Trade Deadline Buy/Sell: National League

July 18, 2018

Special Update (Part 2 of 2 — read the American League review here)

BUY+: This player has a strong chance (at least 50%) of becoming a closer by the trade deadline.
BUY: This player has a small chance (at least 20%) of becoming a closer by the trade deadline.
SELL: This player has a small chance (at least 20%) of losing his closer job by the trade deadline.
SELL+: This player has a large chance (at least 50%) of losing his closer job by the trade deadline.

TL;DR – NL relievers
BUY+: Robert Gsellman.
BUY: Kirby Yates, Jordan Hicks, Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley, Jared Hughes.
SELL: Brad Hand, Bud Norris, Arodys Vizcaino, Kyle Barraclough, Seranthony Dominguez, Raisel Iglesias.
SELL+: Jeurys Familia.

NL East

Atlanta Braves – The Braves have held things close to the vest when it comes to free agent relief targets thus far. GM Alex Anthopolous has said that they’ll be shopping, but they aren’t likely to trade for any half-season rentals, which probably rules out players like Zach Britton and Jeurys Familia. Of course, players with even more control (such as Brad Hand) usually carry much higher price tags, so it’s hard to know what the Braves intend to do. Our guess is that they acquire a couple of lower-priced veterans, but that Arodys Vizcaino remains the closer once he returns from the DL, but we’ll still place a sell tag on him in case the Braves decide to pick up a marquee arm.
SELL: Arodys Vizcaino. 

Miami Marlins – From the perspective of the perpetually-selling Marlins, Kyle Barraclough couldn’t have picked a better time to be putting together his best season ever. His 1.28 ERA and high K-rate — and most importantly, three more years of team control — mean that the Marlins could probably score a nice trade package for the 28-year-old righty. From a fantasy perspective, though, Barraclough is lacking in the ever-important “experience as a closer” category, as almost any team that scoops him up would probably be placing him in a set-up role. Due to the service time reasons mentioned above, we actually think it’s unlikely that Barraclough — or Drew Steckenrider or Adam Conley — go anywhere. (Though we expect Brad Ziegler to be traded for a bag of baseballs if anyone so much as inquires.) We’ll place a sell on Barraclough though — and a buy on the other two — on the chance that someone desperate ponies up.
SELL: Kyle Barraclough, BUY: Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley

New York Mets – As the trade deadline approaches, the Mets possess one of the biggest trade chips out there in Jacob deGrom, but it seems much more likely that they deal closer Jeurys Familia, who is in his final year of team control. Most recently, Familia has been linked to the Red Sox, Giants, and Phillies, which is mostly good news for his fantasy owners, as he has a great chance to close for the latter two of those teams. But if he goes to Boston, or virtually any other contender, he’d likely be relegated to a set-up role, as he’s been serviceable (more than 1 K per inning and a sub-3 ERA) but not spectacular. We think it’s slightly more likely than not that come next month, Familia isn’t closing. That means fantasy owners might be better off trying to find an oblivious trade partner now, while quietly adding Robert Gsellman if he’s available.
BUY+: Robert Gsellman. SELL+: Jeurys Familia.

Philadelphia Phillies – With the Nationals continuing to struggle, the Phillies have shown the appearance of being more aggressive in recent weeks, chasing Manny Machado among other superstars, while also being linked to relievers Jeurys Familia and Zach Britton. If they acquire either pitcher, they’d likely slot them in the 9th inning, freeing Gabe Kapler up to use Seranthony Dominguez as his anytime relief ace, though this would significantly decrease Dominguez’s value, as he’s been receiving about half of all Phillies save chances in recent weeks.
SELL: Seranthony Dominguez. 

Washington Nationals – Though they sit at exactly .500, the Nationals have shown every indication of being a buyer over the next two weeks. But with a few exceptions, they’ve mostly been linked to position players and starters, as their recent trade for Kelvin Herrera might be the extent of what they do in the bullpen. They have shown interest in Raisel Iglesias, and if they acquired the Reds righty, there’s an outside chance he would compete with Sean Doolittle for saves. But more likely, he’d be used as a relief ace, given his ability to go multiple innings; in fact, the Nationals’ interest might be based on the notion that he can be a starter again. At any rate, going on the assumption that his injury is minor, we think it’s quite unlikely that anyone other than the dominant Doolittle is closing for this team a few weeks from now.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs – The Cubs are interested in bullpen upgrades, having been linked to both Zach Britton and Brad Hand in recent weeks, but it isn’t a major need for them as Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek have been excellent, and CJ Edwards is rounding back into form after returning from the DL. If the Cubs do make any moves — even for a high profile reliever — it likely would be to add depth to the bullpen for their playoff run, as it seems unlikely that they’d risk screwing around with Morrow’s role, as the righty posted a 1.47 ERA in the first half.

