Ah, the trade deadline.
If there's one position where it promises to wreak havoc, it's relief pitcher. A player's value there is so touch-and-go to begin with, forever dependent on whether he's his team's designated source for saves, and many of the teams in the market for relief already have a closer.
In other words, any of Mychal Givens, Alex Colome, Shane Greene, Ian Kennedy, Roenis Elias, Ken Giles, Edwin Diaz, Felipe Vazquez, Kirby Yates and Will Smith could see his value plummet in the next couple days. They're the closers most rumored and most likely to be moved. Whatever percentage actually changes hands figures to be small, but nonetheless, you're bracing for the worst today.
Naturally, the risk isn't the same for each of those pitchers. The last five -- Giles, Diaz, Vazquez, Yates and Smith -- stand a better chance of closing for their new teams than the others. But if, say, the Dodgers acquire any of them, you think Kenley Jansen is vacating his ninth-inning role? Not a chance.
And the worst part is there are few obvious closers-in-waiting. Keone Kela would make sense for the Pirates and Seth Lugo for the Mets. Hard-throwing Andres Munoz presents an exciting alternative for the Padres but is inexperienced and may not get the first crack. And while we have reason to believe Daniel Hudson would step in for Giles, he'd be just a stopgap measure for a team with little to play for.
Who knows? Maybe the new rule outlawing August trades will make for an unusually quiet deadline and none of these relievers will get moved. The possibilities are too far-ranging to speculate, so for now, let's focus on the closers whose jobs are in danger for other reasons.
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.
I was all geared up to say Greg Holland remains the reliever to own in Arizona, believing he would regain the role in short order after a demotion that seemed premature to me. Sure, he had blown three saves in July, but his ERA had risen only about half a run during that time. And no one else in the Diamondbacks bullpen seemed better equipped for the job.
The one thing Holland couldn't afford to do post-demotion, though, was what he did Monday, allowing four earned runs in one-third of the inning.
So ... replacements. Yoan Lopez recorded a save most recently and has an ERA and WHIP that demand a longer look, but his strikeout rate isn't passable for a major-league reliever, much less a closer. Yoshihisa Hirano got a chance to close games down the stretch last year and has recovered from a slow start with a 1.53 ERA in June and July.
Those of us who made the mistake of presuming Blake Treinen would automatically reclaim the closer role following his June bout with a shoulder strain may have been duped again, this time into presuming Liam Hendriks has a firm grip on the role. The 2019 All-Star blew his second save in three appearances Sunday, but what's most interesting about it is he was working the eighth inning. Treinen came in to work the ninth inning -- again, after the lead was already blown -- and ended up with a win.
Hendriks' season numbers are still vastly superior, and Treinen hasn't had any more success finding the strike zone since returning from injury. Maybe it was a simple matter of manager Bob Melvin bringing in his best reliever to face a tougher part of the order, but it's worth noting Melvin didn't officially anoint Hendriks the closer even after Treinen returned, saying only "we're still with Hendriks right now." Hendriks may be on thinner ice than many assume.
No timetable yet for Shawn Kelley's injury -- a biceps strain that turned up nothing alarming in the MRI -- but he's fully expected to return at some point. And by then, either of Chris Martin or Jose Leclerc could be traded. I wouldn't trust manager Chris Woodward to settle on a replacement in the meantime. Martin converted a save Friday and Leclerc blew one Sunday, which would seem to tip the scales in the former's favor, but Leclerc only got the chance Sunday because Martin was out with a stiff back. And as Woodward pointed out, Leclerc was working for the fourth time in five days.
Leclerc has more upside and has been terrific from May 1 on, compiling a 3.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 14.1 K/9, but he seems to have these hiccups whenever he's on the verge of securing something more for himself.
Update: Martin has since been moved to the Braves, where he could challenge Luke Jackson for saves. Leclerc appears to be the obvious choice to close for the Rangers with Kelley sidelined.
When it comes to trading closers, the Marlins already kicked things off by shipping Sergio Romo to the Twins, creating a vacancy that, while unattractive, did at least give us 17 saves from Romo. Nick Anderson has the potential to be better. His 14.1 K/9 is fifth among pitchers with at least 25 innings, and while the ERA and WHIP are both on the high side, it's mostly because of a bloated BABIP. His 2.77 FIPis more indicative of how he's actually pitched.
Resident Marlins fan Chris Towers suggested that Trevor Richards, who was recently bumped to the bullpen, could be a dark horse candidate for the ninth-inning role, but there are a number of boxes he'll have to check off first. He does have one dominant secondary pitch, though (a changeup), which may not be enough to sustain him in a starting role but may be just enough for a high-leverage relief role.
The Twins were on the receiving end in the Sergio Romo deal, and it's possible the veteran right-hander cuts into Taylor Rogers' save chances a little. After all, Blake Parker did almost right up to the point when the Twins DFA'd him. Keeping Rogers flexible to work the highest-leverage situation, possibly for multiple innings, may be a top priority for them. Or maybe they've come around to the idea that he's really that much better than anyone else they have and deserves all the glory as a result. Even if that's the case for now, just be aware they're still in the market for relief help and could acquire someone with a clearer case for bumping Rogers back to setup duty.
On the one hand, the Rays' options for the ninth inning have narrowed considerably. Emilio Pagan has been by far their best reliever statistically and is indeed responsible for three of their past seven saves. But only three of their past seven. Diego Castillo, who's the team leader in saves, picked up the latest one Sunday, and while it was his first since June 16, the Rays have also had Oliver Drake, Adam Kolarek and Colin Poche record a save since then. So it remains as messy as ever even if two names stand out above the others.