July 31, 2015
Detroit Tigers — After closer Joakim Soria was traded to the Pirates Thursday, the Detroit bullpen was left in disarray. We originally made an educated guess that Bruce Rondon would get the first shot for the Tigers, based mostly on his advanced stats, dissected in our alert sent right after the trade, and the general hype surrounding him. Then, on Thursday, manager Brad Ausmus gave Alex Wilson the initial shot, and he recorded five outs (against the likes of Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis) for his first big-league save. Wilson said after the game that it’s been his dream to close in the majors for a while now, so he wants it and the Tigers have a clear vacancy. As we posted last night, Ausmus was non-committal after the game, but did offer Wilson a lot of praise. We’ll move Wilson to the top of this very volatile committee for now; Al Alburquerque and Neftali Feliz are also lurking in the background, too.
Updated hierarchy: *Wilson | Rondon | Alburquerque.
* = closer-by-committee
Colorado Rockies — Closer John Axford is in what he calls the “ABSOLUTE WORST” stretch of his career now after blowing his fourth straight save Thursday night. He walked in the winning run, throwing just eight of his 25 pitches for strikes in a rough 9th inning. Manager Walt Weiss offered his support for Axford after the game, saying the closer has had a tough week. No kidding. Axford is on the hottest of seats, and if he’s pulled from the closer’s role (which may happen as early as Friday), we expect a committee approach, with Tommy Kahnle in line for the first crack, and Rafael Betancourt and Boone Logan other potential options.
Updated hierarchy: Axford | Kahnle | Betancourt.
Pittsburgh Pirates — Soria had the job in Detroit, but he likely won’t be unseating Mark Melancon anytime soon. Melancon has only allowed 7 runs in 47.2 innings (1.32 ERA) in what has been an excellent season to this point. His velocity is still down across the board, though, which may be causing his pedestrian K/9 numbers (6.2 Ks per 9 IP this year, versus 9.0 Ks per 9 IP in 2014). So if he tires or falters down the stretch, Soria is there to back him up.
Updated hierarchy: Melancon | Soria | Watson.
San Diego Padres — The Padres are expected to “own the last day” before the non-waiver trade deadline, which comes at 4 pm on Friday. Among the many names being discussed is closer Craig Kimbrel, who may have recorded his 30th and final save for San Diego Thursday night. The Yankees are the team most linked to Kimbrel, which would give New York a killer bullpen, but may also kill his value if he’s relegated to a set-up role behind Andrew Miller. Watch out for the Astros, too. If Kimbrel is shipped out of town, expect Joaquin Benoit to get the first crack at closing in San Diego — but Benoit might well be moving too.
Hierarchy remains: Kimbrel | Benoit | Maurer.
Cincinnati Reds — The Reds could deal Aroldis Chapman, whose contract expires after the 2016 season. The Diamondbacks have an offer on the table for Chapman, and the Yankees, Giants and Astros are also rumored to be in the mix. The Reds’ asking price is reportedly very high, so they may wind up holding onto Chapman until the offseason or next year’s deadline.
Hierarchy remains: Chapman | Hoover | Badenhop.
Oakland A’s — Former closer Sean Doolittle threw off a mound Thursday for the first time since going on the disabled list with a left shoulder strain. He threw 26 pitches in a bullpen session and said he was “pretty happy” with the movement on his pitches. Doolittle still hopes to pitch again this season.
Hierarchy remains: Mujica | Pomeranz | O’Flaherty.
St. Louis Cardinals — The Cardinals emerged victorious over the Rocks Thursday — no thanks to Seth Maness, who allowed the tying run in the sixth, or Kevin Siegrist, who allowed two runs in the eighth to put Colorado ahead before Axford coughed it up in the ninth. The newly acquired Steve Cishek pitched a clean seventh, and deserves a spot in the Cardinals hierarchy.
Updated hierarchy: Rosenthal | Siegrist | Cishek.
Washington Nationals — In a game that resembled a potential setup for Game 1 of the playoffs, Max Scherzer went seven scoreless innings for the Nationals, demoted closer Drew Storen pitched a clean eighth inning for his first hold of the season, and the newly acquired Jonathan Papelbon pitched the ninth for his first save with Washington. Expect a similar look the rest of the way for the Nats bullpen.
Hierarchy remains: Papelbon | Storen | Janssen.
New York Mets — What’s wrong with Jeurys Familia? He has been dynamite all season, but since the All-Star Break, he’s allowed 6 ER in 5.1 IP and blown two saves. He took the loss Thursday, yielding three hits, including a three-run bomb to Justin Upton. (In a roundabout way, maybe he’s showing the Mets they need to trade for Upton.) In other news, new Met Tyler Clippard picked up his first hold for New York, working a scoreless eighth inning.
Hierarchy remains: Familia | Clippard | Parnell.
VULTURE SAVE WATCH
1. Anyone, Detroit Tigers — The first few days in the post-Soria era will be worth watching in Detroit. So far, Alex Wilson has seemed to ascend to the ninth-inning role? But Rondon, Albuquerque and Feliz are also there, too.
2. Tommy Kahnle, Colorado Rockies — John Axford has been struggling and threw 25 pitches Thursday, so manager Walt Weiss could turn to Kahnle if the situation calls for it. Rafael Betancourt and Boone Logan are also options.
3. Joaquin Benoit/Brandon Maurer, San Diego Padres — If Craig Kimbrel is traded Friday, Benoit would be in line for the save chance. If both go, Maurer is next in line.
4. J.J. Hoover, Cincinnati Reds — The bullpen picture in Cincinnati isn’t perfectly clear, but if Aroldis Chapman is dealt, Hoover should inherit the closer role.