July 13, 2017
Special Update (Part 2 of 2 — read Part 1 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: Arodys Vizcaino, Kyle Barraclough, CJ Edwards, Phil Maton.
SELL: Jim Johnson, AJ Ramos, Addison Reed, Brandon Maurer.
SELL+: Matt Albers.
Atlanta Braves – Atlanta was a pleasant surprise in the first half, as they’re hovering around .500. But given the fact that they’re taking calls for their ace, they’re still much more likely to be sellers than buyers come the end of the month, and if that’s the case, they’d love to get virtually anything for Jim Johnson. Johnson did them no favors by melting down in his last appearance of the first half, but his peripherals are still strong (FIP: 2.66, 48 Ks in 38.1 IP) and a bullpen-hungry team could make a run at him. He’s unlikely to close if he goes anywhere other than Washington, though, so look for his value to drop precipitously if he’s moved. Arodys Vizcaino would inherit the job if Johnson goes anywhere. BUY: Arodys Vizcaino; SELL: Jim Johnson.
Miami Marlins – Several teams are reportedly interested in AJ Ramos and David Phelps, which could pave the way for Kyle Barraclough to close in Miami for the latter portion of the season. Phelps’s value is unlikely to change much unless he goes to Washington, where he could conceivably be used as a closer, while Ramos is likely to lose some value as he’d probably be used as a set-up man wherever he lands. But he’s got one year of arbitration left before he hits free agency after 2018, so the Marlins might want to hang on to him for next year unless they can get a decent haul. BUY: Kyle Barraclough; SELL: AJ Ramos.
New York Mets – The Mets will most likely be selling at the deadline, with Addison Reed and his expiring contract being a player they’ll be shopping hard. Unfortunately for Reed owners, most trade scenarios result in him returning to a set-up role, where he excelled in 2016. He’d close if he landed in Washington (are we a broken record on this yet?), but the Mets don’t appear likely to send him there. There’s no obvious handcuff for Reed right now, so if he’s dealt, look for the Mets to either go the committee route, or to give the first crack to whoever is pitching the best a few weeks from now. Jerry Blevins would have been a decent candidate, though he could be on the block as well, and hasn’t been pitching great lately after being overworked in the early going. Paul Sewald is worth monitoring, while Fernando Salas has been terrible, but does have some closing experience. BUY: None; SELL: Addison Reed.
Philadelphia Phillies – Hector Neris is the only name in Philadelphia to worry about, but it’s very unlikely he’s going anywhere. The Phillies have him under team control for four more years, and he just hasn’t been all that good this year, so it’s unlikely a contending team ponies up with what would be required to get him. We’re betting he stays put through the deadline. BUY/SELL: None.
Washington Nationals – Matt Albers has brought a bit of stability to the back end of the Washington bullpen as of late, and is probably going to become the de facto full-time closer once the second half gets under way. But the Nationals will definitely be looking to acquire a high-end stopper to displace the big righty as they prepare for a postseason which is practically in the bag already. BUY: None. SELL+: Matt Albers.
Chicago Cubs – The Cubs have been disappointing this season and find themselves only five games back in the extremely mediocre NL Central, but the bullpen has been one area of strength for the defending World Series champions. The Cubs are still very much alive for the postseason, and will likely be buyers at the deadline, but they need starting pitching, not relievers. In the event that the Cubs decide to blow it up and come back next year, Wade Davis (1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 0 blown saves), who is in the last year of his deal, is a major trade chip. With reliable veteran Koji Uehara and up and coming C.J. Edwards behind him, the Cubs could afford to ship Davis, but its hard to see them making a deal like this unless they have given up on the postseason. If they are sellers, Uehara would likely be out as well. That having been said, Davis is likely to close for any team he ends up on, making any trade a bit of a wash for him. If the Cubs are sellers, they would likely see if Edwards (2 years before arbitration) can be a reliable closer, so we’ll put a soft buy on him. It’s most likely, though, that the Cubs don’t make any bullpen changes. BUY: CJ Edwards; SELL: None.
Cincinnati Reds – The Reds’ rebuilding process continues, which means that any of their bullpen options could be available. Drew Storen has been quietly effective for the Reds, and with his contract up this year, he could be a cheap rental for any team looking for bullpen help, but he likely would not close for anybody at this point. The most intriguing option is Raisel Iglesias, who has put together an excellent season as the team’s primary closer (1.69 ERA, 0.91 WHIP). Washington is a potential landing spot for the young righty, and if he goes there, he would probably be handed the closer’s role immediately. Michael Lorenzen would be the immediate beneficiary of any deal, but with Iglesias under team control through 2020, it would have to be a major haul in order to pry him out of Cincinnati. Washington has the prospects to pull it off, but it remains to be seen if they are desperate enough for bullpen help that they would part with a Victor Robles, even for a long-term fix like Iglesias. BUY/SELL: None.
