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July 21, 2011

Value Picks

Relievers for 7/21/11

by Mike Petriello

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My team might be 11 games under .500 and mired in the midst of a beyond embarrassing courtroom scandal, but it’s still my favorite time of the year: trade deadline season. Among closers, Heath Bell and Leo Nunez seem to be the most likely to be moved, though we could see some surprises in places like Washington and Kansas City as well. That, of course, means that some current setup men could soon be pushed into new roles over the next week.

Joining the Party
Sean Marshall, Cubs
(Yahoo! 21%, ESPN 13.5%, CBS 18%)
What a nightmare the Chicago bullpen is these days, right? After a wonderful June, Carlos Marmol had apparently lost his closing job thanks to several rough July outings, including seven consecutive without a strikeout. That opened the door for Marshall, who I had looked at as a deep value pick back in June, to get some ninth-inning opportunities. So what happened on Tuesday against Philadelphia? Five hits, three runs, a blown save, and a loss. Fantastic.

It’s not quite as bad as it seems for Marshall, however. While the game against the Phillies was indeed ugly, it wasn’t a traditional save chance—he entered in the eighth inning with a man on and no outs and stuck around for the ninth—and Marshall has still only walked one batter (against 16 strikeouts) in the last month, so there’s certainly still value to be had here. Unfortunately, Marshall’s time in the ninth could be limited as Marmol threw a scoreless inning (albeit with two walks) on Monday, and absent any more trouble, the incumbent could regain his role sooner rather than later.

Sticking around
Jason Isringhausen, Mets (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 26.6%, CBS 23%)
When Isringhausen shut down St. Louis for a save on Tuesday night, it was his first in nearly three years. The Mets seem to have chosen him as their new closer now that Francisco Rodriguez is in Milwaukee, though few believe he’s a more effective option than Bobby Parnell. The opportunity alone makes Isringhausen worth owning, though the next ten days are vital; he’s been mentioned often in trade rumors, and he’s very unlikely to be a closer somewhere else.

Aroldis Chapman, Reds (Yahoo! 38%, ESPN 13.4%, CBS 35%)
The All-Star break couldn’t have come at a better time for Francisco Cordero; after pitching four times in five days and getting shelled in most of them, he got a full week off thanks to the break. In two games since then, he’s pitched two clean innings and collected two saves. That being the case, he’s gained himself some more rope, though I’m less than optimistic that his troubles won’t pop up again. Chapman, meanwhile, has a 20/4 K/BB rate since his return, and two of those walks came in a single game. His ownership rates really should be higher.

Sergio Romo, Giants (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 4.9%, CBS 9%)
I have to be honest; I have no idea how Brian Wilson is doing it. Since the All-Star break, he’s pitched three times, walking four without a strikeout. That’s a recipe for disaster, yet he’s managed to nail down saves in each of the three games. Since he’s not continually blowing games, there’s not much focus on the story, but I’m not ready to let it go until I see some improvement. Meanwhile, Romo has a 48/4 K/BB, making him useful in nearly any league.

David Robertson, Yankees (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 4.6%, CBS 12%)
There’s no longer any question about Mariano Rivera’s health, and there’s certainly not any about his job security. Robertson keeps piling up the whiffs, though, with 23 in his last 14 2/3. If there’s a question here, it’s in how the bullpen roles will shake out when Rafael Soriano returns from injury in the next week. Robertson has been effective enough, though, that it’s hard to believe he’ll simply be replaced.

Saying Goodbye
Bobby Parnell (Yahoo! 25%, ESPN 42.4%, CBS 29%)
Though the Mets have seemingly gone with Jason Isringhausen in the ninth for the moment, fantasy owners have largely realized that Parnell’s peripherals make him the superior choice, scooping him up in large numbers. If Isringhausen continues to get saves, perhaps that will change; on the other hand, Isringhausen is definitely in the mix to be traded before the deadline, which would put the issue to rest entirely.

Javy Guerra, Dodgers (Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 41%, CBS 19%)
Fantasy players have taken notice of Guerra’s new role as presumed Dodger closer, and despite some terrifying rollercoaster appearances, he’s done a good well enough in getting the job done in the end. He’s not the most effective Dodger reliever—that’d be Kenley Jansen, as I always like to point out—but now that Guerra’s on the radar, he’s off our list.

Glen Perkins, Twins (Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 3.1%, CBS 6%)
This is less about Perkins—who’s been very good with two wins and a 5/0 K/BB over the last week—and more about the return of Joe Nathan from the dead. Now that Nathan has officially taken over the ninth inning in Minnesota and is well on his way to being his old self, the uncertainty for the Twins in the late innings is no longer as urgent of an issue as it had been previously.

AL-only VP
Jake McGee, Rays (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 6.9%, CBS 7%)
It seems so far away now, but for a good portion of the spring, many of us thought that McGee would end up as the Rays closer. It didn’t happen, though. Kyle Farnsworth seized the job, and after a rough April in Tampa, McGee has spent much of the year with Triple-A Durham. McGee rebounded nicely in the minors, posting a 38/8 K/BB mark, and entering Wednesday had struck out four of the first seven hitters he’d seen since his return to the bigs. It’s probably unlikely that McGee gets ninth-inning chances any time soon, though it should be pointed out that Joel Peralta is becoming overworked, and Farnsworth has hit some bumps in an otherwise solid season. Still, McGee’s return is off to a good start, and the Rays will likely want to see what they have in him as they plan for 2012.

NL-only VP
Fernando Rodriguez, Astros (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0.1%, CBS 0%)
So you say you want a deep, deep sleeper? That’s how we end up talking about guys like Fernando Rodriguez, a 27-year-old rookie who’s a native Texan. Through parts of seven minor league seasons (and 2/3 of a big-league inning in 2009) with the Angels, Rodriguez showed little indication that he could ever be an MLB contributor, leading to the Halos cutting him loose following 2010. Signed to a minor-league deal by Houston this year, he began to show some life after he was—stop me if you’ve heard this before—converted to a reliever, striking out 33 in 24 Triple-A innings. That earned him recalled to join one of the more faceless bullpens in recent memory.  He’s been a nice surprise, putting up a 27/7 K/BB mark over 21 2/3 innings for the Astros. With Brandon Lyon out for the year, there’s plenty of opportunity behind Mark Melancon, and Rodriguez is making the most of it thus far.

Mike Petriello is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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