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Jason Grilli Out for the Year

In a devastating turn of events for both the player and the team, Grilli blew out an Achilles tendon over the weekend and will miss the remainder of the season. The veteran was in the midst of a terrific bounce-back campaign and was on track for a decent little payday in free agency this winter; the rebuilding Braves, meanwhile, lost one of their better trade chips.

From a fantasy standpoint, Jim Johnson is clearly the man to add, as the team has already named him its new closer. Considering it’s been a few days since the injury, he’s almost certainly already owned in your league. If you missed out on him, don’t beat yourself up too badly. Like Grilli, Johnson is a free agent at year’s end and is having an impressive bounce-back season of his own. He is the exact kind of player who is typically dealt at the trade deadline, and any possible deal would probably land him back in a setup role. In fact, if you own him and can afford to lose out on a few saves over the next few weeks, trading him to shore up another spot on your roster may be the smart play. In deeper leagues, looking to add someone like Arodys Vizcaino could be a prudent move, as he’s likely the favorite to take over the closer role in Atlanta should Johnson get dealt.

Andrew Miller Back as Closer

While Miller was on the disabled list, Dellin Betances performed like the elite reliever he is in the closer role, making me assume the Yankees would split ninth-inning duties once the former was healthy again. It’s only been a week since he returned, but it is looking like I was wrong about this one. Miller has finished all three games he has pitched in, and it sure looks like Joe Girardi is going back to the pecking order we saw during the first couple of months of the season. It’s a justifiable move for the Yankees, as Miller is dominant against all hitters regardless of handedness, and having Betances at Girardi’s disposal in a fireman role is quite the luxury. It’s disappointing for Betances’ owners, though, as they miss out on some valuable saves. Luckily, he remains the top non-closer fantasy reliever in baseball.

Carson Smith Locking Down Ninth Inning

It’s been hard to decipher what exactly is happening in Seattle’s bullpen over the last month or so, but it looks like reason is finally starting to prevail. Fernando Rodney is a veteran with a good track record and a relatively high salary, so he was always going to get multiple chances to fail. Smith, on the other hand, is a young arm who had to prove himself. Last week may have sealed the fates of both right-handers. Rodney has given up a run in each of his last three outings, bumping his season ERA to 5.50, while Smith has thrown 4 1/3 scoreless innings since we last spoke and has finished every game in which he’s appeared in July. It is probably time for fantasy owners who have held out hope that Lloyd McClendon’s stubbornness would continue to provide Rodney some value to drop the veteran reliever.

Quick Hits

Francisco Rodriguez has been super-good this year. It’s going relatively unnoticed given Milwaukee’s placement in the standings, but he’s been a near-top-tier reliever despite being the 22nd one taken before the season. He will be traded at some point, but that won’t stop him from producing at a high level.

Neftali Feliz was the 23rd reliever taken in drafts this year. He’s since been released, but was given a second chance in Detroit. Joakim Soria has a strong hold on the Tigers closer job, but the group behind him is a mess, so Feliz could be second in line before too long.

Jeurys Familia just had himself a hell of a week, picking up five saves since last Tuesday. Even with the return of Opening Day closer Jenrry Mejia, Familia isn’t losing the ninth-inning role for the Mets.

Brad Boxberger hit a rough patch last week, but he believes he was tipping his pitches. Since acknowledging the problem, he’s converted three saves without allowing a run. It appears he’s back to his All-Star form.

Santiago Casilla remains the Giants’ closer, but it was far from a perfect week for him, as he allowed runs in two of his outings. Luckily for him, Sergio Romo has struggled recently as well, so Casilla’s job is safe for now.

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lvhawk
7/14
First, I'd like to thank you and BP for addressing a topic which would have had Nostradamus at his wit's end, as many fantasy pundits want nothing to do with such a difficult topic to predict.

Secondly, what is your take on the Brewer bullpen situation? I, too, believe K-Rod will be dealt in short order. As someone who owns 2 shares of the ever hard to predict closer-in-waiting (Will Smith & Corey Knebel; Broxton, Jeffress, and Blazek have also been picked up), how would you handicap this race? Thanks again. Cheers

PS: Do you think Fernando Rodriguez has a shot at Oakland's closer role if Clippard is moved?
redsoxthoughts
7/14
Thanks! I answered the first question below. It's hard to give a definitive answer to the Oakland one, since their bullpen has been such a mess. My best guess would be that they'd just play the hot hand until someone separates themselves, though Rodriguez would be the best bet for that. It wouldn't surprise me if Pomeranz got some chances too, especially against lefty-heavy lineups.
mattmaison
7/14
My thoughts, which have very little basis in facts:

– KRod won’t be traded because he’s signed through 2016
– Jeffress is most likely to close if KRod does get traded because Smith is left-handed, and Smith is a trade candidate himself.
– Knebel will be the closer in 2017
redsoxthoughts
7/14
I think KRod will be traded just because his value couldn't really be higher right now. He's a really valuable trade chip for them, and I don't see them passing that up. If Smith sticks around, and I agree he's a possibility to be traded as well, I don't think his left handedness will hold him back from closing. He hasn't shown big splits in his career, and actually has extreme reverse splits this season. Agree about Knebel, and think he could be the closer by some time next year.
mattmaison
5/27
I called it.