Cincinnati Reds – The Reds have been one of the hottest teams in baseball in the past month, but dug themselves such a big hole in the early going that they are still likely to be sellers at the deadline. Raisel Iglesias has been mentioned as a trade target, with the Astros and Nationals being potential landing spots. One interesting note about Iglesias is that many teams view him as a potential starter. Iglesias has been adamant that he wants to stay in Cincinnati, and with the team having control of him through 2020 at a relatively reasonable $5 million he will be tough to pry away. Jared Hughes has been an effective backup option for Iglesias, and may find himself in the closer’s role if someone pays the kings ransom for Iglesias, but the most likely scenario is that the Reds keep Iglesias and build the bullpen around him.
BUY: Jared Hughes; SELL: Raisel Iglesias.

Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers have been one of the best bullpens in baseball during the first half of the season. Corey Knebel had a tough week heading into the all star break, but his main competition is the probably-bigoted Josh Hader, not anybody from the outside. While the Brewers had been pursing Manny Machado, and anybody could have been available in a major trade like that, it appears that he will be wearing a Dodger uniform by the end of the week. Barring an injury before the trade deadline, the Brewers will likely run with the bullpen they have.

Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates almost dragged themselves to .500 going into the all star break, changing them from certain sellers to possible buyers at the trade deadline. One player that seems to be off limits from a trade perspective is Felipe Vazquez, who is in the first year of a 4 year deal with the organization. His contract doesn’t get too expensive until 2020, so even if the Pirates are sellers, they will probably hold onto their all star closer. Kyle Crick and Edgar Santana are also under team control through 2020, so even in a fire sale the Pirates aren’t likely to shake up their bullpen.

St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals go into the trade deadline having recently fired manager Mike Matheny, and one of the many reasons that Matheny was let go was his handling of Bud Norris and Jordan Hicks. Norris had reportedly been “mercilessly riding” Hicks, and Matheny came under some fire for allowing it to happen. At any rate, from a fantasy perspective, Bud Norris is on a 1-year deal, and would almost certainly be traded if the Cardinals do turn into sellers, but his job may not be safe even if he remains with the team. Jordan Hicks got the last save opportunity going into the All Star Break, and there was not a clear answer as to why Bud Norris was kept out of the game. With a new manager in place, and especially if the Cardinals fall out of playoff contention, St. Louis may decide to let Hicks take a shot as the closer regardless of whether Norris is traded.
BUY: Jordan Hicks; SELL: Bud Norris.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks – The Diamondbacks are a half game out of first place in the NL West and their bullpen has a lot to do with that, as their relievers’ boast a collective ERA of 2.85, which is best in the National League. Brad Boxberger has been solid as closer and Archie Bradley is one of the best relievers in the NL, so we don’t expect any deadline deals that would impact the late inning plans for the Diamondbacks.

Colorado Rockies – The Rockies have a couple stud relievers in Wade Davis and Adam Ottavino, but unless they have a big collapse this month, they have no plans to sell at the trade deadline. Also the Rockies just signed Wade Davis to a three-year deal this past offseason so it seems unlikely they would turn around and trade him so quickly.

Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers are expected to be buyers leading up to the trade deadline, but it looks like their big splash will be Manny Machado rather than a big name bullpen arm. They could make some minor deals, similar to the ones they made last year to acquire Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson, but nothing that would impact Kenley Jansen’s role as closer.

