(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
We’re getting close to the official trade deadline, which means bullpen roles could change rapidly. Here are the best fliers to chase for those looking to find saves and which closers may be losing their jobs.
The Orioles are in heading into complete rebuild mode, which should officially kick off with the trade of Manny Machado happening soon, but expect to see impending free agent Zach Britton moved shortly after. He’s the one closer in the first two tiers that has a chance to continue closing out games with his new team, depending on where that is. The Cubs, Red Sox, Astros, Phillies, Yankees, and Indians have all shown interest in the closer, with Philadelphia and Houston being the best for Brittons fantasy value. Brad Brach is also a UFA at the end of the season and probably will be sent away as the Orioles clean house, so that leaves Mychal Givens as the favorite for saves in Baltimore for the final two months of the season.
Jeurys Familia is the also in a situation where he could find himself still closing games despite a move to another team. The two teams that we know are in on him are the Giants and Phillies, both of which could insert Familia into the closer role from the get-go. The Mets are in a similar situation to the Orioles right now as they look to unload veteran UFA’s in an attempt to bolster their farm system. With Familia gone, expect Robert Gsellman to get the first crack at the 9th inning, but with how poor he has pitched since April, we could see someone else like Seth Lugo, Tim Peterson or Paul Sewald in the role.
The Rays may be able to make out quite nicely this season if they can move Sergio Romo for a prospect or two after getting three for ex-closer Alex Colome. Since the whole opener thing began in Tampa Bay, Romo has pitched very well and has settled in as the teams closer, allowing just three earned runs over 21 innings since the start of June. Now with 11 saves to his name as well, the former Giants closer and UFA to be should fetch a better than expected return for the rebuilding Rays. Romo is almost guaranteed to work in a set up role wherever he is dealt, essentially destroying his value in save only leagues. Diego Castillo is a personal favorite to take over once Romo is gone, but expect to see Jose Alvarado and Chaz Roe when healthy in the mix.
Tyler Clippard’s value is going to take a hit soon no matter what, as Roberto Osuna is due back August 4th and will reclaim that job upon returning. Still, Clippard has pitched well for himself this season and should get the Blue Jays a decent prospect before hitting free agency this winter.
More Likely than Not
Fernando Rodney would be higher on the list if it weren’t for the fact he has a fairly cheap club option ($4.25 million) for next season and the Twins could decide to keep the veteran around being just one season removed from a playoff berth. Still, my money is him moving and the one team that’s been mentioned is the Red Sox where he would set up closer Craig Kimbrel. With Addison Reed struggling this year and dealing with injuries, that leaves some likely combination of Trevor Hildenberger and Ryan Pressly to see save opportunities, although I’d consider Hildenberger the heavy front-runner.
Despite not hearing his name mentioned much lately, Chicago trading Joakim Soria makes a ton of sense given how well he has pitched and the fact he still has a club option for $10 million next season, something the White Sox probably don’t care to pay when they are miles away from contending. Soria should also bring back a nice return with his 2.75 ERA, 45/9 K/BB ratio, and 14 saves. He should be a late inning high leverage reliever for a contender come August, with Nate Jones and Jace Fry most likely to replace him as the current closer.
Similar to Rodney, Shane Greene isn’t quite a lock to be traded as he is under contract team control at a relatively cheap price for next season, but he was in the midst of putting together a great season as the Tigers closer and his value may never be this high again. The Tigers are just another one of a handful of AL teams that are years away from contention and need to continue to stockpile young assets to get where they want to be. If Greene does get dealt, Joe Jimenez is the logical answer to the Tigers longterm closer plans.
The Angels have fallen out of the playoff race swiftly and now could turn to sell off some veterans at the deadline as the team looks to next season (or whenever Shohei Ohtani can pitch again). Blake Parker, despite having two more years of team control, is a logical candidate to get moved given his age (33) and the fact he has pitched well enough to fetch a decent return. If he gets dealt, look for Cam Bedrosian or Justin Anderson to step into the closer role, although Bedrosian should be considered the more trustworthy option when taken into consideration Andersons horrid walk rate.