Milwaukee Brewers – The surprise leaders of the NL Central have already swatted away the idea of renting players, saying that any pieces they add would need to have some long-term appeal. With that, the Brewers aren’t likely to add to their bullpen. Corey Knebel is enjoying an excellent run as the closer since taking the job in early May, and any acquisition would have a hard time unseating him. Behind him, Jacob Barnes, Jared Hughes, and Carlos Torres have all pitched effectively, so any trades would likely target other needs. Don’t expect any major moves out of the bullpen either, as all four have arbitration years left. BUY/SELL: None.
Pittsburgh Pirates – After running into the DUI / PED / testicular cancer trifecta of problems this year, the Pirates never really got off the ground and are likely to sell at the deadline. GM Neal Huntington has said that he thinks they could be contenders next year, so a softer sell is more likely. The bullpen is always on the block, but closer Felipe Rivero is viewed as nearly untouchable given his team control through 2021. This leaves Tony Watson and Juan Nicasio as the most likely targets for trades. Both have expiring contracts, and while Nicasio has been good enough to draw interest on his own, Watson will mostly see interest as a lefty specialist, possibly with the Dodgers. Nicasio has an outside chance at falling into a closer spot (Nationals or Texans), but is far more likely to land a setup role with a contender. Overall, the Pirates are likely to shift pieces in their bullpen, but Rivero should stay locked in. BUY/SELL: None.
St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals, like the rest of the NL Central, will have to decide whether to be sellers or buyers at the deadline, and the next few weeks will determine the approach. The bullpen has been a weak point, so a push for the playoffs could lead them to address it. Seung Hwan Oh has been inconsistent, and a high profile closer could be brought in to replace him, but for the Cardinals to consider that, they’d need to go through a serious surge against a tough schedule over the next few weeks. The Cardinals have the prospect depth to make a move, but the question is how much emphasis they’ll want to put on the bullpen, especially for a short-term fix. It’s unlikely the Cardinals deal their top bullpen pieces. Oh still has arbitration years left, as does Rosenthal, and Brett Cecil has a large contract, so if a change is going to happen, it would likely a hot streak combined with struggles from Oh. BUY/SELL: None.
Arizona Diamondbacks – The surprising Diamondbacks are in a novel position — 9.5 games up in the wild card race in the topheavy NL, and looking to upgrade a few pieces for a playoff run. Torey Lovullo remains committed to Fernando Rodney, so although the team could add veteran bullpen depth behind him, we don’t expect a demotion due to trade. If Rodney returns to his mediocre form of April and early July, though, he could be sacked in favor of Archie Bradley (1.10 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) or a newly acquired reinforcement. BUY/SELL: None.
Colorado Rockies – Greg Holland has been outstanding in his debut season at Coors Field (1.62 ERA, 11.6 K/9), and Colorado won’t mess with what he’s got going on. Behind him in the bullpen is a different story; it would be no surprise to see the wild-card Rockies acquire a setup arm, like one of the Marlins’ relievers, Pat Neshek, or even intradivision rival Brad Hand. BUY/SELL: None.
Los Angeles Dodgers – The third NL West playoff team is also its best, but the Dodgers don’t appear content to rest on their laurels. Justin Wilson could be the perfect piece to get the ball to the phenomenal Kenley Jansen (0.96 ERA, 40.4% K-BB%, no blown saves). BUY/SELL: None.
San Diego Padres – Any playoff team would love to get lefty Brad Hand (2.30 ERA, 11.5 K/9, .200 BAA) for the right price, and it seems virtually certain that San Diego will cash him in before the deadline. The Yankees are one possible landing spot for Hand, but they’re also kicking the tires on closer Brandon Maurer, whose 5.60 ERA is a function of his mediocre strikeout rate, yes, but also some bad luck (.316 BABIP, 53% LOB%). After the dust settles, we like young Phil Maton (and his high-spin fastball) to grab the closer job over Kirby Yates and Ryan Buchter. BUY: Phil Maton; SELL: Brandon Maurer.
San Francisco Giants – The disappointing Giants are “open for business,” says GM Brian Sabean, but they aren’t interested in low-level prospects or dismantling their expensive roster. This could mean that their deals stay small, perhaps involving cheap, effective middle-inning guys like George Kontos or Cory Gearrin. Mark Melancon is stuck on the DL again and won’t move before the deadline, and we don’t yet see a contender desperate enough to go after Sam Dyson. BUY/SELL: None.