As we all expected, yesterday’s trade deadline (and the days preceding it) came hot and heavy with reliever movement. There is a ton to get to, so let’s not waste any more time. As always, keep up to date with the closer grid, which is almost entirely yellow this week because of all the movement.
Andrew Miller to Cleveland
The biggest reliever move of the week came when the Indians acquired Andrew Miller from New York. Things are pretty straightforward to the Yankees, who have Dellin Betances to slide right in as the closer. He was almost certainly owned already in your leagues, and the group behind him is far from inspiring. They did add one new name to slide into the eighth inning, which we’ll get to in just a few sections.
Meanwhile, Cleveland now has a fascinating bullpen that could prove to be immensely frustrating for fantasy owners. As of this writing, there hasn’t been any specification as to how the roles will be split up, but the assumption now is that they will play matchups whenever possible. Basically, this means that if a great lefty or a group of lefties is coming up in the eighth, Miller will enter then and Cody Allen will pick up the save. With that being said, Miller is still the better arm and should get more opportunities. I’d wager it’ll be something close to a 65/35 split in the lefty’s favor. Allen will still get enough saves and put up strong enough ratios to hold on to in most leagues, though.
Mark Melancon to Washington
Melancon is one of the more under-appreciated closers in the game, sitting in the tier below the elites like Miller, Chapman, etc., but above the unreliably solid like the entire AL West. He should move into a great situation for his value by taking over the ninth for the Nationals. I wouldn’t worry about his role being messed with there, as Dusty Baker is one for defined roles, giving Melancon plenty of save opportunities for one of the NL’s best teams. Jonathan Papelbon loses his role, and is droppable in just about every non-holds league.
The Pirates still boast a pretty solid back end, with Tony Watson sliding into the ninth and Neftali Feliz taking over the eighth. Watson has long been one of the more underrated arms in baseball, though he’s taken a bit of a step back this year in terms of walks and home runs. He has gotten better lately, though the walks are still up from his previous norms. He should obviously be owned, but I’d keep an eye on this situation moving forward. Watson isn’t a guarantee this year, and Feliz has been good enough to put some pressure on if the former falters at all over the next few weeks.
Given Milwaukee’s place in the standings, selling their top relievers was something of an inevitability. This is a blow to those who owned either one, particularly Jeffress. On the other hand, this is good news for those who bet on Thornburg being the last man standing, which was no sure thing. Since the Brewers had three names who could have reasonably been dealt, it was difficult to predict who would end up with the late-season saves. If Thornburg is available, you should of course add him, as his peripherals suggest he will be successful in the majority of however many save chances he can squeeze out of that team.
Texas’ situation will be an interesting one to watch. It is this writer’s assumption that Sam Dyson will continue to close games for the Rangers, but that might not be a long-term solution. He’s been solid this year, but the strikeouts are way down. Of course, many of the same things can be said of Jeffress. Unless you can grab someone like Thornburg, Watson, or Jake Barrett (more on him in a second), I would hold on to Jeffress in hopes that Dyson has a short leash.
Tyler Clippard to New York
In terms of reliever trades, this is probably the least exciting of the week. With that being said, there is still fantasy relevance. Starting with Clippard, his time as Arizona’s closer proved to be short-lived and underwhelming. He does slide into the eighth inning for the Yankees, so if you are desperate in a holds league, you could look at him. Of course, the Yankees figure to have a rough final two months, so holds might not be aplenty.
In Arizona, Jake Barrett takes over as the closer, leapfrogging the struggling Daniel Hudson. I still believe the latter can bounce back and take the role over at some point, but Barrett needs to falter before that happens. The rookie has been okay for the Diamondbacks this year, striking out over a batter per inning and maintaining a manageable walk rate. However, home runs have been an issue and the lack of a track record makes it scary. He’s getting saves, so he should be owned, but don’t be surprised if he comes in with a short leash.
Wade Davis to the DL
Well, in some non-trade news, the Royals’ closer moved from the middle of every trade rumor to the disabled list with a flexor strain. This is definitely concerning, as Davis has shown some troubling signs in performance and health all year, and this type of injury can often lead to Tommy John surgery. Kelvin Herrera needs to be added if he hasn’t been already, and Joakim Soria becomes a solid handcuff. For what it’s worth, the Royals believe Davis can be back in short order. However, they will likely be out of the race by that time, and really have no incentive to rush Davis back. I’m banking on Herrera to be the most valuable reliever in this bullpen for the rest of the season.
Steve Cishek struggled again on Sunday night, making Edwin Diaz that much more appealing. It’s been like this all year, with Cishek earning just enough good will between every blown save, but eventually something will have to give.
In Houston, Will Harris has allowed runs in three of his last six outings and may be losing a grip on the closer role. I’m looking to add Ken Giles where I can. Even if he doesn’t get promoted soon, he’s quietly been one of the best relievers in baseball since his rough start to the year. He’s an even stronger add in long-term leagues, as he could be back on his closer-of-the-future track next year.
Fernando Abad has been traded to Boston, leaving Minnesota with only half of its closer committee. Brandon Kintzler has been far from impressive for the Twins, but remains the closer for now. I wouldn’t exactly jump at the opportunity to get saves from this team, but keep an eye on Ryan Pressly and Trevor May if you must.