Despite all the craziness of the trade deadline, surprisingly little happened to impact fantasy bullpens. The closers most likely to move—San Diego’s Heath Bell, Washington’s Drew Storen, Florida’s Leo Nunez, and Seattle’s Brandon League—all stayed put. The two setup men most likely to be closers—San Diego’s Mike Adams and Baltimore’s Koji Uehara—each went to Texas, where they will join with Neftali Feliz to form a Ranger bullpen which is terrifying to opponents yet infuriating to fantasy owners wondering who will be the consistent closer. With no relievers ascending to post-deadline closer roles for the first time in recent memory, we’ll have to dig even deeper to find value.
Joining the party
Koji Uehara, Rangers (Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 6%, CBS 18%)
I knew we’d end up talking about Uehara again at some point this season, though I figured it would be when the Orioles finally tired of Kevin Gregg. Now in Texas, he’s part of the mix with Adams and Feliz, both of whom are owned in far more leagues than their new teammate.
With that kind of talent ahead of him, Uehara is doomed to the 7th and 8th inning… right? It’s no secret that Ron Washington has been less than pleased with Feliz this season, going so far as to say that he hasn’t seen the ‘fire’ he’d like from his young closer, and he has as many strikeouts as he does blown saves over the last two-and-a-half weeks: one. Feliz clearly hasn’t been the same pitcher this year, and his K/BB of 27/20 can’t compare to the 50/10 of Adams or the 64/8 of Uehara. If Washington does decide to make a move with Feliz, Adams might be higher on the list, but he doesn’t have the closing experience that Uehara does, and Adams’s Texas debut consisted of entering a tie game and giving up a homer to Detroit’s Brennan Boesch. It could also consist of a job share, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For now, Uehara is a freely-available pitcher with excellent peripherals in a situation where he may have a slight chance at backing into some saves.
Bobby Parnell, Mets (Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 4%, CBS 17%)
On Monday night, I went to the Mets/Marlins game in Queens. After Nunez allowed a game-tying homer to Lucas Duda in the 9th inning, the Marlins loaded the bases against Jason Isringhausen with Mike Stanton coming up. Six pitches later, Stanton’s grand slam had landed about 20 feet to my left, and Isringhausen was on his way towards blowing the first of two consecutive games and allowing an earned run in three of four. (Say what you want about Justin Turner’s error on Tuesday, but he wasn’t the one who loaded the bases on a hit, a walk, and a hit batter.)
Of course, Parnell had his own concerns in a few games leading up to the deadline, though he struck out two in a clean inning against the Marlins on Tuesday. Isringhausen is at 298 career saves, and the feeling here is that the Mets will let him pick up those last two before turning to Parnell to see what they have with him long-term. That makes him moderately valuable and even more so if Isringhausen’s recent struggles are a sign of something more.
David Robertson, Yankees (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 5%, CBS 13%)
I’m sure there’s a reason Robertson isn’t owned in more leagues, but it’s not because of his recent performance—16 strikeouts in 10 July innings with just six hits allowed.
Kenley Jansen, Dodgers (Yahoo! 5%, ESPN 1%, CBS 9%)
So, of course, after I go on and on touting Jansen, he ends up on the disabled list thanks to an irregular heartbeat. The good news for Jansen is that he was only forced to the sidelines due to possible side effects from his medication, and he is expected back on the mound in mid-August. If he comes back and provides anything near his previous performance, he’ll be a fantasy force again soon enough.
Kyle McClellan, Cardinals (Yahoo! 19%, ESPN 10%, CBS 34%)
McClellan had a rough re-introduction to the bullpen, allowing three earned runs in his first two games before getting the win with 1 1/3 scoreless of innings of relief on Tuesday (he did twist his ankle before leaving, though it’s not considered to be serious). Octavio Dotel, of all people, got the save, but while Dotel is not considered a serious threat for saves, that’s part of why McClellan is here: because you can never predict what Tony LaRussa will do. Is McClellan really that good? He’s fine—certainly not top-tier—though since the word out of St. Louis continues to be that he’ll be in the mix for important situations, he’s worth keeping an eye on…at least for now.
Besides, the way things have gone in St. Louis this season, it’ll probably be Jon Jay in the closer role by this time next week, anyway.
Jim Johnson, Orioles (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 0.4%, CBS 3%)
With Uehara in Texas, Mike Gonzalez ineffective and currently suspended, and Alfredo Simon picking up starts when he’s not worrying about murder charges, who’s left in Baltimore to back up Gregg if things go sideways? It’s seemingly Johnson, who’s working on his second consecutive quality season (while also being the subject of rumors about his own future in the starting rotation). Of course, since Gregg has managed to keep it together, simply being “the guy behind Kevin Gregg” isn’t good enough; Johnson has managed to keep his walk rate below two for the second year in a row, allowing him to strike out nearly four times as many as he walks. He picked up some brief closing experience in 2009 when George Sherrill was traded to the Dodgers (more on him in a second), and should Gregg remember just who he is, Johnson is suddenly next in line.
George Sherrill, Braves (Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 0%, CBS 0%)
Trivia question: who has the second-highest strikeout rate in the Atlanta bullpen behind Craig Kimbrel? No, not Jonny Venters; it’s the 34-year-old Sherrill, who was rescued off the scrap heap after self-destructing under Joe Torre with the Dodgers in 2010. Having cut his walk rate by nearly 50 percent since last season, Sherrill is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career. Of course, there’s not much room for advancement so long as Kimbrel and Venters perform as they have been, though there’s been more than a few articles written worrying about Fredi Gonzalez’s usage of them.