We're past the trade deadline and in the homestretch, which means there are only so many opportunities left for a closer gig to change hands -- at least with enough time for us to identify and move in on a replacement.
And frankly, some of the teams that sold at the deadline are so bad now that it's almost not even worth bothering. I mean, how many save opportunities are the Pirates or Diamondbacks going to get over the final seven weeks? Shoot, the Cubs have lost 12 straight.
Fortunately, most of the closer roles that have been on shaky ground all season long are finally beginning to firm up. There isn't much doubt that Emmanuel Clase is the closer in Cleveland, for instance, or that Gregory Soto is the closer in Detroit. (Still no clue about Tampa Bay, though.)
Even the Reds may have finally settled on a guy -- one who came over in a deadline deal. Their closer situation is the first of 10 I'll be examining here.
Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves (though it's usually one and the same).
Mychal Givens is responsible for each of the Reds' past three saves and all but one since coming over in a deadline deal with the Rockies. Manager David Bell has had trouble settling on any one guy for the closer role, but then again, most everyone he's tried has had an ERA around 5.00. Givens' is just over 2.00. Granted, his underlying numbers could be better, but he has a long enough track record of success to earn him the benefit of the doubt. His main threat at this point is Michael Lorenzen, who recently returned from the IL and hasn't been around long enough yet to disqualify himself.
Spencer Patton was already beginning to spiral when the Rangers dealt Ian Kennedy to the Phillies, so it wasn't so obvious he'd step into the closer role even though he had been working the eighth inning up to that point. He got the first save following the trade but appears now to have ceded the role to Joe Barlow, who recorded two saves over the weekend with Patton setting up for him both times. Barlow is 25, which would make him a more logical breakout candidate than the 33-year-old Patton, and seems to have the stuff for the role, but he's similarly untested and could end up spiraling himself.
Though Dylan Floro's ERA isn't bad, Anthony Bender's overall stat line is vastly superior and more befitting what you'd expect of a closer. And Floro may have given him a path to claiming the role with a blown save Saturday. He entered in the eighth inning, presumably for a four-out save, but ended up giving up the lead. The Marlins reclaimed it in the bottom of the inning, and Bender came in for an easy save. Of course, Floro bounced right back with a save Sunday, but Bender had worked three of the previous four days. And seeing as it was another shaky outing for Floro, I'm not sure he proved anything with it.
Truth is I don't really know who's most worth rostering here, which is what the "pecking order" is supposed to signify. It does appear that Drew Steckenrider has the leg up for saves right now given that he recorded the team's most recent one and has worked the ninth inning in two tie games since then, but it's possible manager Scott Servais was playing the leverage game with Diego Castillo, who worked the eighth inning both times. Still, that makes five straight appearances in which Castillo has entered before the ninth. Paul Sewald remains the most talented pitcher of the three, but he has been a little shaky of late and may be losing ground.
Aroldis Chapman is expected back from his bout with elbow inflammation any day now, but during what I've deemed The Year of the Setback, you'll want to know who the backup plan is anyway. Unfortunately, the Yankees haven't been able to sort it out during Chapman's time away.
Zack Britton, who was an All-Star closer before coming to the Yankees and has filled in admirably for Chapman in the past, hasn't looked right since coming back from an elbow injury and recently told manager Aaron Boone that he doesn't deserve those chances anymore. Chad Green got the most recent chance Monday -- and converted it -- but it may have been only because Jonathan Loaisiga was unavailable, having worked the previous two days.
I was Team Kimbrel when the White Sox acquired the longtime closer from the Cubs, hoping to see Liam Hendriks relegated to setup duty. But instead, it's been Craig Kimbrel working the eighth inning -- a role that's more foreign to him than to Hendriks, frankly. And Hendriks has already given manager Tony La Russa reason to rethink his decision, allowing three home runs over back-to-back appearances last week. It sure seems like La Russa intends to stand by him, though. Hendriks struck out the side in a perfect ninth inning Monday, with Kimbrel again working the eighth.
Like Hendriks, Will Smith has also looked vulnerable lately, blowing two saves already this month, and like Hendriks, his team acquired another team's closer at the trade deadline, in this case the Pirates' Richard Rodriguez. Of course, it was Chris Martin who got the save when Smith needed the day off recently. Also, neither Rodriguez nor Martin has the sort of strikeout rate you'd expect from a closer. Smith has been worked hard lately with the Braves putting together their first real hot streak of the season, so I suspect manager Brian Snitker will give him some leeway even as his ERA approaches 4.00.
I must admit I didn't anticipate an Alex Colome resurgence after Taylor Rogers went down and Hansel Robles was dealt, but here he is with five saves already in August. His overall numbers are still nothing to write home about, but he does have a 3.00 ERA since April, when he first lost the closer gig. The Twins have few alternatives and still a strong enough nucleus to win their share of games down the stretch even though they were sellers at the deadline. It's dangerous to put your faith in Colome, but it makes sense as a play purely for saves.
Amazingly, the Pirates don't have a single save chance since the trade deadline, so we can't say with any great certainty who gets the next one. All signs point to rookie David Bednard, though, who was always the most logical choice given that he was already filling the setup role and has the best numbers of anyone in the Pirates bullpen. His past two appearances both saw him close out one-run losses, which are logical places to use a closer who's hard up for work. Chris Stratton, who at one point seemed like he could be a factor as well, has at times worked the sixth and seventh innings since the Richard Rodriguez trade, which aren't logical places to use a closer.
Manuel Rodriguez recorded the Cubs' last save way back on Aug. 4, and the team's ongoing losing streak (up to 12 games now) shows why it may not matter so much who claims the closer gig, provided anyone does. Rodriguez was called up the day Craig Kimbrel was traded and has been pretty shaky overall, but it's not like anyone else is making a case. I like the idea of Dillon Maples -- who has a 2.28 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 11.7 K/9 -- coming back from a blister and taking the job, but even if the Cubs are thinking along the same lines, he may not get consistent enough opportunities to stake his claim.