If the Price is Right
Raisel Iglesias, Cincinnati Reds
With Raisel Iglesias, we have heard all sorts of rumors of teams looking into trading for him as a starter, but at this point in the season seems pretty foolish. As a reliever though, Iglesias may be one of the best names actually available, so long as the Reds would move on from him when he’s due just $10 million total the next two years. The Astros have shown strong interest in Iglesias, as have the Red Sox and Nationals but the Astros would obviously be the preferred option for Iglesias’s fantasy owners. In Cincinnati, there would probably be some sort of committee to replace Iglesias, with Michael Lorenzen, Amir Garrett, David Hernandez and Jared Hughes all involved, but my money would be on Lorenzen to lead the team in saves the final two months.
Typically we would consider the Padres as a team that’s a prime example of looking to unload salary at the trade deadline, but that might not be the case anymore as they have spent some cash the past few seasons as they hope to contend in the not too distant future. This makes things difficult when wondering if Brad Hand is actually on the table this month, especially given the rumored cost of his services (asking for Rafael Devers from the Red Sox). He’s due $13.5 million over the next two seasons with a club option for $10 million in 2021, so teams looking to acquire him won’t be looking for just a rental. Probably the best reliever currently being talked about as a trade option, his rumored suitors include the Red Sox, Astros, Indians among others. Kirby Yates would be the favorite to take over closer duties in San Diego so long as he stays put, while Craig Stammen could also mix in as well.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Brad Hand has been dealt to the Indians after this article was written. Expect Cody Allen to retain closer duties as Hand shifts to a fireman role as Kirby Yates takes closer duties in San Diego.
Finally able to shore up the command issues that have plagued him in the past, Kyle Barraclough wound up finding himself as the Marlins closer just a few months into the season and hasn’t looked back. The successful season has led competing teams to inquire about Barraclough, but given he is under team control for three more seasons, the Marlins asking price is probably exorbitant. Drew Steckenrider would be the logical choice to replace Barraclough should he be moved at the deadline.
More of a longshot not too long ago, the struggling Cardinals could become sellers this trade deadline, especially after firing Mike Matheny and looking to take things in a different direction. UFA to be Bud Norris has battled arm issues as of late, which led to likely closer in waiting Jordan Hicks finishing off this past Sunday’s game to earn his second save of the year. The team to choose to move Norris who should have solid trade value now that he has been terrific for 2/3 of the past two seasons, and knowing that Hicks can handle the job going forward.
If it weren’t for a surprising wild card run by the Athletics, Blake Treinen would be a hot commodity this deadline with his sub 1 ERA and WHIP to go along with 61 strikeouts innings. It’s still certainly not out of the realm of possibility for Billy Beane to move Treinen, selling while his value is potentially (probably) at its highest, but it seems much more likely we see a move this winter instead. If Beane does get the Godfather offer that it would take to pry Treinen, Lou Trivino should step in as closer, and would become one of the top waiver adds.
Keone Kela makes for the youngest name on this list, but at 25 years old, still only has two more years of team control left for a team that isn’t contending anytime soon. Factor in his tenuous past relationship with the Rangers and his surprising career season and the Rangers could look to sell high at the deadline to reliever hungry teams. Jose Leclerc and Jake Diekman would be next in line, with Leclerc being the preferred pickup as he has more upside than any other potential handcuff on this list.
Even after signing a four year, $50 million deal just this offseason, Wade Davis has seen his name pop up in trade rumors this offseason. The Red Sox have interest in him as a setup man this year, while using him as leverage as the remainder of his contract will surely be less expensive than the cost of resigning Craig Kimbrel. Even with his up and down season, it’s tough to imagine the Rockies moving on from Davis not even a year into his 4 year deal. Adam Ottavino would be the clear cut closer in waiting, although as a UFA this winter, could be on the move himself if the Rockies decide to sell off pieces.
Felipe Vazquez, Pittsburgh Pirates
There hasn’t been much if any talk of a Felipe Vazquez trade to this point, but I think there could be an interesting case to be made here for the Pirates to at least explore a deal. He’s been lights out over the past few weeks and if made available could get the best return of any reliever on the market. He’s still only 27 and has a very favorable contract through 2022/2023. Teams, like the Red Sox, looking for more than just a rental could potentially entice a rebuilding Pirates team to part with their All-Star closer. Kyle Crick and Edgar Santana are probably next in line, but neither has shown any sort of consistency at the MLB level just yet.