StrategyJune 7, 2012

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Bottom of the 9th: The More Things Change …

By R.J. White

This past week was unique with regards to closers in that there wasn’t a whole lotta change. Tom Wilhelmsen wound up as the guy to own in the Seattle bullpen after locking down a couple saves, though the team could turn back to Brandon League at any point. Santiago Casilla has been sidelined with a bruised knee, allowing Sergio Romo to pick up three June saves and Jeremy Affeldt to add another. If you’re looking for one pickup this week, Romo is the guy to own, at least until Casilla pitches again and we’ve cleared the “DL?” phase. And that’s about it for drama. Instead of our normal look at new closers after the jump, we’ll discuss a few closer trade candidates. With June already upon us, you may have precious little time with a few of your closers before they’re recast as setup men.


ARI J.J. Putz
ATL Craig Kimbrel
BAL Jim Johnson
CIN Aroldis Chapman
CLE Chris Perez
COL Rafael Betancourt
HOU Brett Myers
KC Jonathan Broxton
LAA Ernesto Frieri & Scott Downs
LAD Kenley Jansen
MIL John Axford
MIN Matt Capps
NYY Rafael Soriano
PHI Jonathan Papelbon
PIT Joel Hanrahan
STL Jason Motte
TB Fernando Rodney
TEX Joe Nathan

Safe … For Now

BOS Alfredo Aceves
CHC James Russell
CHW Addison Reed
DET Jose Valverde
MIA Heath Bell
NYM Frank Francisco
OAK Brian Fuentes
SD Huston Street
SEA Tom Wilhelmsen
SF Santiago Casilla
TOR Casey Janssen
WAS Tyler Clippard

Trade Candidates

HOU Brett Myers
Myers has made the transition back to closing in 2012 as seamless as could be expected. A starter from 2002 to 2006 and from 2008 to 2011, Myers is pitching far better than he did as the Phillies’ closer back in 2007, when he saved 21 games with a 4.33 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He’s knocked those ratios down to 2.25 and 0.90, respectively, this season, quietly building up plenty of trade value despite his $11 million contract this year. With a 2013 $10 million option that vests if he finishes a certain number of games, Myers can expect to be traded within the next two months to a contender in need of a quality setup man. The Astros are going to have to kick in a lot of money in a deal, especially with the 2013 option requiring a $3 million buyout, but it’s a necessary step for this rebuilding team. Wilton Lopez has been fantastic this season, with a 2.35 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 24/4 K/BB ratio to his credit, and should fit right in to the closer role once a trade happens.

KC Jonathan Broxton
The Royals made a very shrewd pickup when they signed Broxton and installed him as their closer. Making just $4 million on a one-year deal, Broxton has surprised everyone by posting a 1.59 ERA and converting 14 of his 16 save opportunities. Will it last? He has an awful-for-a-RP 14/8 K/BB ratio in 22.2 innings this season, but organizations that aren’t as saber-savvy may look past the stats and value his “proven dominance” (i.e., ability to convert saves) in late-inning situations. The Royals aren’t a threat to compete this year, and they’d be very happy to turn Broxton into a high-minors prospect that could contribute with the big-league club for multiple years down the road. Greg Holland has been excellent since returning from the DL in May, and he would figure to get saves in the event of a trade.

MIN Matt Capps
Would you want your team to give up even a single prospect to trade for Capps? Me either, but he’s converted 14 of 15 save opportunities this year for Minnesota while posting respectable ratios and a .224 BAA despite an underwhelming K rate. Capps is another “proven” closer that has saved at least 15 games in each of the last six seasons spanning time spent with three teams. He’s signed for $4.5 million this year and has a $6 million option for 2013 or a $250,000 buyout, so he’s an affordable piece for a contender than values experience over talent. A committee could be formed between lefty Glen Perkins and righty Alex Burnett if Capps is dealt.

SD Huston Street
The Padres are chugging along at the bottom of the NL West, losing two out of every three games this season. The team received a boost this week when closer Huston Street was activated from the DL, but expecting his presence to be the thing that turns this team around is comical. Instead, Street has six weeks to prove to other teams he’s healthy and worth trading for. In the last year of his deal (his 2013 option will surely be declined), Street seems like a logical sell for a team that has just one other player on their current roster making more than $4 million (Carlos Quentin, another 2013 FA) and a team that is going nowhere fast. Dale Thayer did an admirable job filling in for Street over the past few weeks, until he was thrown into the fire in a few non-save situations. He should re-inherit the closer gig if Street departs.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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