The trade deadline is now one week away, and the dominoes are falling into place as teams look to add to their bullpens down the stretch. In the last week, three closers changed teams: Brad Hand, Zach Britton, and Jeurys Familia. I’ll discuss their expected roles in their new cities, as well as who is filling in the vacant closer holes they left behind. In case you missed out on all the recent closer changes, I’ll provide a couple additional closers who are on the block. Aside from trades, there was one injury of note to Sean Doolittle, so I will cover the impact of his DL stint on the Nationals pen. As always, I’ll finish with the Three Stars of the Week.
Just about every team vying for the playoffs has been linked to Zach Britton in the past week. Last night, it was the Yankees who came away as the sweepstakes winners. As it stands, Brad Brach, who picked up the save last night, is set to close games for the O’s. However, he’s a free agent in the off-season so there is a chance he may be traded in the next week too. In that case, Mychal Givens is the likely closer.
The middle relievers that will benefit from the Britton trade, and a potential Brach trade, include Paul Fry and Mike Wright Jr. I’ve been following Paul Fry since he was called up a few weeks back. He’s a 25-year-old lefty and is off to a solid start in his first MLB stint: 11.1 innings, 13 Ks, 1BB, 11 H, 3 ER, and 2 HLDs. Wright Jr. is a 28-year-old righty who is in his 4th season, all with the O’s. He picked up a hold last night and has been pitching well of late. In his last 15.0 innings, Wright Jr. has 14 Ks, 1 BB, and allowed 3 ER.
Actions to take: Brad Brach is the add for saves right now. Mychal Givens is next in line and worth a stash if you’re desperate. Fry and Wright Jr. get a slight boost in value and are worth consideration in holds leagues. If Brach gets traded, their value goes up a bit more.
New York Yankees
Zach Britton will be in a middle relief role for the Yankees. He’ll get his fair share of holds but won’t retain much value in saves leagues. If closer Aroldis Chapman were to land on the DL, the Yankees might prefer Britton in the 9th to keep Dellin Betances in his set-up role, which he has been absolutely dominating at as of late. David Robertson will have a bit more competition for holds but should retain most of his value in holds leagues.
Actions to take: Consider dropping Britton in saves leagues.
San Diego Padres
Brad Hand was traded to the Indians last week. I was not expecting the reliever to be traded, but the Padres got the Indians’ top prospect, which is a nice return for a reliever with 2 more seasons of team control. Kirby Yates is the new closer in San Diego. He’s having a career year at the age of 31. With the Padres in sell mode, Yates is one player they are surely shopping around. Craig Stammen is slated to be next in line after Yates, but his 5.40 ERA and 1.63 WHIP over the last 30 days are uninspiring. Matt Strahm is another candidate for saves if Yates is dealt. He’s got a more enticing 2.20 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in the last month. Strahm has bounced around between the rotation and the bullpen this season but has settled into a relief role in the last month.
Actions to take: Yates is the add for saves right now. After him, I would add Matt Strahm. He’s a multi-inning reliever which usually wouldn’t get the closer nod, but he’s also the hot hand and I could see him getting some multi-inning saves the rest of the way.
Newly acquired Brad Hand is expected to slot into a setup role behind closer Cody Allen. Allen is having a down year, with a 4.95 ERA on the season and 8.38 ERA in the last month. His HR/9 is a career high 1.80, and with a 15.7% HR/FB rate there is some room for positive regression but not a ton. With Allen having an off year, Hand might be someone to hang onto in saves leagues if no better options are available.
Andrew Miller is on a rehab stint in the minors as he works back from an injured knee. He’s likely to move back into a setup role when he is ready.
Actions to take: Hand is no longer a closer, but if you have the ability to roster a non-closer in your saves league, he might be worth hanging onto until Allen puts together a few consecutive good outings.
New York Mets
The Mets traded Jeurys Familia to the Athletics last weekend. Robert Gsellman recorded the teams lone save since then. The Mets are expected to mix and match the rest of the way but Gsellman (3.65 ERA in the last month) has been much better than his competition, Anthony Swarzak who holds a 14.21 ERA over that same time.
Actions to take: Gsellman is the add for saves. I would avoid Swarzack at this point. His walks are up in 2018 making his 2017 season in which he posted a 2.33 ERA and 1.03 WHIP appear to be an anomaly.
