StrategyJuly 10, 2009

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Closer Complex: Domino Effect

By Matthew Robertson

Okay, so just when I thought this might have been a slow week regarding closers, one of the baseball’s best former closers gets released, a trade for a potential closer of the future was made, and there is now a lot of uncertainty involving situations in Atlanta, Florida and Pittsburgh. So, I guess that article saying that nothing of note has happened recently and everyone can carry on as usual will have to wait. But this is what makes fantasy and the Closer Complex a worthwhile read.

Everyone remember that huge $47 million contract B.J. Ryan signed a few years ago with the Blue Jays? Well, that contract is no more, as Toronto recently released the once dominant lefty, who has continuously suffered from injury and later ineffectiveness. Still, the move cost the Jays about $15 million to get Ryan off the books. Ryan has been effective at times, and a lot of teams will be interested in the 33-year-old lefty. I venture to say that a team looking for some low-cost upside could do well to sign the new free agent. Teams I think that could be interested are the Pirates, Marlins, Nationals, and possibly the Dodgers. In a corresponding move, Scott Downs has returned from the disabled list and will automatically return to closer duties.

The latest trade of interest was the Diamondbacks sending hard-throwing reliever Tony Pena to the White Sox for powerful, though free-swinging 1B prospect Brandon Allen. What’s interesting here is that the Diamondbacks were actively shopping Pena and current closer Chad Qualls. While Arizona likely got good value for Pena, he’s essentially third or fourth in line for saves on the White Sox, which virtually ends all fantasy value Pena would have had. With Pena’s departure, Jon Rauch, Juan Gutierrez, and Clay Zavada all gain value. This also brings up the possibility that top prospect Daniel Schlereth will be brought back up during the latter part of the season.

Situations of uncertainty are what make closer situations worth watching. The Braves have apparently started to switch their closer role by suddenly going with Rafael Soriano in the ninth instead of lefty Mike Gonzalez. Gonzalez, being a valued lefty, is always at risk of being used in matchups. Both relievers have pitched to about the same level and both have durability issues, with Gonzo getting the slight edge here. I’m going to go with a committee here, favoring Soriano, until either shows signs of ineptitude or until Atlanta manager Bobby Cox clarifies.

It appears that the Pirates and Marlins might indeed be bed-fellows in the future, as they have discussed a deal involving current Pittsburgh closer Matt Capps for Florida right-fielder Jeremy Hermida. These talks and the fact that Florida has recently acquired three journeymen relievers leads me to believe that the Marlins might not be confident in Matt Lindstrom’s health or performance going forward, or in their internal options. Capps will close on either team, but if he’s dealt the Pirates would likely go with John Grabow (also a potential trade-candidate), convert starter Virgil Vasquez, or possibly Evan Meek. Newcomer Joel Hanrahan’s confidence isn’t there right now and inconsistent flame-thrower Craig Hansen is disabled indefinitely. External options may be the way to go for the Pirates, and B.J. Ryan might now be in consideration as well. To be honest, I don’t think Pirates do this deal, but act accordingly if they do.

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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