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MLB Trade Rumors: Relief pitchers with chances for increased roles

With the MLB Trade Deadline looming, JT scopes out some potential saves help.

Getty Images/Pete Rogers Illustrations

The trade deadline is quickly approaching, and with that will come current setup men getting chances in increased roles to supply saves for fantasy teams during the most important months of the season. Last season Jose Leclerc was the biggest example of this, with 12 saves in the final two months of the season. We also saw players like Drew Steckenrider, Mychal Givens, Wily Peralta, Robert Gsellman, and Kirby Yates have an impact in closing roles down the stretch. This article will attempt to find players who have a chance of an increased role in a post trade deadline landscape. Let’s start by talking about the only team with a closer situation that for the most part isn’t worth being interested in.

The Baltimore Orioles Tier of “Not Interested”

Baltimore Orioles

Current Closer: Mychal Givens

The 2019 Baltimore Orioles are one of the worst baseball teams to have ever been allowed to play 162 games of Major League baseball. Their bullpen is a huge part of that. Mychal Givens came into the season with some appeal as a late round closer. Through May 17th Givens was just fine in that role with 4 saves, a 2.75 ERA, and 26:7 K:BB ratio in 19 ⅔ innings. Following that was a five game stretch in which his decisions went blown save/loss, loss, loss, blown save, blown save. His ERA went from the aforementioned 2.75 to 5.70. Since then he’s been better, but not great, and despite him reclaiming the closers job, he’s still just owned in 30% of Yahoo leagues. I would say it is likely he is moved by the trade deadline and honestly I could say Paul Fry would be the likely closer if he’s moved, but I honestly don’t know if that’s the case. He’s probably their best relief pitcher, but any of Fry, Richard Bleier, Miguel Castro, or Shawn Armstrong could get save opportunities. I understand that there are leagues where people are desperate enough to have to guess at one of them, in which case I would guess Fry, but if you can I would stay away as a whole.

Teams That May Sell, but Almost Definitely aren’t Moving their Current Closers

New York Mets

Current Closer: Edwin Diaz

Edwin Diaz getting traded again is almost unfathomable given the exorbitant price the Mets paid for him in the offseason. He hasn’t been as bad as Mets fans would have you believe, but his value is at the lowest it’s been in the last year and a half. A big reason for the Mets struggles this season have been due to their bullpen beyond just Diaz, which makes it hard to find an ideal fit in the 1% scenario Diaz is moved. Jeurys Familia has been completely awful this season with a 7.28 ERA and a 28:21 K:BB ratio in 27 ⅓ innings pitched. The best pitcher in their bullpen has been Seth Lugo, but the same could have been said last season, when the Mets elected to keep Lugo in his multi inning role. The likely replacement, similarly to last season, would be Robert Gsellman. His 4,96 ERA doesn’t justify an upgraded role, but his 3.49 FIP represents that’s been a bit unlucky. Gsellman isn’t somebody I would be adding unless there was a move, but if there were to be one he’d be the guy to add.

San Diego Padres

Current Closer: Kirby Yates

There’s been some smoke around the Padres making Kirby Yates available, but I don’t really see it. The Padres could be really good as soon as next year and while Yates is a bit old at 32 for such a young team, he still has another year of control after this season and has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season. If he were to be moved I would expect Craig Stammen to move into the closer’s role. He hasn’t been amazing in 2019, but his 17 holds and 4 saves represent Andy Green’s trust in him in high leverage situations. However, if they make the decision to move Yates, I imagine Stammen would be moved as well considering Stammen is a free agent at the end of this season. If both were to be moved, former starter Luis Perdomo would be the favorite to garner save opportunities. His 3.31 ERA and 25:7 K:BB ratio in 31 ⅓ innings are both acceptable from a closer and his good performance of late has given him more high-leverage opportunities recently with four holds in his last six appearances.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Current Closer: Felipe Vazquez

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington recently came out and said “Our expectation and anticipation is that Felipe will be closing out playoff games, be it this year or in the future with us.” That could just be for leverage purposes, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Pirates to move Vazquez at this point. They remain in striking distance of the second NL wild card. If he were to be moved, Keone Kela would likely move into the closer’s role, but he’s still on the IL and would need to show he’s healthy before returning to that role. Kyle Crick leads the team in holds with 11 and has a good ERA at 2.70, but his 1.47 WHIP, 4.91 FIP and 36:24 K:BB ratio help show that’s been mostly lucky. If Kela isn’t healthy, Crick would be the add, but right now I’m expecting Vazquez to stay put.

