Closer Rankings: Time to look at who might go where

Justin Edmonds

There are only a few teams seriously in the market for a closer, but a lot of guys who could be on the market.

If you're a regular reader of my weekly Closer Rankings, you know I do two charts: Right-Now rankings and Rest-Of-Season rankings. It helps me differentiate between the ranking of, for example, Santiago Casilla, who is the Giants' closer right now, and Sergio Romo, who I still think gets the job back eventually.

This time of year, though, those Rest-Of-Season rankings are nigh-on impossible. Yeah, I can tell you who the top-of-the-line closers will be the rest of the season. That ain't hard. But that list will also generally look like the Right-Now list, save for the occasional "uh-oh, he might be a little hurt" bump. But it doesn't take long to get to a spot in the rankings where it's total guesswork, and not just on ability.

It's trading time.

There are, by my count, some six or seven current closers who could be dealt. Most of them won't, of course, but could be. And there are a handful of contenders who are definitely in the market for a new closer. And of course, there are the setup guys who could become closers, either on their current teams or elsewhere. So do I rank Joe Smith of the Angels above Chad Qualls, who could be on the Angels? Where do I put Joe Nathan, considering the Tigers are linked to almost every available reliever? What the heck do I do with Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit?

So until the trade deadline, I'm forgoing the Rest-Of-Season rankings in favor of some looks at who might go, who might want them, and what that will mean. The Right-Now rankings aren't going anywhere, but the ROS is too much guesswork right now.

Also, there won't be a closer rankings next week, as fantasy weeks are going to be 10-day weeks after the All-Star break, and there aren't any more regular-season games until Friday, so there won't be enough movement at the position. In the meantime, here's a trade look:

Teams that might want relievers

Tigers - Joe Nathan has settled down a little, I guess, with no runs allowed in four outings this week. Still, though, his ERA sits at 5.61, with a WHIP of 1.51, and he gave up runs in three straight games before July. Joba Chamberlain (2.63 ERA, 40 strikeouts in 37.2 innings) could probably do the job, but the Tigers have traditionally wanted guys who have done the job before. They've been linked to the Padres guys, and Benoit has been in Detroit before. Also, we all know the Tigers and Astros like to deal with each other, and Chad Qualls is out there.

Angels - Joe Smith has been really good lately. He's pitched nine innings in July, striking out seven and allowing only one baserunner. He has eight saves and a win in his nine outings. Rumors persist about the Angels eying some outside guys, though, and Jason Grilli is also lying in wait if they want to go that way.

There are some other teams who have struggling closers or closer situations - the White Sox, Mets, Diamondbacks, Giants, and Cubs all come to mind - but there is less likelihood of them adding a closer, be it for non-competitive reasons or "we've got guys" reasons. Still, even if teams aren't eying closers, several will be looking for relievers who might fill the setup role. The Cardinals, Brewers, Mariners, and Blue Jays come to mind.

Teams that might be dealing

Texas Rangers - The Rangers can extend Joakim Soria for 2015 fairly affordably, so they'd demand a high price if Soria does go on the market. They also have Neal Cotts and Jason Frasor, and Neftali Feliz is back in the bigs in case Soria does get dealt. Best bet from here, though, is that Soria stays, while Cotts and/or Frasor move somewhere else and remain middle relievers.

Houston Astros - The Astros do this. They grab a guy to be a temporary closer and flip him for whatever they can get. See Veras, Jose, last year. Chad Qualls has had a good year (1.95 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) in his first year as even a semi-regular closer since 2009-10. I imagine anyone dealing for Qualls would move him back into a setup role, while Josh Fields or, interestingly enough, the now-back-in-Houston Veras might slide into the vacated role.

Philadelphia Phillies - Jonathan Papelbon has said he's open to the possibility of being dealt, and he's having, by some measures, his best season since 2006. It's just in time for Philadelphia, who really have to go into full-sell mode at some point. That said, Papelbon is in the midst of an enormous contract, so it's hard to imagine anyone offering much in return for him. Any deal for Papelbon would have to get creative.

San Diego Padres - I still don't exactly understand what the Padres have been doing the last few years, extending Huston Street, Carlos Quentin, and Seth Smith when they all had much more value as trading chips. Still, between Street and Joaquin Benoit, there's a lot of reliever value there, and you'd think the Padres would have to cash in on at least one. Historically, they've kept the closer and dealt the setup guy (like Luke Gregerson a year ago), so maybe Benoit goes, Street stays.

