It's that time of year - I can feel it in my sweat-soaked fingers. The weather is heating up and contending major league general managers are beginning to feel pressure from their fanbase to upgrade their rosters for the playoff push. The work in a team's bullpen is never done and no team ever has enough quality arms (except maybe the Yankees, but they're the Yankees and they'll probably still acquire another). Nonetheless, with the removal of the waiver trade deadline at the end of August, there's only the non-waiver deadline on July 31stthis season. That should create an exciting deadline, but also one that will undoubtedly cause fantasy owners a lot of headaches.
It's not just teams that acquire new pitchers to be their closers - it's also teams that trade away their current closer. How do all the pieces fit together and who will be getting saves on August 1st? In a way, it's almost like Opening Day where there's usually speculation and some manager confirmation about who will see the first save chance, yet like anything, nothing ever goes completely to plan.
Speaking of plans, making sure your fantasy team is prepared for the trade deadline can go a long way to ensure you don't lose ground in saves once your current closers get bounced around in the transaction market. To help with this process, each column over the coming weeks we'll highlight one reliever who could be involved in a trade in the upcoming weeks.
Potential Relievers on the Move:
Ken Giles (TOR) - Ken Giles has benefitted from a change of scenery this season, but the Blue Jays are out of contention and Giles would fetch a nice return. His value will obviously depend on where he lands, but he has proven that he can close out games and there are enough contenders struggling in the ninth inning that there's a chance he would still close following a trade. Taking his place as closer is unclear, but Joe Biaginiseems like a strong candidate. Biagini won't be arbitration until 2020, so he will remain relatively affordable for the next few seasons and he has a nice skillset for the closer role, generating groundballs about half the time and possessing a 13% swinging strike rate that has translated to a 23% strikeout rate this year.
Handcuffs to Target:Joe Biagini
Around The League:
-While Sean Doolittleremains the undisputed closer in Washington, Dave Martinez confirmed with reporters that recently signed Fernando Rodneywould serve in Doolittle's backup on days when Doolittle needs a break. It's nice to have clarity in an otherwise ugly bullpen, but Rodney isn't a handcuff anyone should be running out to roster.
-Carlos Martinezis officially the Cardinals closer, both by manager word and action as the former starter saved his second game since Jordan Hicks was lost for the season. Martinez has yet to experience the huge "boost" in his dominance factor that many starting pitchers see when moving into the bullpen. His swinging strike rate has increased slightly, albeit it remains just 11.6%, which is just a couple ticks below the league average rate for relievers.
-The cracks have been showing in the foundation around Aroldis Chapmanall season and on Thursday he blew his third save of the year. Chapman can still thow the heat, but his average fastball velocity is in its 4thstraight year of decline in velocity, pitch value and usage. Additionally, his chase rate of 32% and 12.7% swinging strike rate are both pedestrian, while his 81.5% in zone contact rate is vastly higher than any other season of his career (71% career average). At 31 years old, he can still be ab effective pitcher, but it's clear he's no longer the dominant closer than loomed among his peers at the position.
-Speaking of 31 year old pitchers on the decline, Craig Kimbrelblew his first save of the season and now owns a 16.88 ERA with a 2.63 WHIP. Don't overreact, it's a small sample and he's likely still shaking off the rust. Cubs fans need to hope he finds his fastball velocity though, after averaging just 95 MPH this season compared with an average of 98 for his career.
-Greg Hollandturned on his seat warmer on Tuesday despite it being July in Arizona. Some thought maybe he was just reliving his 2018 Cardinals debut, alas, after retiring the first two batters he faced in a 1-run save situation, Holland managed to walk four straight to blow the save. Holland followed up that stellar performance with a blown save on Wednesday. Sharp players would be wise to speculate and grab Yoshihisa Hirano, just in case.
-The Rockies continue to give Wade Davisvotes of confidence, but he continues to teeter on the verge of removal from the closing role. Davis has a brutal 13.3% walk rate this season, a mark that high for any team, but it's especially high for the Rockies since half their games are played in the friendliest offensive environment on earth. Scott Obergcontinues to be a must-own for fantasy owners because even without saves, he's able to positively contribute across the fantasy categories.
-The Red Sox are reportedly kicking around the idea of making Nathan Eiovalditheir closer when he is activated from the disabled list. Eovaldi struggled in his first four starts after signing his big free agent contract last off-season. Eovaldi has always had a solid strikeout rate pitching out of the bullpen, so the hope here is that he will be able to regain that in the 'pen. There's nothing official, but he would be a nice speculative add in case a change does happen.
Closer Tiers and Handcuff Grades:
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