San Diego Padres – For the second year in a row, Brad Hand is the subject of trade rumors. It seemed very likely Hand would be traded before last year’s trade deadline, but it didn’t happen, and then he signed an extension in the off-season so that he is under team control through 2021. His asking price will be high again this year but teams might be willing to pay it this year. The Indians are interested and the Yankees have checked in on both Brad Hand and Kirby Yates. If Hand is dealt, he could close, but it is probably more likely that he would be used as a versatile reliever similar to how Andrew Miller has been used. We will put a sell on Hand and a buy on Yates since he would take over as closer if Hand is dealt and he isn’t.
BUY: Kirby Yates; SELL: Brad Hand.

San Francisco Giants – The Giants are four games back of the second wild card spot in a very crowded NL wild card picture, and it’s unlikely they will be major buyers or sellers at the deadline. They Giants may try to find somebody to take Sam Dyson, but he isn’t a factor in their late inning plans. On the other side of things, they’ve been linked with Jeurys Familia, but it seems more likely that he lands elsewhere. Our bet is that there won’t be a trade to shake anything up here, though it remains an interesting bullpen with Will Smith pitching so well, Mark Melancon working his way back into form, and Hunter Strickland returning from injury.

Updated MLB Closer Depth Chart

Closer1st in line2nd in lineUpdatedCloser1st in line2nd in lineUpdated

* = closer-by-committee

Trade Deadline Buy/Sell: American League

July 17, 2018

Special Update (Part 1 of 2 — check back tomorrow for the National League)

BUY+: This player has a strong chance (at least 50%) of becoming a closer by the trade deadline.
BUY: This player has a small chance (at least 20%) of becoming a closer by the trade deadline.
SELL: This player has a small chance (at least 20%) of losing his closer job by the trade deadline.
SELL+: This player has a large chance (at least 50%) of losing his closer job by the trade deadline.

TL;DR – AL relievers
BUY+: Roberto Osuna.
BUY: Zach Britton, Mychal Givens, Diego Castillo, Nate Jones, Joe Jimenez, Trevor Hildenberger.
SELL: Sergio Romo, Joakim Soria, Shane Greene, Fernando Rodney, Hector Rondon, Blake Parker.
SELL+: Ryan Tepera.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles — The Orioles sure do stink, which means they will be sellers at the deadline. One player who will have plenty of suitors is closer Zach Britton. Among the interested teams are the Phillies, the Red Sox and the Astros, just to name a few. With so many teams interested in Britton, it makes his fantasy outlook very clouded. If he goes to the Phillies, it’s likely he closes for them so Gabe Kapler can send out Seranthony Dominguez whenever he wants. There’s also a good chance he takes the closer’s role from Hector Rondon if he goes to Houston. However, if Britton is shipped to Boston, he’ll simply be a bridge to Craig Kimbrel. Teams are also interested in Brad Brach, and he would most certainly not close if he gets traded. And if Brach stays in Baltimore, will he close for the rest of the year or will they give Mychal Givens an audition for next season? This will be a tricky situation to navigate as we get closer to the trade deadline, so buy and sell with some caution. BUY: Zach Britton, Mychal Givens.

Boston Red Sox — The Red Sox are the best team in baseball and have one of the best closers in Craig Kimbrel. Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes have held up their end of the bargain in the late innings as well, but the Sox have been linked to Zach Britton as well as Fernando Rodney. Rodney will be a nice addition to the Boston bullpen, but won’t supplant Kimbrel as closer. BUY/SELL: None.

New York Yankees –The Yankees are among the many teams interested in Zach Britton, but if they can’t get Britton they may look elsewhere for bullpen help. In any case, Aroldis Chapman’s job is safe, so any pitcher the Yankees do acquire will not close games unless Chapman gets hurt. BUY/SELL: None.

Tampa Bay Rays — The Rays have somehow hung around this year, though unfortunately for them they play in such a top-heavy American League and are doubtful to actually contend. What does this mean for their bullpen? Sergio Romo is on a one-year deal and is a potential candidate to get traded. If that’s the case, Diego Castillo will be a guy to own. Even if Romo stays, it’s worth picking up Castillo, who should get a chance to audition for a role he should have next year. BUY: Diego Castillo; SELL: Sergio Romo.