Seattle Mariners

Current Closer: Roenis Elias

I was very conflicted on what tier to put the Mariners in. They have been very public about the fact that everyone on their team is available. However Roenis Elias is under team control for the next two seasons and has been pretty solid this season. I don’t think he gets moved, but if he does, Austin Adams is the obvious choice for saves in this bullpen. The Nationals DFA’d Adams at the beginning of the season so they could give Wander Suero 162 chances to blow games in the 8th inning, but Adams has been absolutely electric for Seattle. In 23 13 innings with the Mariners, Adams has a 3.47 ERA, 2.22 FIP, 1.03 WHIP, 15.8 K/9, and a 41:11 K:BB. He’s also been trusted in high leverage situations as shown by his eight holds. Adams has a chance to have a 2018 post trade deadline Jose Leclerc like stretch if he gets a chance in the closer’s role, and despite the fact I don’t think the Mariners move Elias, I would still be grabbing Adams where I can now in case he gets that chance.

Teams Likely to Move Their Closers, but will be Fluid Situations

Miami Marlins

Current Closer: Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo is weird because he’s not very good, but in back-to-back seasons he’s found himself getting save opportunities for a team good enough that he remains must own. In save opportunities he’s 15-for-16 on the season, but beyond that there’s really not a lot there for Romo. It would not surprise me if similarly to last season no contender is interested in taking on Romo and he remains the closer for Miami, but they would likely take anything for him and there’s a few teams where even as a teams 5th or 6th best reliever Romo could help. If he is moved, Nick Anderson has the best stuff out of anybody in that bullpen and has picked up a save when Romo wasn’t available. He has an eye-popping 57:14 K:BB ratio in 35 ⅓ innings (14.5 K/9!!!). His 2.73 FIP shows that his 4.33 ERA has been a bit unlucky. The other realistic option in the Marlins bullpen would be Jose Quijada. Quijada has only pitched eight innings with the major league squad, but has immediately been put into high-leverage situations with two holds and a save when Romo was unavailable. With Quijada being a left handed pitcher and Anderson right handed, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was a full-on committee. I would be adding Anderson once Romo is moved, but I wouldn’t feel great about him being my saves source down the stretch.

Kansas City Royals

Current Closer: Ian Kennedy

There’s a solid case to be made Kennedy probably belongs in the above tier of likely not to be moved because of his contact. He is still owed $16,500,000 next season to go along with his salary for the rest of this season. I imagine Kansas City would have to be willing to pay a good chunk of that to get anything in return for Kennedy, who to his credit has done a very good job at transitioning from a starter to a reliever. His K:BB ratio is one of the best in baseball at 40:6 in 33 innings so far this season and he’s shown an ability to pitch in late game situations with 11 saves in 13 chances. With how notoriously cheap general managers as a whole have become, it would not surprise me to see Kennedy be deemed immovable and remain the Royals closer. However, if they do find a suitor for Kennedy, it’s hard to see a good option in this bullpen. The two relievers who were presumed to enter the season “competing” for the closing job were Brad Boxberger, who’s since been DFA’d, and Wily Peralta, who’s been DFA worthy with a 22:17 K:BB ratio and 5.05 ERA. Jake Diekman hasn’t been awful with a 13.4 K/9, but considering he’s a rental with a team option for 2020 he’s probably more likely than Kennedy to be moved. Beyond that it’s a complete mess. Kevin Mccarthy has a 3.5 K/9 which also happens to be less than his 3.9 BB/9. Tim Hill was just called back up after having a very good stint in the hitter friendly PCL, but his career 4.61 ERA and 1.35 WHIP don’t inspire much confidence. Brian Flynn hasn’t been awful, but he’s currently only been used in a mop-up role. If Kennedy is moved and I was desperate enough to be guessing on somebody in this bullpen, it would probably be Jorge Lopez. As part of the return in the Mike Moustakas trade a season ago, Lopez’s 6.16 ERA and 1.5 WHIP don’t speak to him being a high-leverage reliever, there have been some improvements since moving to the bullpen. In Lopez’s last six appearances, which admittedly is a super small sample, but coincides with a meaningful velocity increase in his fastball, Lopez has allowed just two run in nine innings of work with an 9:2 K:BB ratio. It isn’t a lock like some of the others on this list will be when the current closer is moved, but as far as taking a shot and praying for saves, Lopez isn’t the worst option in this awful bullpen.

