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It may be just the start of a slew of changes with the approaching deadline, and not every bullpen has some exciting closer prospect waiting in the wings.
For now, though, let's focus on the hand we've been dealt, because there's plenty of closer turmoil already — nine bullpens in a state of flux, by my count. For each, the "pecking order" refers to who I'd care to roster most in Fantasy.
Cody Allen will remain the Indians' primary ninth-inning man even with the acquisition of Brad Hand, who is of course throws left-handed and has more multi-inning experience. But it sounds like Hand will basically be filling the Andrew Miller role, which makes you wonder what will happen when Miller comes back from the DL in a couple weeks. Wouldn't it make sense to dedicate one of the lefties to the ninth inning and have a righty to employ situationally, especially since Allen is probably the worst pitcher of the three? I wouldn't be so quick to drop Hand yet.
Kirby Yates steps into the closer role with Hand now in Cleveland, and you can make the case he has been the better pitcher of the two this season, employing a devastating splitter that has led to a 1.40 ERA. Fear of him following Hand out the door has kept Yates' ownership down, but if he isn't moved at the deadline, you can add him with confidence. Even closing for the Padres, a bottom-of-the-division club, Hand was among the NL saves leaders at the time he was dealt.
The Braves are connected to just about every big-name reliever on the trade block, so it's clear they're not totally sold on their late-inning situation — and reports of intended closer Arodys Vizcaino still being 2-3 weeks away from a throwing program certainly aren't putting anyone at ease. A.J. Minter has been a different pitcher since the start of June, showing better command while compiling a 2.41 ERA in 20 appearances, and is the presumed closer of the future. If the Braves don't trade for someone else, the 24-year-old lefty might not relinquish the role once Vizcaino is ready.
What looked like a minimal DL stay for a pinched nerve in his toe has instead become an extended absence for a stress reaction in Sean Doolittle's foot. Still, his absence is expected to last "weeks, not months," so he should remain stashed in all leagues. Ryan Madson got the first save in his absence, but Kelvin Herrera has more closing experience and should get regular chances for as long as Doolittle is sidelined.
The Cubs are in the mix for Zach Britton, which offers some insight into their feelings about Brandon Morrow these days. Morrow's recent bout with biceps inflammation isn't thought to be a long-term issue, but seeing as he's on the DL for the second time in a month, they may want someone more durable for the ninth inning. Pedro Strop got the first save in Morrow's absence, but he was bailing out Carl Edwards, who himself was on the DL during Morrow's first DL stint. My guess is Edwards gets another crack, but it may be a full-blown committee, with Steve Cishek and Justin Wilson also factoring.
Jeurys Familia is off setting up for All-Star closer Blake Treinen now, and it's not like he had been a reliable ninth-inning option since returning from a shoulder injury in June. But he was by far the best the Mets had, which means they're in a real predicament now. Robert Gsellman got a two-inning save Friday and is up to five saves for the year, but it wasn't the cleanest two innings and he hasn't had the cleanest month. Anthony Swarzak was a closer-caliber reliever last year, but he has been rarely healthy and hardly effective this year.
Whether because the Cardinals trade Bud Norris or because the right-hander slumps his way out of the role, the transition to Jordan Hicks, now the hardest-throwing reliever in baseball, appears to be inevitable. It looked like it might be happening when Norris battled through a finger injury just before the All-Star break, and he had an ugly blown save Monday, allowing two runs on four hits. Still, it was only his third blown save of the season, and his ERA has only now caught up to Hicks. He probably gets a longer leash.
Ryan Tepera returned from elbow a three-week absence for elbow inflammation just before the All-Star break, but Tyler Clippard had performed so well in his absence that it only made sense for Tepera to settle back into setup duty. But of course, Clippard blew a save in particularly ugly fashion right after the break, allowing Tepera to get the Blue Jays' first save chance of the second half. But then there was Clippard, coming back for the save the next day. I would guess Clippard is still the front-runner here, but it's a day-to-day thing. And with Roberto Osuna's suspension ending the first week of August, it'll soon be a moot point.
Just when it seemed like the Phillies were finally turning closing duties over to their best reliever, Seranthony Dominguez, allowing him to convert five consecutive saves heading into July, Victor Arano then got the team's next three saves. The circumstances for each were kind of fishy — a multi-inning save, then a one-out save, then a case of Dominguez facing the heart of the order in the eighth — but it reintroduced uncertainty nonetheless. And then Pat Neshek, only recently back from a lengthy injury, got the final save before the break.
Most recently, Dominguez tried to preserve a ninth-inning tie against the Dodgers on Monday and failed to do so, so who knows where he stands now? He's still the Phillies reliever to own since he's the most talented of the bunch, but it looks like a true committee.