Toronto Blue Jays — The Blue Jays have already come out and said Roberto Osuna will be their closer when he returns from his suspension. Now’s the time to get whatever value you can out of Ryan Tepera, or stash Osuna if he’s still available. BUY+: Roberto Osuna. SELL+: Ryan Tepera

AL Central

Chicago White Sox — Joakim Soria has been a surprising success for the rebuilding White Sox, especially over the last two months. On the whole, he’s sporting a 2.75 ERA with a 1.17 WHIP and 14 saves. He will most certainly be shopped, and wherever he ends up — unless he stays put — it’ll likely be in a setup capacity. If Soria is dealt, Jace Fry, Jeanmar Gomez and Xavier Cedeno are early candidates to lead a committee, at least until Nate Jones returns from the DL. Jones is probably the best long-term bet to close if Soria is gone, but don’t get too excited about any of these options. BUY: Nate Jones; SELL: Joakim Soria.

Cleveland Indians –After Cody Allen, the Cleveland bullpen is a bit of a mess. Relief ace Andrew Miller is still out with a knee injury (though he’s working his way back), and the rest of the cast has been mediocre or worse. Still, they’re in the driver’s seat in the AL Central, so they will certainly be looking for relief help at the deadline, though no acquisition would supplant Allen. BUY/SELL: None.

Detroit Tigers — Shane Greene is healthy again for the going-nowhere Tigers, so that means he becomes a valuable piece ahead of the deadline. His setup man, Joe Jimenez, who pitched well while he was out and is an All-Star this year, would seize the closer’s job for himself if Greene is dealt. But wherever Greene goes, he’ll set up ahead of his new team’s closer. BUY: Joe Jimenez; SELL: Shane Greene.

Kansas City Royals — After trading Kelvin Herrera, the Royals sport one of the worst bullpens in baseball. With the team 25 games out of first place, they will likely try to deal away some pieces, but any of Wily Peralta, Kevin McCarthy, Tim Hill or Brandon Maurer won’t close anywhere if traded and aren’t reliable options if they stay. Still, though, Peralta has pitched well and may seize the KC job for the rest of the year with a few more clean saves. BUY/SELL: None.

Minnesota Twins — Fernando Rodney has had another solid campaign in his age 41 season, leading some teams to inquire about his availability before the deadline. Changing teams is nothing new for Rodney, who has played for SIX different squads since 2015! Expect the Twins to trade him if the right deal comes along. In his stead, we like Trevor Hildenberger, who has been solid this season. Ryan Pressly would likely set him up as Addison Reed is shelved with a triceps injury. BUY: Trevor Hildenberger; SELL: Fernando Rodney.

AL West

Houston Astros –With a playoff birth all but locked up, the Astros are widely expected to firm up their one major weakness: the ninth inning. Although Hector Rondon has been a revelation, Houston could still look to upgrade to Raisel Iglesias, Zach Britton (whom they almost acquired last July), or even Brad Hand. Either way, Rondon is unlikely to be saving games for this team come October. SELL: Hector Rondon.

Los Angeles Angels — Wild Card hopes are slipping away from the Angels, who might be willing to sell high on any member of their relief committee, including Blake Parker, Cam Bedrosian, or Justin Anderson. This makes this a difficult situation for speculation, as any pitcher who moves will likely see fewer save chances, while the one(s) who stay will reap the benefits. We’ll put a light sell signal on Parker, because he’s the committee leader at the moment. SELL: Blake Parker.

Oakland Athletics — Baseball’s lowest payroll hasn’t kept Oakland out of the thick of the wild card race. Although the team’s rotation is a much bigger area of need than their impressive bullpen, it’s possible that they’ll double down on their strength in order to deploy relievers earlier and earlier. Either way, Blake Treinen’s role should be safe. BUY/SELL: None.

Seattle Mariners — All-Star Edwin Diaz and his league-leading 36 saves aren’t going anywhere, and with Seattle fighting for the playoffs, they aren’t likely to move any other important relievers either. BUY/SELL: None.

Texas Rangers –The Rangers are hopelessly out of contention, but closer Keone Kela is young, cheap, and good, so they’d demand a high price to trade him. Jake Diekman could be a useful lefty on a contender, but he won’t be getting save chances anywhere. BUY/SELL: None.

Ryan Tepera returns; Bud Norris misses game with undisclosed injury

July 16, 2018

Toronto Blue Jays – Ryan Tepera returned from the disabled list yesterday, and pitched a scoreless 7th inning with the Jays trailing by three. There’s not much to read into here, usage-wise, since it was the day before the All Star Break and Tepera was just getting some work in, but he was getting the lion’s share of save chances before he got hurt, so we’ll place him in the middle of the committee right now, and potentially move him up as usage dictates. This bullpen is highly unsettled, though, and any of the top three guys could be used for saves after the break.

