The Craig Kimbrel Trade
Clearly, the biggest piece of news over the last week was Sunday’s blockbuster sending noted elite closer Craig Kimbrel to the Padres. I would like to take this time to send my sincere condolences to those who spent significant resources on Joaquin Benoit, who is now relegated to setup duties. Even deeper condolences go to Kevin Quackenbush owners, as he went from intriguing handcuff sleeper to being sent to triple-A to start the year.
It seems crazy to say, but Kimbrel somehow found a way to get even more valuable in this deal. The run preventing extraordinaire who has never posted an ERA above 2.10 or a HR/9 above 0.5 just moved to the best pitchers’ park in the game. So, yeah, bully for Kimbrel owners.
On the other side of things, Atlanta’s closer situation becomes a lot less appealing. Unsurprisingly, Jason Grilli is getting the nod over Jim Johnson. People will worry about having a closer on such a bad team, but you have to consider that even the absolute worst teams will win 50 games, and most of Atlanta’s wins should be close given the lineup they’ll be trotting out on a daily basis.
Jenrry Mejia skips save opportunity
While warming up to come into a 3-1 game yesterday, the Mets closer left the bullpen complaining that his “elbow was barking.” It’s being called elbow tightness right now, but it’s unclear how much time he’ll miss. Either way, it’s obviously very scary for Mejia owners as elbow issues rarely go away quietly. In the even this is as serious as it sounds, Jeurys Familia is the favorite to take over the ninth inning. Buddy Carlyle came in for the save yesterday, but that was because Familia had already appeared in the game. Don’t go blowing your FAAB budget for him, though, as Bobby Parnell is set to return in a few weeks and appears even more likely to take over the closer role now.
Astros choose Luke Gregerson
It was a relatively surprising move, but the Astros named Luke Gregerson as their closer to start the season. I had been expecting something of a committee to take over the ninth inning, but for now, Chad Qualls and Pat Neshek will be taking care of the seventh and eighth innings. The good thing for their owners is that Gregerson could very well be on a shorter leash than most closers given the names Houston has behind him. It’s a blow for sure, but don’t go dropping Qualls in a deep league just yet, as he’s still one of the better handcuff options in the league right now.
Brad Boxberger named the Rays closer
Tampa Bay was another team that could have possibly gone with a committee to man the ninth inning, but Kevin Cash indicated that the job would likely be Boxberger’s until incumbent Jake McGee returns after undergoing elbow surgery in December. That return is tentatively set for late April or early May right now, so Boxberger still doesn’t carry too much value. With that being said, the Rays’ offense, like the Braves’, is lackluster enough that a good chunk of their wins this season should be accompanied by a save.
Yankees and Dodgers won’t commit to a closer
Though they’re in entirely different situations with their respective bullpens, neither the Yankees nor the Dodgers are going to name a closer to start the year. In New York, Joe Girardi is expected to play match ups in the ninth. This does hurt Dellin Betances’ value a bit, but owners shouldn’t go overreacting too much. The right-hander is still going to get the majority of the save opportunities for now even if it’s just because the majority of the match ups will be in his favor. Andrew Miller owners should be holding tight, though, as Betances could lose his grip on those chances with any and all early struggles.
In Los Angeles, the Dodgers are just in a holding pattern trying to get by until Kenley Jansen returns at some point in May. It appears the saves will be divided between Chris Hatcher and Joel Peralta, with the former getting the nod yesterday. If you’re relying on one of these guys for saves to start the year, I’m very sorry.