Colorado Rockies - I refuse to understand LaTroy Hawkins, with 14 strikeouts in 33 innings but still only a WHIP of 1.09. He's 41, though, and no part of any future Rockies plans. If anyone will offer them a warm cup of milk, they probably need to take them up on it. He won't go anywhere as a closer, but he could easily move.

Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox - David Robertson and Koji Uehara are both free agents after the season. The Yankees have Dellin Betances as a possible replacement closer, and the Masahiro Tanaka injury might have been the straw that broke their competitive backs. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are looking more out of it by the day, and Uehara would command a high price. Both Robertson and Uehara have been great, too. Meanwhile, the Rays would love to dump Grant Balfour, and while it's hard to imagine anyone trading for him to be a closer, there might be someone willing to take a low-cost flyer on him as a middle reliever.

Right-Now Rankings

Rank Player Team Last Week Thoughts
1 Aroldis Chapman CIN 7 Guess those worries I had about his health last week were unfounded; he had four saves in five outings.
2 Craig Kimbrel ATL 1 2010 FIP: 1.53. 2011 FIP: 1.52. 2014 FIP: 1.54. 2012 and 2013 were a bit different, but dude's still pretty consistent.
3 Greg Holland KAN 2 He's at a career-best K/9 of 13.9.
4 Koji Uehara BOS 3 His day/night splits have been interesting, if not necessarily meaningful.
5 David Robertson NYY 8 At least one strikeout in 27 of his last 28 outings.
6 Kenley Jansen LAD 5 His crazy strikeout numbers keep his value high, even with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.
7 Glen Perkins MIN 4 Gets to be an All-Star in his hometown and home park, which is neat.
8 Rafael Soriano WAS 10 He's en route to the best season of his career and isn't even an All-Star.
9 Jonathan Papelbon PHI 9 He certainly sounds like a guy who wants out.
10 Huston Street SDP 6 I do wonder how much other teams have started to doubt Padres' pitchers stats, considering their home park, but guys keep getting traded.
11 Sean Doolittle OAK 13 He's sitting at 61 strikeouts and two walks, which, yep, still insane.
12 Casey Janssen TOR 11 After 8+ K/9 the last four years, he's at 5.6 this year, which is odd.
13 Mark Melancon PIT 16 His 2011 was pretty good, his 2012 awful, his 2013 amazing. It's 2014, and he's back to "pretty good."
14 Joakim Soria TEX 12 He's had one save opportunity in a month. One. In a month. At least he converted it.
15 Zach Britton BAL 18 Every last one of his numbers is at a career-best level.
16 Steve Cishek MIA 14 Has been working through some recent struggles.
17 Fernando Rodney SEA 17 He'll never match his 2012 (641 ERA+?!?!), but he's actually been really good this year.
18 Francisco Rodriguez MIL 15 His numbers aren't nearly the dominant ones they were a month or two ago.
19 Cody Allen CLE 20 No runs allowed since June 21. Been a good run.
20 Joe Smith LAA 22 I reiterate: Dude has been really good lately.
21 Trevor Rosenthal SLC 19 He'll have to fix his 5.4 BB/9 sooner or later.
22 LaTroy Hawkins COL 21 He's 17-for-18 in save opportunities, already his most saves in a year since 2004.
23 Jake McGee TAM 25 He had a kid, which is cool, and congratulations.
24 Santiago Casilla SFG 26 Hasn't allowed a run since mid-May; he's really taken to the closer role
25 Chad Qualls HOU 24 Only one save opportunity in his last three weeks.
26 Addison Reed ARI 23 Just about any other manager would have moved on by now, but Kirk Gibson apparently refuses to use the better Brad Ziegler.
27 Joe Nathan DET 27 Every Tigers fan has to be worried when he comes on the field.
28 Jenrry Mejia NYM 29 We're fully into the "I don't know what to expect out of this guy" zone.
29 Jake Petricka CWS NR Whatever, White Sox, you don't need good relievers anyway.
30 Hector Rondon CHC 28 Since the start of June, he's given up 11 runs in 11.2 innings. Not exactly inspiring.

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