Hector Rondon has put together a solid campaign, posting a 2.96 ERA and 21:7 K:BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings. However, it hasn't been enough to save him from getting pulled from a recent save chance and then passed over during a subsequent save opportunity for the Cubs.
The person to relieve Rondon in the ninth inning in that bullpen-upending game was Pedro Strop, who struck out two in an inning of work to earn his second save of the year. He was then passed over himself Sunday for Jason Motte, and manager Joe Maddon said Strop was unavailable for that game. Motte has a 42-save season to his credit with the Cardinals in 2012, but he's posted a 3.80 ERA and 14:8 K:BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings and figures to be behind the other two pitchers in the pecking order.
With things completely up in the air, the Cubs found themselves with the lead in a close game on Thursday. What did they do? Revert to form, with Strop pitching the eighth and Rondon locking down the save in the ninth.
I obviously wouldn't drop Rondon from any fantasy teams. However, Strop should be owned in most leagues by this point, as his 3.46 ERA and 29:10 K:BB ratio in 26 innings are plenty good enough to continue to work into the saves picture over the rest of the season.
One guy we can't forget about is Rafael Soriano, who signed a minor-league deal with the team earlier this week. He's not going to make an instant impact for the team, and he's not expected to even join the major-league roster until after the All-Star break. However, if a primary closer hasn't been established by the time he arrives, Soriano could certainly end up being the guy.
The Rays' closer role is apparently open for business. Brad Boxberger had been doing a fine job in the absence of Jake McGee, posting a 2.78 ERA and 30:10 K:BB ratio in 22 2/3 innings while racking up 15 saves before blowing his first save opportunity last week (but allowing just one run in the game and getting a win).
After the blown save, Boxberger missed a week with triceps tightness, before returning Wednesday to a setup role ahead of McGee, who earned his first save of the year. One day later, Boxberger was thrown out in the seventh inning, recording one out and allowing one hit before being replaced. It would appear that McGee is the favorite for saves at this point, though Boxberger and Kevin Jepsen could also be in the mix.
In a move that didn't have fantasy owners rushing to the waiver wire, Andrew Miller was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a forearm strain. The timetable for his return could be virtually any length, and while he's sidelined, Dellin Betances is in line for the ninth-inning role.
Betances was already owned in virtually all competitive leagues, as he has allowed just one earned run while racking up 54 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings. The owners that drafted him in the mid-rounds in March may be getting the last laugh after all.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has finally made a switch in the ninth inning, removing the abysmal Fernando Rodney and going with Carson Smith as the closer. Smith has been excellent this season, putting together a 1.38 ERA and 29:5 K:BB ratio in 26 innings.
Though the specter of Rodney re-entering the ninth inning once he gets back on track is present, Smith should be owned in all leagues. He's proven to be talented enough to run away with the job, if he can enter the stubborn M's manager's good graces.
Things may be picking up on the trade market for Jonathan Papelbon, and while the Phillies have yet to find a deal they like enough to trade the closer, it seems like he could be shipped out of town at any point.
That means that it's worth stashing Ken Giles on your fantasy team if possible. Giles struggled early in the season but has rebounded enough to own a 2.16 ERA and 26:11 K:BB ratio in 25 innings, perfectly respectable numbers for a potential ninth-inning candidate. With so many closing situations in apparent flux over the last week or two, grabbing Giles and betting on a Papelbon trade could prove wise.
Pick Him Up? Rankings
Brett Cecil, TOR
Carson Smith, SEA
Jake McGee, TB
Tyler Clippard, OAK
Brad Ziegler, ARI
Pedro Strop, CHC
Addison Reed, ARI
Ken Giles, PHI
Sean Doolitte, OAK
Kevin Jepsen, TB
Neftali Feliz, TEX
Bobby Parnell, NYM
Jim Johnson, ATL
Joe Smith, LAA
Joaquin Benoit, SD
Jason Motte, CHC