July 12, 2017
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+: Tommy Kahnle.
BUY: Bruce Rondon, Mike Minor, Joakim Soria, Cam Bedrosian, David Hernandez, Blake Parker, Keone Kela, Matt Bush.
SELL: David Robertson, Justin Wilson, Bud Norris, Jose Leclerc, Alex Claudio.
Baltimore Orioles — The Orioles are four games back in a wide-open Wild Card race and 3.5 games in front of the last-place team in the American League, which means the team is still unsure how it will proceed at the trade deadline. How does this affect the bullpen? Zach Britton is not likely to be moved, which means that Brad Brach and Darren O’Day aren’t going to assume the closer’s role in Baltimore. Either one of those setup men, however, is an intriguing trade target for a team in need of some bullpen depth. Brach was the team’s closer during Britton’s extended DL stint, but it’s unlikely he closes for a new team if he does get moved. BUY/SELL: None.
Boston Red Sox — The Red Sox own one of the best bullpens in the American League thanks in large part to All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel. Joe Kelly (1.49 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) has been the team’s next-best pitcher, but his hold on the 8th inning in Boston is not all that certain. The Sox are in the market for another reliever, with David Phelps and Pat Neshek being mentioned as potential targets. But Boston also has an in-house option in Carson Smith, who is set to throw from a mound this week. If he progresses well, the Sox may stand pat in the ‘pen. BUY/SELL: None.
New York Yankees — The Yankees will be buyers at the deadline, with Brad Hand highlighted as one of the potential targets. They have also scouted Pat Neshek. Despite recent struggles, Dellin Betances (15.00 ERA in July) should remain the handcuff to Aroldis Chapman, though the addition of a reliever like Hand will put some more pressure on Betances. BUY/SELL: None.
Tampa Bay Rays — Like the Yankees, the Rays could use another bullpen arm as they make a push for a playoff spot. Closer Alex Colome (3.76 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) has not been lights-out this year, but Kevin Cash doesn’t seem interested in making a switch to either Brad Boxberger or Tommy Hunter, and it’s unlikely the Rays will trade for someone with the intention of having him slot immediately into the closer’s role. BUY/SELL: None.
Toronto Blue Jays — The Blue Jays are in a similar predicament as the Orioles at the All-Star break. Toronto is five games back in the Wild Card race, but only 2.5 games from being last in the American League. It’s more than likely that the Jays will be sellers, but it’s less than likely that they trade 22-year-old closer Roberto Osuna. BUY/SELL: None.
Chicago White Sox — The White Sox will almost certainly be sellers at the deadline and they have a number of bullpen arms who could be interesting to contending teams. Closer David Robertson tops the list and will likely be dealt before the trade deadline. He is an attractive option due to his postseason experience and ability to go more than one inning. The Nationals have been linked to Robertson since before the season, and that would likely be the best situation for fantasy owners since he would take over as the Nationals’ closer immediately. The Red Sox and Yankees have also been rumored to be interested in Robertson, but he would likely serve in a setup role to either Kimbrel or Chapman. We will list Robertson as a soft sell based on the possibility of ending up somewhere as a setup man. Tommy Kahnle should get a chance to close if Robertson is dealt, unless he also gets traded. BUY+: Tommy Kahnle; SELL: David Robertson.
Cleveland Indians — Cleveland’s bullpen got them to the World Series last year, and they won’t be making any moves that affect Andrew Miller or Cody Allen at the back end. BUY/SELL: None.
Detroit Tigers — The Tigers already cut their Opening Day closer in Francisco Rodriguez and it would not be surprising if their current closer is not around for much longer, although for much different reasons. Justin Wilson is having a great year, and teams are usually willing to overpay for bullpen help at the deadline. The Astros have been linked to Wilson for a while and the Dodgers also seem interested. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Wilson probably will not remain as a closer if he is dealt. Bruce Rondon could get another shot to close if Wilson is shipped somewhere else. BUY: Bruce Rondon; SELL: Justin Wilson.
