StrategyJuly 17, 2013


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Bottom of the 9th: Buying and Selling Saves

By R.J. White

Now that the All-Star break is upon us, it’s time to seriously take stock of the standings in your roto leagues to determine which categories you can target to gain the most points over the remainder of the season. Many times, the saves category pops out in particular as one that can make or break your season. Oftentimes, there is little separation among many teams in total saves, thereby making additional saves acquired through trade all the more valuable as you jockey for position in the standings.

There are certain situations where buying or selling saves makes absolute sense. If you only own one closer and are far behind the pack in saves, you should be looking to trade that closer for an upgrade elsewhere. If you own five or six closers and have a sizable lead in the standings (or if you have just one other team in your vicinity, making you only in danger of dropping one point), you can also consider selling saves to help in other areas.

Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle, and the choices you make before your league’s trading deadline could determine whether your surge ahead in the saves category. Below are a few buy recommendations who I expect to easily outstrip their perceived value, as well as a few other sell recommendations who could help bring in a package that includes a “lesser” closer who may actually outperform the ninth-inning option you’ve sold.

Buy

Koji Uehara, Red Sox

We expected Uehara to be a quality closer based on his otherworldly career strikeout-to-walk rate, and he hasn’t disappointed, picking up four saves in July while allowing just three hits and one walk in 8.1 innings and racking up 11 strikeouts. Those aren’t fluky numbers — he’s that good. Among pitchers with at least 40 innings in the books this season, Uehara is second in ERA, fourth in strikeout rate, sixth in strikeout-to-walk rate and fifth in xFIP. Leverage the perception that the Red Sox could trade for a closer to buy him underneath his true value, and he could give you top-five RP numbers the rest of the way.

Fernando Rodney, Rays

Look at his 3.79 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 56:24 K:BB ratio over the course of the season, and Rodney has been pretty mediocre, especially when put up against his excellent 2012 performance. However, most of Rodney’s troubles came in May, and he hasn’t been scored upon since back-to-back two-run outings in mid-June. Over his last 12 appearances, Rodney has pitched 12 scoreless innings while putting together a 20:2 K:BB ratio. He’s back to being elite, but the early season hiccups could make him available at a slight discount, or even cheaper. Rotoworld’s first-half closer rankings have Rodney in Tier 4 at number 19 overall at the RP position. If that’s about how his owner values him, there’s profit to be made.

Kenley Jansen, Dodgers

Can Jansen be had at a discount? If his owner isn’t rating him among the elite, then you’ve found a discount. Jansen has a top-notch 65:8 K:BB ratio in 46.1 innings, and while there’s always the risk the Dodgers decide to go trade for an established name like Jonathan Papelbon, it would make more sense for them to spend resources strengthening the infield and rotation. Jansen has a Craig Kimbrel-type upside for fantasy owners. Pair it with a season WHIP of 0.97, and he’s a guy I would put with the cream of the crop for the remainder of the season.

Sell

Mariano Rivera, Yankees

Hear me out. Rivera put up an excellent total of 30 saves before the break along with a 1.83 ERA and 32:7 K:BB ratio over 34.1 innings that make him look every bit of the dominant closer he has been over the course of his career. However, Rivera has in fact been more hittable this season than at any point of his tenure as the best reliever in baseball, allowing more than one hit per inning for the first time since working as a part-time starter in 1995. Coming off an All-Star MVP honor, Rivera’s trade value right now is higher than it will be at any point for the remainder of the year. If the Yankees can’t stay in the playoff hunt thanks to their substandard offense, it could cost Rivera a few save chances as well. I think you can cash him in at a top-five value, and it would be wise to do so. Start with the Yankees fan(s) in your league.

Edward Mujica, Cardinals

Mujica has worked himself into the discussion as an elite closer by saving 26 games while posting a 2.20 ERA and an incredible 0.73 WHIP, earned on the strength of a walk rate that is down to miniscule proportions after he walked just two batters over 41 innings before the break. Low walk rates are nothing new to Mujica — he walked just one batter per nine innings after coming to the Cardinals from Miami last season. However, expecting him to maintain his current rate is foolish. Mujica doesn’t offer a whole lot in the strikeout department either, topping 7.5 K/9 just once in his eight-year career (2010). I don’t expect Mujica to fall off the map, but I do think his trade value is potentially higher than his value over the remainder of the season when you consider he’s actually a detriment in Ks. If I could flip him for Jansen, or get Uehara plus some nice sweeteners, I’d leap at the chance.

Addison Reed, White Sox

Reed burst on to the fantasy scene last season, saving 29 games for the White Sox. However, he did so with a 4.75 ERA and 1.36 WHIP while posting a solid but not quite elite 8.8 K/9 rate. This year, he’s walked less batters and allowed less hits, improving his WHIP to 1.07, but the ERA still sits at an elevated 3.95 mark thanks to giving up 13 earned runs in 18 innings since the beginning of June. The White Sox are just 9-21 over their last 30 games and are effectively out of the playoff hunt. With the team expected to be sellers during trading season, they could have one of the worst win percentages in baseball over the remainder of the season, a situation that could make saves hard to come by. I would look to deal Reed’s 24 saves and low WHIP for a stronger option on a better team.

 
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe and contributes to CBSSports.com's MLB Rumors blog. He has previously written for FanHouse, Razzball and FanDuel. 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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