The trade deadline is still ten days away, but we've already seen a flurry of activity that has shaken up the bullpen situations for several teams. We'll break down each of the trades and look towards other possible moves that could be completed before July 31st.
Trade #1: Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle to the Nationals for Blake Treinen and two minor leaguers.
Impact: The immediate impact is obviously a huge boost to the backend of the Nationals bullpen. In case you missed it, here's the breakdown I provided about the trade on Monday in our NL Player Notes:
"Craig Mish and former GM Jim Bowden welcomed Nationals GM Mike Rizzo on their Sirius XM fantasy baseball show on Monday morning. The main topic was surrounding Washington's trade to acquire Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from the Athletics on Sunday. Without actually saying it directly, Rizzo hinted that Ryan Madson would likely have the first crack at saves for the Nationals for two reasons. The first was that he said Madson was their primary target when trade negotiations began over a month ago and the second is because he referenced that it may make sense for a lefty (Doolittle) to come into the game to face a lineup consisting of several lefties in a row in the 9th inning, but for the most part, they want their relievers to have established roles of set-up man and closer. That makes me believe Doolittle will be more of the 8th inning set-up man with Madson being the primary 9th inning man. That could all change if the Nationals acquire another closer, but for now, invest most heavily in Madson."
Since that post, we actually got to see a save situation for the Nationals on Tuesday and it was Sean Doolittle, not Ryan Madson in the 9th inning. Madson was used in the 8th inning against Simmons / Valbuena / Maldonado, with Doolittle seeing CJ Cron (pitch hit for Nick Franklin) / Revere / Calhoun / Trout / Pujols before getting the save. Had Doolittle pitched a clean 9th, he would have faced two, possibly three left-handers, which would have jived with Rizzo's comments regarding playing matchups in the 9th inning. Don't overreact to the usage on Tuesday and hopefully we'll get more clarity on the situation soon. I prefer Doolittle's skillset, but my gut tells me that Dusty would rather use the right-handed Madson in the 9th inning.
Trade #2: Todd Frazier, David Robertson & Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees for Tyler Clippard and three minor leaguers
Impact: We knew Robertson would be on the move, but foolishly I didn't consider the possibility of Tommy Kahnle also being on the move. The move opens up the White Sox bullpen considerably and it's not immediately clear who will take over closing duties for the South Siders. Tyler Clippard has the experience, but he has struggled converting saves when given the opportunities in the past, and Anthony Swarzak actually possesses a more appealing arm from a fantasy perspective considering his high strikeout upside. Swarzak is 0-for-2 in save conversions this year, so he hasn't exactly been a lockdown option either, but he certainly holds a higher ceiling with his 14.8% swinging strike rate and just a 23.4% hard hit rate allowed. For now, the White Sox have already announced that Tyler Clippard will see the first save opportunities for the White Sox, so he will be your primary target in FAAB.
Trade #3: David Phelps to Seattle in return for four minor leaguers.
Impact: The biggest impact felt from this trade will be in NL-only or AL-only formats. Phelps was a great source of holds in NL leagues and he'll provide similar results for anyone who has the opportunity to stash him on the AL side. What this move does do for fantasy owners is help clarify the backend of the bullpen for the Marlins should AJ Ramos get dealt. Now it looks like an almost guarantee that Kyle Barraclough will slide into the closing role when/if Ramos gets dealt and has quickly become a "must-own" in all formats over the next ten days.
Around the League:
-The Rangers activated Keone Kela from the disabled list. Before getting hurt, Kela was rumored to be the next closer candidate for the struggling Rangers. Alex Claudio has performed well in the role since the all-star break, but it will likely only take a blown save or two before the superiorly skilled Keone Kela gets his chance. See more on Keone Kela below in our "Handcuff-of-the-Week" section.
-The Orioles are officially sellers and that means Zach Britton and the other attractive Baltimore relievers are all on the trading block. Britton has looked rather rusty since being activated from the disabled list on July 5th, allowing at last one hit in all but one game and 3 walks over 7 innings. Over the entire season, Britton has an ugly 11:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio. There's no guarantee that an acquiring team would put him in the closing role immediately, and he very well could serve as a set-up man the rest of the year. Darren O'Day, Mychal Givens and obviously Brad Brach would all be candidates for saves should Britton get moved, assuming they all stay on the roster. I'm not ready to invest in any of the other guys outside of Brach.
-The Cardinals bullpen is an absolute mess right now. Seung Hwan Oh doesn't have a save since July 8th and has allowed multiple hits in 3 of his 6 games in July. On the other hand, Trevor Rosenthal entered Thursday's tie game on the heels of 6 straight scoreless appearances with no hits, no walks and 10 strikeouts. Unfortunately, Rosenthal allowed 2 hits, a walk and the go-ahead run to score. The Cardinals had too large of a lead in the 9th inning on Friday, so we'll have to wait until later in the weekend to see who Mike Matheny will turn to in the 9th inning next. My preference is still to hold both Seung Hwan Oh and Trevor Rosenthal, but Rosenthal is my preference to own, at the moment.
Handcuff Of The Week:
It's been an interesting year for Keone Kela, the Rangers' set-up man who was left off the Texas Rangers opening day roster. At the time, Ken Rosenthal wrote that his exclusion from the roster "stemmed from the way the reliever conducted himself during a recent 'B' game, according to major league sources. Several of the Rangers' senior players took exception with Kela's behavior, triggering a series of heated discussions." Raised under difficult circumstances in Los Angeles, Kela has run into several issues both on and off the field during his professional career. Luckily for fantasy owners, we typically do not have to worry about off-the-field problems or character issues unless they interfere with playing time. Since Kela was recalled in mid-April, Kela has done nothing but impress at the back of the bullpen for the Rangers. The right-hander hasn't allowed a run since June 9th, a stretch of games where he has accumulated an impressive 15:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio with just 3 hits allowed in 9 innings of work. If there's one area of his game where weakness could creep in, it probably lies with his low 32% walk rate. Luckily, his hard hit rate allowed is just 25%, but should we see that hard hit rate creep up higher towards his 35% mark last season, there's always a potential for regression. Alex Claudio will likely continue to get the save chances for the Rangers since he's performed well so far, but like I always say, the cream will always rise to the top and it's my belief that Kela is the cream.
Click on the following link for the rest of the closer report (including more "Around The League" notes, our closer rankings & statistics, as well as handcuff grades) in the member area: http://www.fantistics.com/baseball00/M-Closer.htm.
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