Kansas City Royals — The Royals started the year out slow, but after a record of 17-9 in June, they put themselves back into contention. That might not matter in a couple weeks for Kelvin Herrera. Herrera hasn’t been as good this year (4.50 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 8.74 K/9) as the past couple years, but he is still a very good reliever and has a team-friendly contract. The Nationals are rumored to be interested in Herrera. Joakim Soria is a veteran arm who is having a good season (11.68 K/9, 11 holds) but his contract is a little richer, so he may stick around and close if Herrera is dealt. Mike Minor (1.87 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) is having a stellar season in the bullpen and could close if both Herrera and Soria are gone at the deadline. BUY: Joakim Soria, Mike Minor; SELL: Kelvin Herrera.
Minnesota Twins — Closer Brandon Kintzler was recently named an injury replacement for the All-Star team, and the Twins are surprisingly in second place in the AL Central. While Kintzler thought his manager was calling to tell him he was being traded, we don’t think he will be going anywhere. The Twins opted not to trade Kintzler last year when they were much further out of contention, and they will likely keep the All-Star around this season as well. BUY/SELL: None.
Houston Astros — The Astros, who sport a ridiculous 16.5-game lead in the AL West, are virtual locks for the postseason. They will definitely be buyers ahead of the deadline, but will they add another piece to their strong back-end? Some rumors have the Astros targeting starting pitching, but if that proves unsuccessful, they could aim to boost the bullpen depth. The Detroit Free Press says the Astros may be interested in Tigers closer Justin Wilson. For now, the Tigers have been asking for Houston’s top outfield prospect Derek Fisher, which could prove to be too steep a price. BUY/SELL: None.
Los Angeles Angels — The Angels are two games under .500 and way, way behind the Astros in the division, but they’re only three games behind New York and Tampa for a Wild Card berth. Mike Trout’s return could turn the Angels into buyers, or the team can falter and find themselves sellers. Either scenario puts the Angels in the conversation to trade for or deal away some relievers, and they have some intriguing options. Health has been the big issue with the back end of the ‘pen, as Huston Street is back on the DL again. Bud Norris (2.23 ERA, 1.05 WHIP) and Cam Bedrosian (1.69 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) have pitched well, but each pitcher has had their injury woes this season. Both players are healthy now and could probably be had at the deadline for a reasonable price, especially Norris. If either player is traded to a contender, it’s hard to imagine they’d be a closer with their new club. BUY: Cam Bedrosian, David Hernandez, Blake Parker; SELL: Bud Norris.
Oakland Athletics — The A’s are always active at the deadline, and as one of the worst teams in the American League, they will certainly be sellers. Oakland features a handful of relievers, like Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla, who all could be intriguing to some contenders. One report suggests Doolittle (0.69 WHIP, 12.84 K/9) and Madson (2.17 ERA, 0.80 WHIP) are likely to be traded to contenders. Neither player would close for their new team, so keep that in mind when managing your own roster. Casilla, meanwhile, may stick around as he hasn’t been as impressive (3.82 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) as his bullpen mates, though a contender could look to acquire a veteran reliever like Casilla for cheap. If everyone is dealt, watch out for Liam Hendriks (5.40 ERA, though a 12.03 K/9), or… GULP… John Axford (6.30 ERA) to get a promotion. BUY/SELL: None.
Seattle Mariners — The M’s are four games under .500, but just four games back in the Wild Card race and figure to be buyers at the deadline, primarily because the team is sporting the highest payroll in team history (more than $150 million) and may want to deal for a player or two to put them over the hump. Edwin Diaz seems firmly entrenched in the closer’s role again, but Seattle could look outside the organization to boost the depth behind him. It’s not clear if the team has been connected to any specific reliever, so stay tuned to see if anyone will join Nick Vincent and old closer Steve Cishek behind Diaz in the bullpen. BUY/SELL: None.
Texas Rangers — The Rangers’ bullpen is in shambles and has blown a league-worst 17 save chances. Still, though, Texas is within striking distance of the Wild Card (three games back), and GM Jon Daniels said over the weekend he doesn’t envision his team selling. In fact, the team is likely to pursue relievers and/or controllable players via trade, according to a report. So, what should the Rangers do? Currently sporting a three-headed committee, Texas could be in the market for a marquee reliever, like Brad Hand. Meanwhile, if there’s no deal to be made, keep an eye on the currently injured Keone Kela, Matt Bush or the recently-returned Jeremy Jeffress staking their claim as the team’s primary stopper. BUY: Keone Kela, Matt Bush; SELL: Jose Leclerc, Alex Claudio.