Jonathan Papelbon Traded to Washington
We all knew that Papelbon was going to be traded at some point this season, but I don’t think anyone saw this coming a month ago. Not only was this an intra-divisional trade, but he landed on a roster that already had a very good closer. Drew Storen has been one of the best relievers in the game, striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings, walking just over two batters per nine, and keeping both his ERA and FIP below 2.00. So, obviously, this trade is a huge blow to Storen owners, who lost what should have been surefire save chances all season. He’s too good to drop in all but the shallowest of leagues, however, as he can be one of the most valuable setup men in fantasy for the final two months.
In Philadelphia, Ken Giles is obviously the new closer. That’s been a much-anticipated move, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. There’s not much more to say on that front.
Joakim Soria Traded to Pittsburgh
This one was a little bit tougher to see coming, as the Tigers didn’t decide they were sellers until right before the deadline. Like Storen owners, those who rostered Soria have to be pretty upset right now, as a Mark Melancon injury is really the only way Soria will be getting consistent save chances this year. With that being said, Melancon has thrown a ton of innings the last few years, including in 2015, so the Pirates may want to give him extra rest down the stretch to ensure his health for the postseason. That could bode well for Soria’s fantasy value.
The situation in Detroit is much less clear than those in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Beyond Soria, the Tigers’ bullpen has been a complete mess, and that’s putting it kindly. They were certainly hoping they could turn Neftali Feliz’s season around, but he’s allowed 13 runs in eight appearances, so him taking over the ninth is out of the question. The best bet for saves from Detroit is Alex Wilson, who has had a great season after serving as little more than a throw-in in the Yoenis Cespedes-for-Rick Porcello trade last winter. He doesn’t have big strikeout numbers, but he’s performed well despite that and should be able to hold down the role throughout the rest of the season.
Jim Johnson Traded to Los Angeles
On the one hand, it’s a bummer for Johnson owners to lose his save opportunities. On the other hand, this should have been easy to see coming, since he was a pending free-agent closer on a rebuilding team. Arodys Vizcaino will now be racking up the save chances for the Braves. The 24-year-old has shown big-time stuff in the minors, but there are some real control issues here. He’s obviously worth the add right now, and he’s one of the better new post-deadline closers, but I’m a little lower on his long-term value than some. If he performs well in the next couple months, I’d look to deal him as a dynasty owner, as Shae Simmons appears to the best bet to close out the most Braves games in 2016.
John Axford out as closer in Colorado
Those were the three big trades from last week, but it certainly wasn’t the only closer news from the last seven days. After holding down the ninth inning admirably for the Rockies through most of the season, Axford finally lost a grip on his job after allowing runs in six of his eleven appearances in July. Unlike the former closers who were traded, Axford is definitely safe to drop at this point. As for his successor, this is a tough situation to gauge. The team has mentioned Rafael Betancourt and Tommy Kahnle as possible replacements. The former is likely the best bet at this point. His results haven’t been great this season, but his peripherals paint a much prettier picture. On top of that, he’s 40 years old and is just about done with his career. Kahnle, meanwhile, has big stuff but pairs that with some major control issues that could hurt in high-leverage situations. He’s also just 25 year -old, and Colorado may not want to throw him in the closer role and raise his eventual arbitration prices at this point. At this point, either guy can be a speculative add, and I’d try to avoid this situation altogether. If you have no other options, though, I’d look to Betancourt for now.
The Cubs’ bullpen situation has been rapidly changing all season, and it looks like we’re right back to where we started. Jason Motte held down the closer job for longer than I ever expected, but it appears the job once again belongs to Hector Rondon. If this has gone unnoticed in your league, add him as soon as possible.
Carson Smith has all the talent in the world, but he’s having too many struggles to be entirely comfortable with his job status. There’s been no indication that the Mariners are thinking about making a change, but after two rough outings last week, this is a situation to keep an eye on.
I don’t really talk about holds leagues very often (this is the Closer Report, after all), but the Cardinals made a few interesting moves last week that could be of interest to those chasing holds. Both Steve Cishek and Jonathan Broxton should be appealing additions to anyone in such leagues.