StrategyJuly 3, 2009

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Closer Complex: And So It Begins…

By Matthew Robertson

The position of closer can sometimes be found by investing in a young prospect thought to be the closer-of-the-future, a free agent signee, a converted starter, or potentially a pitcher acquired in a trade. This past week saw a few trades that could impact closer possibilities in the future and might affect many long-term fantasy leagues. Current closers like J.P. Howell, Matt Lindstrom, and Joe Nathan were all acquired by their teams in minor trades or as a throw-in for more known players at the time, and the relievers that were recently shipped to new teams have the potential be impact players.

The most talented reliever that found himself in a new home was the former closer-of-the-future for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chris Perez. There is little doubt that Perez will find himself closing out ballgames sooner rather than later in his major league career. The Cards realized they had strength in their young bullpen with Perez, Ryan Franklin, Jason Motte, and Jess Todd in the wings so they shipped out arguably their most talented reliever to Cleveland for Mark DeRosa in hopes to improve their playoff hopes. This deal automatically makes Perez the heir to Kerry Wood in the future, as the Indians don’t have anyone else really capable of potentially closing in the future like the Cardinals do. So, invest properly.

The corresponding move to the Perez acquisition was the Indians trading fellow relief prospect John Meloan to the Tampa Bay Rays. This move leaves little doubt about the confidence the Indians have in Perez, and Tampa Bay got a bargin. The Rays are still without an established closer, even though J.P. Howell might be well on his way. I personally think that prospect Jake McGee still profiles as the best closer for the Rays, though Howell and Meloan’s presence along with McGee’s talent makes the Rays an interesting long-term closer situation that could bear impressive fruit.

The final move of the week saw the talented though highly inconsistent Joel Hanrahan of the Washington Nationals shipped in a package deal to the Pittsburgh Pirates. This year has seen Hanrahan implode with disastrous results. That is disheartening, as many of the games the Nationals ended up losing were due to the fact that Hanrahan blew the save opportunity. Still, he is an imposing force on the mound when on top of his game and the Pirates are relief-starved organization. Also, Hanrahan likely won’t see the ninth inning unless Matt Capps becomes injured, but setting up could do wonders for his confidence. The Pirates are slowly getter better and better by investing in high upside players with little risk.

Matthew Robertson is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Matthew in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of Havok1517.
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