Updated hierarchy: *Oh | Tepera | Clippard.
* = closer-by-committee

Baltimore Orioles – Here’s a guy to watch as the Orioles continue to shop all of their veteran relievers: Paul Fry. Yesterday, Fry got his first big league hold, firing a perfect 1.2 innings ahead of Zach Britton. A 6-foot-tall lefty, Fry always had good strikeout numbers in the minors, but struggled with his control. He seems to have figured something out, though, having started his major league career with 10 strikeouts and 0 walks in his first 9 innings (1.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP). Look for him to contribute in the second half, especially as other Baltimore relievers start getting dealt.

Hierarchy remains: Britton | Brach | Givens.

St. Louis Cardinals – With Bud Norris getting a day off with some sort of injury concern, Jordan Hicks picked up his second save of the season. He allowed a run, but remains the clear handcuff in case Norris’s injury is more serious than it seems.

Hierarchy remains: Norris | Hicks | Tuivailala.

1. Steve Mandanda – Just a hunch that the Marseille keeper might be in line for more Les Bleus saves after this nonsense from Hugo Lloris.

Arodys Vizcaino returns to DL while Tyler Clippard blows save

July 15, 2018

Atlanta Braves — The Braves tried to be careful with Arodys Vizcaino by giving him at least two days off in between each of his three appearances since returning from the DL in early July.  However, it didn’t matter as the Braves placed Vizcaino back on the DL after he was unable to get loose before the game on Saturday.  The Braves hope it is only inflammation in his pitching shoulder, but this is certainly not good news for Vizcaino.  We think this will be a committee with Dan Winkler and A.J. Minter, but since Minter has already gotten two saves in July, he could have a chance of becoming the primary closer.

Updated hierarchy: *Minter | Winkler | Carle.
* = closer-by-committee

St. Louis Cardinals — Jordan Hicks has had kind of a rough week off the mound after an article came out about how closer Bud Norris has been mercilessly riding him.  Hicks has since said that he knows Norris is only trying to help him become a better player, but it’s fair to wonder if the off-field issues led to his poor performance on Saturday.  The 21-year old came on in the 7th inning to protect a one-run lead but took the loss after allowing four earned runs and only recording one out.  In other St. Louis Cardinals news, manager Mike Matheny was fired after the game.  We will see if this change impacts the bullpen usage at all moving forward.

Hierarchy remains: Norris | Hicks | Tuivailala.

Toronto Blue Jays – The Blue Jays went with Tyler Clippard yesterday to protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning, but he couldn’t get the job done.  Clippard gave up doubles to the first two batters he faced but was able to get the next three batters out to keep the game tied.  Clippard now has two blown saves in the ninth inning, which is as many as the rest of the Blue Jays’ relievers combined.  Seung Hwan Oh will likely see the next save chance and could establish himself as the primary closer until Roberto Osuna is eligible to return in three weeks.

Hierarchy remains: *Oh | Clippard | Axford.
* = closer-by-committee

1. Jake McGee – Wade Davis and Adam Ottavino have both pitched in three straight.
2. Eric Goeddel – Kenley Jansen has pitched in three of four, throwing a total of 57 pitches.
3. Richard Rodriguez – Felipe Vazquez has pitched in three of four, including both games of the doubleheader yesterday.  Kyle Crick and Edgar Santana have both pitched in two straight and three of four.  Richard Rodriguez got a big out yesterday and could get the call in the Pirates’ overworked bullpen.

1. Jose Cano – Jose helped his son Robinson win the Home Run Derby, but then he held Yasiel Puig to zero homers a few years later.


Arodys Vizcaino is back on the DL

July 14, 2018

Atlanta Braves — Arodys Vizcaino was placed on the DL today with right shoulder inflammation. This is the second time this year that Vizcaino has landed on the disabled list. Expect a committee of A.J. Minter and Dan Winkler to once again fill in for Vizcaino.

Updated hierarchy: *Minter | Winkler | Carle.
* = closer-by-committee