Fernando Rodney out as closer… for now

This was a long time coming, as Rodney has been struggling all year. There was just no way the Mariners could justify handing him the ball at the end of games anymore, regardless of his track record and contract. He has a 6.94 ERA with a discouraging 5.43 FIP, has blown three saves and has given up runs in 11 of 24 outings this season. The next man up appears to be Carson Smith, who should be owned in all leagues. At just 25 years old, he has been phenomenal for Seattle this season. He has racked up 29 strikeouts in just 25 innings while walking just five. He converted his first save chance on Saturday. While Lloyd McClendon made it sound like Rodney can earn his job back later in the year, it’s hard to see Smith letting the veteran get back in the ninth inning at any point.

Hector Rondon out, too?

The situation in Wrigleyville isn’t quite as clear as it is in Seattle, but it appears they may also be making a change in the ninth inning. On Saturday, Rondon came on for the save but was pulled after walking the first batter he’d face. Pedro Strop cleaned up after the leadoff walk and picked up the save. He would come in for the eighth inning on Sunday, with Jason Motte coming in to the ninth to close it out. It’s a very unclear situation and Joe Maddon hasn’t given any indication what his plan is moving forward. If you’re looking for saves on the waiver wire, Strop should be the man to get the most save chances in the event Rondon is taken out of the role. Just be aware that even if Strop does get Rondon’s save chances for now, there’s no guarantee it will last more than a week or two. Luckily, the former will help out with strikeouts even when he’s not racking up saves.

A curious week in Tampa Bay

Brad Boxberger came into the season as a placeholder for the Rays while Jake McGee was working his way back from the disabled list, but he performed well enough to earn at least a share of the job for the season. This past Wednesday, he blew a save. It was a little upset, but nothing major. That is, until he didn’t appear in a game the rest of the week without any reasoning being given by the Rays. On Sunday, we learned Boxberger was suffering from tricep tightness in his throwing arms. Although both he and the team insist it’s not serious, arm injuries are always troubling, so it’s a situation to monitor. The interesting part of all this has been that McGee didn’t get any of the save chances in Boxberger’s absence. Instead, Kevin Jepsen closed out all three games. Although Boxberger says he’ll be back today, Jepsen could be a sneaky add in leagues where Strop is unavailable with the possibility of Boxoberger’s injury popping back up later in the year.

Toronto is a fantasy closer nightmare

The Blue Jays have been by far the strangest bullpen to follow this season. Just over a week into the season, they yanked their closer out of the ninth inning in favor of a 20-year-old who hadn’t pitched above High-A coming into the season. While Brett Cecil would eventually get his job back, it was a strange series of events. In the end, it doesn’t really matter because no one gets saves in Toronto. No one on the team has a save since May 4th, and they only have two since April 23. Obviously, you can’t drop Cecil, but it’s been an incredibly frustrating six weeks for owners. In other Toronto news, they have been heavily connected to free agent Rafael Soriano once again this week. With a new agent, it appears he’ll be signed soon. He’s another guy who could be available on the waiver wire and give you saves from the second half of the year. He won’t be able to close out games as soon as he signs, but if he does indeed land in Toronto, don’t be surprised if they rush him into the role.

Quick Hits

Sean Doolittle’s trip back to the disabled list meant Tyler Clippard would hold on to the closer role a little longer despite a lackluster performance this year. He had another tough outing on Sunday, giving up three runs and the lead to the Red Sox. Lucky for him, Evan Scribner, the man most likely to take over should Clippard lose his job, also gave up three runs in that eighth inning.

Craig Kimbrel is still good, but he’s been incredibly disappointing this season. The elite closer moving to San Diego was supposed to make him one of the most dominant arms in recent memory. Instead, he’s given up three home runs (one less than his career-high) and is sporting a 4.29 ERA. He’s obviously of no risk in losing his job, and the peripherals point to a better performance moving forward, though still not nearly on the level he was at with Atlanta.

On the other side of things, Trevor Rosenthal is having a phenomenal year. He had some problems with control last year, but he’s taken care of that in 2015. The 25-year-old leads the National League with 19 saves and has a 0.64 ERA to boot. He’s one of the premier closers to earn in dynasty leagues.

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An update since this was published is that Rafael Soriano was signed by the Cubs this morning. Thoughts?
It's interesting for sure. It'll probably be a couple weeks before he even reaches the majors, and I'm sure it will be a little while after that until he starts getting save chances. With Maddon at manager, it wouldn't surprise me if there's no clear closer the rest of the way and he just rides the hot hand. So, if you have room on your roster to stash him for a few weeks, he could pay off. But I wouldn't fall over myself to pick him up just yet.
Hi Matt, great article. Can you tell me the best bet going forward out of Brett Cecil, Shawn Tolleson, or Carson Smith? Thanks!
Thanks! This is a good question, and they're all fairly close together in value. I'd go Tolleson, Smith, Cecil. I love Tolleson, and think the Rangers are going to stay competitive all year, so the save chances should be there. Most of the same can be said for Smith, but he has a slightly smaller track record, and the Mariners seem more likely to make a trade for a closer later. Cecil is in last because the Blue Jays seem very likely to make a move for a closer, already being linked to Soriano and Papelbon. Their offense also doesn't help, as that's the kind of team that wins in blowouts, which we've already seen with their month+ stretch without a save.