Closer Rankings: Frieri-Grilli was ... intriguing

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Friday night saw a trade of two guys who were closers, like, a week and a half ago. It's fascinating for those of us who watch closers all the time.

Friday's trade - Jason Grilli for Ernesto Frieri - barely rippled in June fantasy baseball. I put in a claim on Frieri in my 12-team NL-only league, but that's a 12-team NL-only, and every-freaking-body gets claimed. And I didn't get him.

Back in March, a Frieri-for-Grilli trade would have been the lead story on our homepage for a day. Frieri had 60 saves in 2012-13, with a 3.07 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 134.2 innings. Grilli, meanwhile, only had 2013 on his resume as a closer, but he closed out 33 games for the Pirates, and he pitched to a 2.74 ERA in the three seasons since missing 2010 with injury. Such a trade in March would have been a huge deal.

Of course, in March, that trade never would have happened. The de facto challenge trade came to be because both pitchers have been pretty daggone terrible so far in 2014. Check out their stats on their original teams:

W L Sv BlSv IP K BB ERA FIP xFIP
Frieri 0 3 11 3 31 38 9 6.39 4.92 3.23
Grilli 0 2 11 4 21.1 21 11 4.87 5.17 4.41

As you can see above, Frieri has been victimized by bad luck, as he's pitched to a 20.5 percent home-run rate. Then again, he's always been on the homer-prone side of things, so I might be willing to discount the luck factor a bit. Grilli, meanwhile, has been unacceptable no matter how you slice it.

It's why Joe Smith has inherited the Angels' closer role, and Mark Melancon the Pirates'. In the preseason, I predicted Melancon would take over for Grilli. And I drafted Dane de la Rosa in a 20-team league under the "Frieri isn't actually that good" thinking. This isn't like Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman falling apart.

Still, I can't remember the last trade like this, when two teams had two guys in roles - any roles, really - who struggled to the point that they were traded exactly for one another. In regular fantasy leagues, neither guy might reach relevance again this season. Frieri, moving to the easier league, has the better chance of being decent, though Melancon is also better than Smith, so Frieri might have more work to do to even get the chance.

Fantasy-wise, it's not a season-maker or -breaker. Not now. Odds are good it won't become one, either. It might be meaningless, ultimately, but it is, as I tweeted Friday, very, very interesting.

Anyway, these are this week's rankings. Remember, two lists: The first is the right-now rankings, while the second is the rest-of-season list. These lists are growing more and more similar as the season goes on, as question marks get answered, as roles get more defined. At this point, the differences between the lists generally boil down to two things: Slumps and trade worries. Those will answer most of the differences between the lists. Here we go:

Right-Now Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Aroldis Chapman CIN 1 Three closers (Chapman, Soria, Doolittle) have FIPs of less than 1.00; Chapman is the only one whose xFIP is as well.
2 Craig Kimbrel ATL 2 His FIP is lower than last year; his K/9 is higher.
3 Greg Holland KAN 3 Last outing without a strikeout: May 21.
4 Glen Perkins MIN 5 Allowed as many runs in June as April and May combined.
5 Koji Uehara BOS 6 Gave up more runs in June than April and May combined; then again, that's only five runs total.
6 Huston Street SDP 4 Someone is going to pay a lot for his services in trade, yeah?
7 Kenley Jansen LAD 8 Last four outings: 4 IP, 2 H, 7 K, 0 BB, 0 R. Settling down.
8 David Robertson NYY 9 He's striking out more than sixteen guys per nine innings. That's insane.
9 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 7 March/April: 11.1 innings, 9 strikeouts. May: 10 innings, 9 strikeouts. June: 10 innings, 9 strikeouts.
10 Sean Doolittle OAK 12 One walk in 39 innings. That's superhuman.
11 Rafael Soriano WAS 13 Three 40-save seasons on his resume, but 2014 is setting up as a career year.
12 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 11 His LOB% is still really high, which is why he's outperforming his FIP.
13 Joakim Soria TEX 10 Soria vs. Twins, 2014: 4.1 innings, 7 runs allowed. Soria vs. not-Twins, 2014: 23.1 innings, 4 runs allowed.
14 Casey Janssen TOR 16 He doesn't have the innings of Doolittle, but he's also at only one walk on the season.
15 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 14 Since May 21, he's been more like what we expected: 11 saves in 12 chances, 0.54 ERA, 22 strikeouts in 16.2 innings.
16 Steve Cishek MIA 15 Total meltdown Friday (4 runs in 0.2 innings) still didn't bring his season ERA above 3.00.
17 Mark Melancon PIT 18 Has been struggling now that the job's his. Last five outings: 4.1 IP, 3 ER, 1 K, 8 hits.
18 Fernando Rodney SEA 23 Successful on his last 12 straight save opportunities.
19 Cody Allen CLE 19 Hasn't gotten a save since June 14, but hasn't had a chance, either.
20 Chad Qualls HOU 20 The Astros gave him a hold Saturday, and gave Tony Sipp the save Sunday, but Qualls is still the guy.
21 Zach Britton BAL 21 Outside of his blowup June 20, he's at an ERA of 0.66 on the season.
22 LaTroy Hawkins COL 22 11 runs allowed, 11 strikeouts. That'll be a fun race to monitor.
23 Addison Reed ARI 24 Hasn't had an ERA below 3.00 in a single month this season.
24 Jake McGee TAM 28 He's certainly better than Grant Balfour, and he probably was before the season.
25 Joe Smith LAA NR Let's just say the trust isn't high, even now that the job is his.
26 Joe Nathan DET 26 His best single-month ERA in 2014 is 5.40. Good signs are lacking.
27 Hector Rondon CHC 29 June was a disaster (9 runs in 7.2 innings), but it appears he still has the job.
28 Jenrry Mejia SFG NR I guess they're sticking with Mejia long-term, but danged if I'd bet on it.
29 Santiago Casilla SFG NR I never saw Sergio Romo's struggles coming. The team says he's out, with Casilla and Affeldt committeeing it for now.
30 Jeremy Affeldt SFG NR I'd take Casilla of the two Giants, but Romo for the long run.

Rest-Of-Season Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Aroldis Chapman CIN 1
2 Craig Kimbrel ATL 2
3 Greg Holland KAN 3
4 Koji Uehara BOS 4
5 Glen Perkins MIN 5
6 Kenley Jansen LAD 8
7 David Robertson NYY 9
8 Huston Street SDP 6
9 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 7
10 Rafael Soriano WAS 10
11 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 12
12 Casey Janssen TOR 16
13 Sean Doolittle OAK 17
14 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 13
15 Joakim Soria TEX 11 Where might he wind up? San Francisco? Heck, following Nathan to Detroit?
16 Steve Cishek MIA 15
17 Mark Melancon PIT 20 I expect he'll work out his minor issues of late.
18 Cody Allen CLE 18
19 Zach Britton BAL 19
20 Fernando Rodney SEA 21
21 Addison Reed ARI 23
22 Sergio Romo SFG 14 I still think he'll get the gig back and be fine. Ish. I'm less sure than I was, though.
23 LaTroy Hawkins COL 22
24 Chad Qualls HOU 25 The most likely current closer to be traded, and it isn't that close.
25 Jake McGee TAM NR Joel Peralta will still get the occasional save, but I think this is McGee's role unless he bombs out.
26 Joe Smith LAA NR
27 Joe Nathan DET NR
28 Hector Rondon CHC NR
29 Jenrry Mejia NYM NR Mets gonna Met. I'd rather have a Wade Davis or a Joel Peralta than any Met reliever.
30 Jake Petricka CWS NR Whatever. Someone on the White Sox has to get save chances.

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