, setting an American League record. There were some question marks related to Britton’s health after two DL stints this season, but these questions are being answered more and more with every successful outing from Britton, and his trade value is rising accordingly. The Astros and Dodgers are both rumored to be heavily interested in Britton, and I would imagine the Nationals are in the mix as well. A healthy Britton would be a dynamic acquisition for any of these teams, though I don’t see him taking the reigns from Kenley Jansen if he goes to the Dodgers. Brad Brach remains next in line to close for the Orioles in the event of a trade and is worthy of a stash.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals made a big splash last week, acquiring Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from Oakland. Doolittle has recorded two saves and Madson has two holds since the trade, though Doolittle did allow an earned run in his first save and an unearned run in his second. Based on the usage this week we can assume Doolittle is the closer, for now, however, I think the Nationals may still bring in a more established closer to try and push them over the edge for a deep playoff run.

Other Closer Trade Candidates

Tigers closer Justin Wilson remains a trade candidate but has yet to be dealt. Depending on where he lands, there is a good chance he won’t be closing on his new team. Similarly, Mets closer Addison Reed remains a likely trade option, but acquiring teams will likely slide him into a middle relief role.

Texas Rangers

Keone Kela returned from the DL this week. His first appearance since his return came on Saturday, where he entered the 8th inning with a 1-run lead. Kela struck out one, gave up a hit and a walk, and induced a pop out from Wilson Ramos before being removed for Alex Claudio. Claudio got out of the jam in the 8th and pitched the 9th to record a 4-out save – his 4th save of the season. Claudio appears to have assumed closing duties while Kela was out, however, I expect Kela to reclaim the position in the near future. While Kela pitched the 8th this weekend, it is not unusual for a reliever’s first action after a DL stint to be earlier in the ballgame. On Sunday, Kela did not pitch what would have been his second game in as many nights, which again is not unusual for a reliever returning from injury. Claudio pitched in two straight heading into Sunday, so he got the day off, resulting in Jose Leclerc nailing down the save. In addition, Claudio is a lefty with a funky side-arm delivery which always leads to severe lefty/righty splits. On the season, lefties are batting .129 against Claudio while righties are batting .238. Rangers manager Jeff Bannister could mix and match here, using Claudio for the big lefty outs rather than saving him for the 9th inning. I’m holding Kela until further notice.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals went to a closer-by-committee recently after Seung-Hwan Oh‘s early season struggles resurfaced. Trevor Rosenthal is the expected head of the committee, however, he blew a tie game on Thursday after failing to cover first base on a ground ball to the right side. The Cardinals are nine games back in the wild card and four games back in the division. I don’t see them making a move to improve the bullpen this year unless they can acquire a pitcher with multiple years of control – perhaps Brad Hand or Justin Wilson. Until then, I would avoid this bullpen until it sorts itself out.

Three Stars of the Week

Ryan Tepera, TOR – Tepera pitched 4.0 innings, striking out four and recording two holds and a win. He allowed one walk and no hits.

Felipe Rivero, PIT – In 3.1 innings, Rivero struck out four while recording three saves. He allowed two hits and walked none.

Francis Martes, HOU – Martes threw 4.2 innings, striking out 7 and recording one win. Martes allowed two walks and no hits during this time frame. Martes was a top starting pitching prospect for the Astros, but he’s getting his cup of coffee in the bullpen.

I’ll continue to monitor both the rumor mill and the impact of the latest trades and will be back with an update next Monday. Thanks for reading!


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