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.
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.
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.
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.