We’re at the point of the season where fantasy owners should start casting a serious eye at baseball’s July trading deadline. Nowhere is the shock of a deal felt more than in the bullpen, where a floundering team could part with an established ninth-inning arm to add to their stockpile of future assets. Most fantasy owners know that Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon is on the block and that Ken Giles would likely take over in the event of a trade; today, we’re going to look at the rest of the potential sellers around the league to identify a few more targets for save chasers.
Most expect the Phillies to find a taker for Papelbon, who has pitched very well this season. Giles is the clear heir apparent in Philadelphia.
The Red Sox are going nowhere fast this season, which could make the 40-year-old Koji Uehara expendable. If he’s traded, Junichi Tazawa is the clear favorite to slide into the closer role.
Aroldis Chapman has been one of the best closers in baseball over the last several years, but he has just one costly year of arbitration eligibility before reaching free agency. Could the Reds attempt to maximize their potential return by shopping the elite closer now? If so, Tony Cingrani would likely be the long-term solution in the ninth inning. Depending on the timing of the potential trade and the health of Cingrani, J.J. Hoover could return some short-term value as well.
Francisco Rodriguez has been worth every penny of his two-year deal thus far, and he’s on an affordable contract that includes a team option for 2017. If he’s dealt, the candidates to close include lefty Will Smith and righties Jeremy Jeffress, Michael Blazek and Jonathan Broxton. While Broxton is the one with closing experience, he has been far worse than the other three pitchers. I’d guess the first shot would go to Jeffress, but the team could decide to employ a committee if K-Rod is shipped out.
It’s been an ugly season in Oakland, which could turn the A’s into sellers. With expected closer Sean Doolittle sidelined virtually all year with an injury, Tyler Clippard has fared well in the ninth inning. He’s a free agent after this year and could be an affordable option for a competing club’s bullpen. The A’s would likely hand the ball to Evan Scribner, who has a 39:3 K:BB ratio and sub-1.00 ERA, making him a worthy fantasy pickup even if not closing.
The Braves dealt one closer right before the start of the season, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see them turn the trick again if Jason Grilli generates any trade interest. Jim Johnson is the clear second option, but he could possibly be on the move as well. If both are traded, the Braves could employ a committee featuring lefty Luis Avilan and righty Nick Massett, among others.
The Rockies are going nowhere fast, but closer John Axford has actually pitched pretty well and may be able to return some type of prospect on the trade market. Scott Oberg recorded a save at the end of May and would likely be the favorite, though I can also see a committee working the ninth that includes Oberg and Boone Logan.
Cody Allen still has several years of team control left, so the Indians’ asking price would likely be very high. However, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a given the Cleveland closer stays put. What could help the Indians part with Allen is that Zach McAllister has been excellent out of the bullpen and could profile as a closer long-term. Bryan Shawn would likely be first in line to close if Allen is in fact dealt.
Pick Him Up? Rankings
Brett Cecil, TOR
Carson Smith, SEA
Brad Ziegler, ARI
Ken Giles, PHI
Evan Scribner, OAK
Junichi Tazawa, BOS
Pedro Strop, CHC
Addison Reed, ARI
Jim Johnson, ATL
Jeremy Jeffress, MIL
Bobby Parnell, NYM
Joaquin Benoit, SD
Tony Cingrani, CIN
Rafael Soriano, CHC