San Francisco Giants

Current Closer: Will Smith

The Giants are one of the toughest teams to figure out. Smith is a lock to be moved by the deadline. Their next best reliever is Tony Watson, but he is also a rental and a lefty on a great contract (2,500,000 2020 player option). At that point I would guess Sam Dyson gets a chance, but he also has been heavily rumored to be on the way out. Mark Melancon is on close to an immovable contract and has some pedigree and the Giants may want to attempt to restore his value, but Reyes Moronta has been better than him in 2019. My guess is that it would go Watson>Dyson>Melancon>Moronta, but at that point it’s really tough to say. Bruce Bochy has typically been extremely loyal to his closers so once one is given a chance they are a must-add. It’s just very unclear on which reliever that will be.

Cincinnati Reds

Current Closer: Raisel Iglesias (barely)

It is pretty much a committee at this point in Cincinnati. Raisel Iglesias has struggled recently, which had led to Michael Lorenzen picking up three saves in June. Raisel has the Reds two most recent saves, but he has made comments about him being unhappy with the way they have used him. I would expect Iglesias to be moved by the deadline and if he is I think this remains a committee. Lorenzen becomes the favorite to pick-up the majority of the saves and would be the guy to add, but he isn’t anything special. Amir Garrett, Jared Hughes, and Matt Bowman have all been solid in the Reds bullpen and arguably better than Lorenzen. Lorenzen being in the role now would make him the likely saves source, but this could turn into a full-on committee.

Add These Guys if You Need Saves Now

Arizona Diamondbacks

Current Closer: Greg Holland

The Diamondbacks aren’t out of the playoff picture, but moving Holland wouldn’t come as a shock. He’s a free agent at the end of the season and there are plenty of teams he would fit nicely in a set-up role for. Yoan Lopez would become the closer if Holland is moved. His 1.36 ERA has been a bit luck-induced, but he leads the Diamondbacks in holds and has been their lead set-up man for the last couple of months. He hasn’t done anything to lose that role and with Archie Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano both being very bad this season, Lopez would be the guy to add.

Detroit Tigers

Current Closer: Shane Greene

Shane Greene is probably the player who is most likely to be moved by the trade deadline. His very good 2019 season has likely increased his trade value to a place where Detroit would be silly not to move him. Joe Jimenez is the guy to add in that situation. His 2019 hasn’t been great as shown by his 4.96 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but he’s been deemed the closer in waiting for the last two seasons now. His 13.5 K/9 shows he has very good stuff and he has been the lead setup man despite his struggles all season.

Toronto Blue Jays

Current Closer: Ken Giles

The Blue Jays are in an interesting spot with Giles. He has been absolutely amazing so far this year with a 1.20 ERA, 52:8 K:BB ratio, 0.97 FIP, and 0.97 WHIP show off how good he has been. He has another year of control following this season, so if the Blue Jays feel as if they have a chance of contention in 2020, they could keep Giles. However, I would expect Giles to be moved and if he is Daniel Hudson is the fairly easy pickup. He had the only save when Giles was on the injured list and has easily been their second best reliever. Some may say Biagini would be the pick-up, and he would be if both Hudson and Giles are moved, but Hudson has the superior ERA, WHIP, FIP, K/9 to Biagini.

This isn’t the best year for guys looking at expanded roles. There’s no clear Kirby Yates or Jose Leclerc level stud. However, there are guys like Jimenez and Hudson that should clearly help your teams down the stretch and in your fantasy playoffs.