Happy trade deadline weekend!!
Unlike some seasons, the list of sellers and buyers remains murky, at best. With so many teams on the cusp of a wild card race, it's quite possible we see a quieter than normal trade deadline. With that said, one commodity that is always sought after at the trade deadline is more relief pitching.
I've hit the potential sellers pretty hard over the last few weeks and have mentioned my projected beneficiaries in those pieces. If you missed them, I recommend logging on to insiderbaseball.com for a refresher. Most of the selling teams remain the same, although I'm not sure anyone really knows what the Giants plan to do at the deadline.
At this point, we've prepped for the trade deadline as best we can. Before getting into the closer updates from around the league, I leave you for this piece of advice as we head into the final FAAB weekend for the trade deadline:
Be aggressive on the waiver wire, but don't be reckless. The last thing you want to do is speculate on a handcuff, only to have that handcuff get traded, as well. With rebuilding teams, it's not uncommon to see them completely tear down their bullpens to the studs. That means two or three players could all be traded. Imagine spending $20 on Tony Watson this weekend, only to watch him get traded to another team on Wednesday where he will serve as a set-up man.
Around The League:
-The door for Jose LeClerc reclaiming the closing role had officially opened as current closer Shawn Kelley heads to the injured list. LeClerc still needs to compete with Chris Martin for a crack at the opportunities but given his contract and the organization's view of his as the team's closer of the future, it certainly looks like full steam ahead for LeClerc as closer. LeClerc is currently working on a six-inning scoreless stretch. Meanwhile, Martin gave up two hits, including a home run, in his only appearance over the last two weeks.
-Move over Shohei Ohtani, we may have a new two-way player on our hands. For months the Orioles have struggled to find a closer to man the ninth inning consistently. In the 16th inning of the Orioles & Angels game earlier this week, desperate times called for desperate measures because outfielder Steve Wilkerson became the first position player to record a save. According to ESPN, he threw no pitch harder than 60 MPH. While I cannot confirm this, my guess is that was also a record.
-Edwin Diaz's nightmare season continues to head down the drain and on Wednesdsay he was hit on the toe with a batted ball, forcing him to get x-rays. Fortunately for him and unfortunately for the Mets, the x-rays were negative. Diaz has been mentioned as a candidate to be traded, but it's tough to imagine any contender wanting to take on his contract along with his performance issues, while also being expected to actually give the Mets something of value.
-Ian Kennedy notched another save for the Royals, his 8th since the All-Star break. It's been quite the showcase for the closer, who also has a 34.5% strikeout rate and 6.9% walk rate in that stretch. Kennedy has upped his strikeout rate since moving to the bullpen, but his swinging strike rate remains below average at 9.2%, while his zone contact rate on the season is an ugly 90%. He'll likely get moved at the deadline, as will Jake Diekman. Interestingly, the Royals designated struggling former closer Wily Peralta for assignment, which might mean Scott Barlow could assume the closer role next week.
-Edwin Diaz, Wade Davis and Aroldis Chapman each have ERAs over 6 over the last 30 days. This is where you point and laugh at me while sneering "I told you so!". Paying up for closers was definitely risky business this season, but believe it or not, this type of turnover is actually typical for a season. Regardless, if you didn't pay up for closer, there's a good chance you've had to spend large amounts of FAAB to add one from the waiver wire. Seth Lugo and Scott Oberg remain my favorite hand cuffs, even more than any handcuff potentially positively impacted from a trade. As far as Chapman, I'm of the opinion that nothing will remove him from the role except an injury.
-Speaking of the last 30 days...do you know who has only save during that time span? Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers have been playing so well that they have largely played themselves out of save situations. Granted, an ankle injury and the all-star break play a part in the low total, but it's still strange for a closer on the best team in baseball to be so unproductive. Jansen has seen his strikeout rate bounce back this year, but his contact rates remain inflated (albeit still very good) and he's giving up more quality contact to opposing batters (40% hard hit rate). Saves sometimes go in waves (just as Ian Kennedy), so Jansen should be back to his productive self soon.
-It's been a tough week for Twins closer Taylor Rogers, who blew a save last Saturday and again on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Blake Parker has been pitching much better as of late. The bullpen is the biggest weakness for an otherwise very good Twins team, so look for Minnesota to try to make an acquisition at the trade deadline. If they acquire a closer from another team, there's a good chance that he will immediately assume the closer role for Minnesota, so Rogers owners should plan accordingly.
Closer Tiers and Handcuff Grades:
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