The acquired Jeurys Familia will slide into middle relief.
Actions to take: Familia is a drop in saves leagues.
Some potential trade candidates in the coming week…
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are 3-7 in their last 10 games. They’re now 5.5 games back for the second wild card spot with 5 teams to jump. Playoffs are looking grim right about now and St. Louis might decide to become sellers as the deadline approaches. Bud Norris is a free agent after the season and having a career year as the team’s current closer. He would make a great sell high candidate.
Jordan Hicks is the likely replacement for Norris, however Hicks has been meh in the last month posting an ERA of 8.44 and a WHIP of 1.50. No one else in the Cardinals bullpen has been much better though. Greg Holland sports a 7.45 ERA in the last month and an 8/7 K/BB ratio. Luke Gregerson is a veteran with closing experience and he just returned from a DL stint a couple weeks back. Since his return he’s pitched 3.1 scoreless innings with 2Ks and 1 BB. It’s possible Gregerson will settle down, but it’s a little early to tell.
Actions to take: Jordan Hicks is a great stash as we head toward the trade deadline. He’s got closer stuff and a handful of saves. Despite recent mediocre performances, he’s the first option to speculate on for saves. The runner up for saves speculators is Gregerson. Right now, he’s a dark horse, but he’s got experience and if the Cardinals are out of it they may prefer to lean on the veteran for saves rather than boost the young Hicks’ value for future arbitration years.
Chicago White Sox
Current White Sox closer Joakim Soria is a free agent this winter and therefore a trade candidate. Nate Jones, also an impending free agent, could also be a trade chip but he is currently on the DL with a right pronator muscle strain and no timetable for his return.
If Soria is dealt, the closer role is up for grabs. Jeanmar Gomez has closer experience but is not all that dominant and has pitched more in AAA than in the Majors the last two seasons. Jace Fry could be in the mix, but he’s been up and down this season and is a lefty that might be better used in a middle relief role. Juan Minaya closed games for the Sox last year after they re-shuffled their pen at the deadline and in the last month he’s sporting 8Ks in 7.1 innings, but also has 7 BBs over that time. Xavier Cedeno has similar control issues, walking 6 batters in the last month and striking out only 5. Luis Avilan has been the best of late, sporting a 9/0 K/BB in the last month with a 4.05 ERA and 0.75 WHIP.
Actions to take: This bullpen is a toss-up. I’d speculate on the hot hand, which right now is Luis Avilan.
Sean Doolittle was supposed to be on the DL for the minimum 10 days as he nursed a sore right foot during the all-star break. As it turns out, Doolittle has a stress fracture in the bridge of his left foot. No timetable has been set for Doolittle’s return, but stress fractures typically take a while to heal so I’m not expecting him back soon.
Kelvin Herrera is expected to fill in as closer while Doolittle is out. The recently acquired reliver closed for the Royals the past two seasons and picked up his first save with the Nats on Sunday, with Ryan Madson picking up a hold.
Brandon Kintzler will slide up the hierarchy but stay in a middle relief role. The middle reliever to benefit most from Doolittle’s absence might be the veteran Shawn Kelley. He has not recorded a hold in the last month of action (12.0 innings), however he does have 11 K to 1 BB along with a 0.75 ERA and 0.67 WHIP. I think he’ll see some higher leverage situations in the short term.
Actions to take: Herrera is the add for saves. He was likely picked up when Doolittle initially hit the DL, but as the DL stint was initially expected to be short, its possible someone prematurely dropped him. Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler will remain the go-to middle relievers, with the streaky Shawn Kelley seemingly working himself into the mix. All are worth consideration for holds leagues.
Three Stars of the Week
Josh Hader, MIL – Hader recorded 2 holds and 7 outs, 5 of which were strikeouts. He walked none and allowed two hits.
Seunghwan Oh, TOR – Oh pitched 2.1 innings and did not allowed a base runner. He struck out 2 and recorded 2 holds.
Sam Tuivailala, STL – Tuivailala pitched 3.2 innings, striking out 3 and walking one. He picked up two relief wins for his efforts.
That is all for this week. Next week’s article will be a post-trade deadline article, so I’ll be breaking down any trades that went down at the 11th hour, along with the usual updates. Thanks for reading and drop a comment below if you have any reliever related questions.
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