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November 30, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

Closing in on Ninth-Inning Men

by Derek Carty

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How the closer market develops is always one of the most closely-watched facets of the offseason for fantasy owners. Saves are of the utmost importance for those who play the sports version of Dungeons & Dragons, and openings are closing up now that we’re approaching the Winter Meetings. In the past week, three closers have signed, another was essentially traded and then untraded, and a rookie was named as the front-runner for another job. Today we’ll catch up on these goings-ons.

Team

End-of-Season Closer

Start of Free Agency

End of November

Angels

Ernesto Frieri

(Unresolved)

Ryan Madson

Astros

Wilton Lopez

Wilton Lopez

Wilton Lopez

Athletics

Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour

Grant Balfour

Blue Jays

Casey Janssen

Casey Janssen

Casey Janssen

Braves

Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel

Brewers

John Axford

John Axford

John Axford

Cardinals

Jason Motte

Jason Motte

Jason Motte

Cubs

Carlos Marmol

Carlos Marmol

Carlos Marmol

D'Backs

J.J. Putz

J.J. Putz

J.J. Putz

Dodgers

Kenley Jansen

Brandon League

Brandon League

Giants

Committee

(Unresolved)

(Unresolved)

Indians

Chris Perez

Chris Perez

Chris Perez

Mariners

Tom Wilhelmsen

Tom Wilhelmsen

Tom Wilhelmsen

Marlins

Steve Cishek

Steve Cishek

Steve Cishek

Mets

Frank Francisco

Frank Francisco

Frank Francisco

Nationals

Drew Storen

Drew Storen

Drew Storen

Orioles

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson

Padres

Huston Street

Huston Street

Huston Street

Phillies

Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon

Pirates

Joel Hanrahan

Joel Hanrahan

Joel Hanrahan

Rangers

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan

Rays

Fernando Rodney

Fernando Rodney

Fernando Rodney

Red Sox

Andrew Bailey

(Unresolved)

(Unresolved)

Reds

Aroldis Chapman

(Unresolved)

Jonathan Broxton

Rockies

Rafael Betancourt

Rafael Betancourt

Rafael Betancourt

Royals

Greg Holland

Greg Holland

Greg Holland

Tigers

Jose Valverde

(Unresolved)

Bruce Rondon

Twins

Glen Perkins

Glen Perkins

Glen Perkins

White Sox

Addison Reed

Addison Reed

Addison Reed

Yankees

Rafael Soriano

(Unresolved)

Mariano Rivera

The Angels signed Ryan Madson to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with plenty of incentives this week. Despite in-season acquisition Ernesto Frieri absolutely dominating last year, the team apparently prefers him in the eighth inning. Of course, if the incentives that could double the worth of his contract weren’t enough of an indication, Madson is a risk as he recovers from a Tommy John surgery that cost him his entire 2012 season. He’s always been terrific when healthy, but Frieri is a good stash as one of the better set-up men in the game and the guy who’d ascend back to the ninth if Madson goes down or underwhelms.

Wilton Lopez was nearly traded to the Phillies this week but wound up staying in Houston—the reasons for which are still a little unclear. There were rumblings about health issues, but it’s possible there was more to it than that. If he proves healthy enough, it’s possible Lopez still gets traded, in which case the Astros’ ninth-inning situation gets very messy. I might handicap Wesley Wright as the favorite in that case, though there would be a number of other options as well. If he isn’t traded, Lopez is talented enough to be a strong value buy in March. If he is traded, it seems unlikely it would be to another team willing to let him close.

With Aroldis Chapman moving to the rotation, the Reds found themselves in need of a stopper. They decided to go with someone familiar, re-signing trade-deadline acquisition Jonathan Broxton to a three-year, $21 million deal. That seems like a big commitment for a guy with so many question marks—most notably health issues, declining velocity and strikeouts, and a history of spotty control (even if he posted a career-best walk rate in 2012). Should Broxton fail, Sean Marshall would make a lot of sense as his replacement (he’d have made a lot of sense in the first place, if we’re being honest).

With Jose Valverde leaving via free agency, the top in-house option seemed to be Joaquin Benoit for those who prefer, you know, a guy who’s been tested in the majors and is really good. Or, if you’re the Tigers, you could announce Bruce Rondon as the favorite for the job. Rondon has pitched a total of eight innings above Double-A (none at the major-league level) and has some control issues. He also has great stuff, but it’s tough to predict immediate success in such a high-pressure role for a guy with that profile. I’ll be interested to get a better look in the spring.

Mariano Rivera re-upped with the Yankees yesterday—one of the easiest free-agent signings to predict. He’s coming off ACL surgery but is expected to be healthy ahead of spring training. You know the drill with him. Despite his age, he may be the best closer in baseball. The injury is a bit worrisome given that age, but he’s never had issues before, and it was kind of a fluke thing. I’d draft Mo with confidence next year.

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