With the trade deadline passed, surely we know who every team's closer will be for the rest of the season, yeah?
Ha. Also, ha ha.
By my count - and this is imprecise, because I had no idea how to really research this - five teams changed closers between July 31 and the end of the season last year. There were a variety of reasons. Houston traded Jose Veras and went to Josh Fields; Rafael Betancourt got hurt, so the Rockies went to Rex Brothers; Tom Wilhelmsen was just terrible, so Seattle used Danny Farquhar. But it happened, and it happened several times.
So this week, I'm taking a look at teams whose closer situations could still change the rest of the year, and who might stand to take their place should something happen. Not injury stuff, because anyone can get hurt at any moment, but teams where guys could get dealt, or could suck, or could just need a change.
Chad Qualls is nothing special as a pitcher; he's been in the league 11 years, has a 3.76 ERA and a 3.76 FIP, and doesn't strikeout a particularly impressive number of hitters. Still, he's always in some degree of demand; I feel like he's either been traded or rumored to be traded every year of his career. There is literally no reason for him to stay an Astro the rest of this season. He'll stop being a closer if he moves, but still, I can't see him in Houston in September.
Who benefits? Jose Veras and Josh Fields both have closer experience, but both have been pretty terrible this year. Tony Sipp has only three career saves, but he's been the best pitcher of the group. I'm guessing the team gives Sipp the first chance if/when Qualls goes.
I am through trying to figure out what the Diamondbacks are doing. They appear to be scumbags who find vendettas and care more about settling scores than winning games. They like "grit" over talent, even when "grit" is a nebulous term whose definition appears to be "not good but is at least white." Any other team would have switched to Brad Ziegler over Addison Reed by now. Maybe the Diamondbacks are on to something. Or maybe they're just dumb.
Who benefits? Well, Ziegler, obviously, though Arizona is probably stubborn enough to stick with Reed.
I'm a little surprised Joaquin Benoit didn't move by the trade deadline. I'll be a lot surprised if he's still there come Sept. 1. Benoit has another year and $8 million left on his contract (team option, but still). He just turned 37. The Padres are terrible. If they put Benoit on waivers and he gets claimed, just let him go. If he doesn't get claimed, get something for him, from Detroit, or Toronto, or someone.
Who benefits? If Benoit goes, Dale Thayer is the most likely one to get saves. He only has nine in his career, but he's pitched well so far this year. (Also, this gives me an excuse to use Thayer as the lead picture on this column, because LOOK AT THAT GUY.)
Jake Petricka fell into the White Sox closer role by default; Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom got hurt, and Ronald Belisario was (is) bad at baseball things. He's nothing special, but he's pitched largely well this year - though this is funny: Friday, he pitched an inning, gave up three hits and a run, and got the save, while Saturday, he went 0.2 innings, gave up only one hit, but blew the save because an inherited runner scored. Anyway, Petricka has no great claim to the closer role; a couple bad outings in a row and he could be out.
Who benefits? Zach Putnam was considered as likely as Petricka to get the role, but he's on the DL now. So ... Javy Guerra? Daniel Webb? Maybe Lindstrom gets healthy? The White Sox aren't loaded.
There are others. LaTroy Hawkins is 41; no reason for Colorado to hold on to him. Hector Rondon hasn't been great, while Pedro Strop kind of has. Jake McGee and Santiago Casilla took over for struggling incumbents; maybe the incumbents get another shot. Heck, after really hot first halves, Rafael Soriano and Francisco Rodriguez have struggled of late. But those are the key guys, the key situations.
Now on to the week's rankings. We're back to the two-sets-of-rankings layout; the first is the right-now rankings, and the second is the rankings for the rest of the season. Normally, I include thoughts on every pitcher. It's only polite. But this week, since I've given thoughts on a lot of them already, I'm just going to hit on the ones for whom I actually have something interesting to say.
|1||Aroldis Chapman||CIN||1||Eventually he'll stop being great. But man, is he great right now.
|3||Craig Kimbrel||ATL||2||His multi-inning outing Saturday was his third of the year, and he looked rough. Feel like the team might give him a breather.
|7||Sean Doolittle||OAK||8||His rise has been crazy fast.
|8||Huston Street||LAA||9||Still no runs allowed as an Angel
|10||Jonathan Papelbon||PHI||11||He says he's fine staying in Philadelphia, because what the heck else would he say?
|11||Mark Melancon||PIT||10||I'd love to see a bit more consistency, but he's still good.
|16||Rafael Soriano||WAS||12||Even with his four-run, 0.1-inning outing Monday, his season ERA is under 2.00.
|17||Trevor Rosenthal||SLC||20||One run in his last 11 innings; things are improving.
|22||Francisco Rodriguez||MIL||22||If overuse was behind some of his struggles, the team took care of that -- 0.2 innings in the last nine days.
|23||Joe Nathan||DET||24||Well, didn't take long for the Joakim Soria worries to start.
|26||LaTroy Hawkins||COL||26||Because whenever you're a noncontender with a 41-year-old closer, you have to keep him.
|27||Neftali Feliz||TEX||25||Rusty pitcher, awful team. Hard to love him in fantasy.
|29||Chad Qualls||HOU||30||Because whenever you're a noncontender with a 35-year-old closer (deja vu), you have to keep him.
|30||Joe Smith||LAA||NR||He's been great. I'd rather use his good innings than Petricka's dodgy ones, even with the save chance.