With the trade deadline approaching, the Astros prudently got a jump on the market for relievers by flipping both closer Brett Myers and setup man Brandon Lyon in separate deals over the past week. It seemed reasonable that the steady but unspectacular Wilton Lopez (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 0%, CBS 5%) would take over from there, but he’s been skipped over in favor of Francisco Cordero’s carcass, which was acquired in the Lyon swap. My guess is that the Astros deferred to Cordero not only because he has the vaunted experience but also because Lopez has been nursing a sprained ulnar collateral ligament this season. The logic seems to be why chain a guy to a role when he might need occasional days of rest? That being said, Cordero’s career is basically on life support, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lopez get some save chances by attrition.
The Rockies insist they’d have to be bowled over to trade closer Rafael Betancourt, which makes little sense because he’s 37, still pitching well, and under contract at a below-market salary for at least one more year. But hey, what do I know? Still, stranger things have happened than the Rockies being bowled over by an offer for Betancourt, so those of you who are digging deep could do worse than to look at Colorado left-hander Rex Brothers (Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%, CBS 5%). Considered a future closer, Brothers has logged a 2.05 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 30 strikeouts in 22 innings since returning from a brief minor league demotion on June 2. Looks like a closer to me.
Matt Capps’ sudden return to the disabled list may have gone unnoticed in some corners, as Twins co-closers Glen Perkins (Yahoo! 17%, ESPN 16%, CBS 17%) and Jared Burton (Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 13%, CBS 13%) remain relatively unowned. A platoon is never ideal, but if you’re in need of saves, one or both of these fellows will serve you just fine. If you own Perkins or Burton and don’t especially need him, see if you can flip him at a premium to whoever owns the other.
Royals right-hander Jonathan Broxton may be the final prominent closer to be dealt before the deadline. Kansas City has been peculiar about this sort of thing before (they’ve had a million chances to trade Joakim Soria), so nothing is a given, but I’m still betting on Greg Holland (Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 4%, CBS 11%) as the successor if Brox is traded. Holland had posted five consecutive scoreless outings after the All-Star break before a three-run implosion Monday night, but he may have a couple outings yet to prove that he’s back on top of his game. Aaron Crow would also be a candidate, as could Tim Collins, though the latter’s left-handedness may work against him.
Last we heard from Mariano Rivera (Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 15%, CBS 20%), he said he wanted to return from his June knee surgery this season. As I wrote last week, a comeback in 2012 remains very unlikely—Yankees GM Brian Cashman unequivocally stated that it’s not happening—so don’t do anything hasty to shoehorn Mo onto your roster. But if you have a free DL spot or an extremely deep bench, have at it. Why not?
Mike Dunn’s red-herring save last week may have been the perfect reprieve for those who slept on presumptive Marlins closer Steve Cishek (Yahoo! 23%, ESPN 28%, CBS 24%). Cishek has two of the team’s three post-break saves and probably would have had the other (Dunn’s) were it not for an illness that sidelined him that night. The right-hander is likely gone in savvier and deep leagues, but he’s still on the wire in many leagues, as evidenced by his modest ownership rates; pounce if you can. Heath Bell is pitching better so far in the second half, and it wouldn’t shock me to see him elbow his way back in for some opportunities in the ninth inning, but I think he’s got a while longer until he’s released from the time-out corner.
Only a week after his arrival here in Value Picks, Brewers right-hander Francisco Rodriguez (Yahoo! 42%, ESPN 50%, CBS 47%) is already on his way out. Technically, his bloated ownership rates account for him getting the boot, but after seeing his disastrous outing on Monday night (four earned in two-thirds of an inning en route to a blown save), it’s safe to say there’s little “value” to be had in owning K-Rod. John Axford’s sabbatical was always expected to be temporary, but K-Rod’s ineffectiveness could hasten the Ax Man’s return to the ninth inning. To that end, if someone cut loose Axford in your league, get on that right away.
The Padres apparently intend to retain closer Huston Street well into the future, meaning the Luke Gregerson (Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%, CBS 6%) era will have to wait—if it ever arrives at all. Gregerson has rebounded nicely after a disappointing 2011, but with Street very likely in the fold through this season and beyond, Gregerson’s few owners can look elsewhere for speculative closers.
Finally, an appropriate home for Joaquin Benoit (Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 3%, CBS 15%). Jose Valverde once again missed a stretch of action without actually being placed on the disabled list, setting up a save opportunity for Benoit on Sunday, which he converted easily. The Tigers say Papa Grande’s ailment is not serious, but as I always preach: when in doubt, add and hold onto the next-in-line guy until the incumbent is back and healthy.
With Giants closer Santiago Casilla continuing to struggle (he was burned for a couple runs the same day this column ran last week), let’s give left-hander Jeremy Affeldt (Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%, CBS 1%) another go-round here for you hardcore NL-only types. As always, Sergio Romo is the preferred handcuff, but he’s already gone in any serious NL-only league and many standard mixers. Affeldt has been unscored upon in five post-break outings and could very well pick up a save or two if Bruce Bochy begins to shy away from the struggling Casilla.
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