CINCINNATI -- Back in March, I sifted through all 30 teams to come up with Closer Power Rankings, comparing each closer situation in terms of stability and reliability. For the most part, things played out as many of us imagined, though the status of Craig Kimbrel in Atlanta and Steve Cishek in Miami was not as solid as it appeared, though for very different reasons in those two cases. Meanwhile, the once-shaky situations for the Rockies, Mets and Astros have smoothed themselves out nicely.
As we learned in the first half, though, bullpen roles can change in a hurry. Even during the All-Star break, closer controversies haven't taken a break, with Jonathan Papelbon alerting the media that he wants the Phillies "to you-know-what or get off the pot." Once the break is over, it's not long until the July trade deadline, so if anything, the level of closer intrigue will only go higher in the very near future.
With several changes likely to be underfoot, I'm not taking the opportunity to re-rank all 30 teams, as the majority of situations still appear to be stable for the foreseeable future. However, a dozen of them look ripe for change, as soon as in the next few weeks.
What ensues just below aren't Power Rankings as much as they are relative readings on a hypothetical Flux-O-Meter (not to be confused with a flux capacitor). Each of these 12 closer situations looks primed to be in flux but to varying degrees. So let's rank 'em! The deeper we go in the countdown, the more urgency there is for you to consider how the potential changes could impact you in Fantasy.
Joakim Soria was supposed to be the stabilizing force in the Tigers' bullpen, but since the beginning of June, he has blown a pair of saves while allowing opponents to slug .632 against him. Velocity isn't the problem; Soria is actually throwing his fastball harder than he ever has as a major leaguer. Should Soria's struggles deepen, there isn't a clear internal replacement, though Al Alburquerque and Blaine Hardy would seem to be the frontrunners.
There isn't really a closer controversy in San Francisco, but I could see one developing in the second half. Santiago Casilla has been more walk- and homer-prone this season, and one has to wonder how long he can be effective with a 1.39 WHIP. Meanwhile, Hunter Strickland has performed well in a setup role, getting strikeouts in the process. Sergio Romo is still in the picture, too, though it's been tough sledding for him over the past month and a half.
Though the Brewers have played better of late, they are still primed to be sellers at the trade deadline. Francisco Rodriguez is having a nice bounce-back season and could fill another team's need for a closer or setup man. If you have Rodriguez in a league where you are flush with closers, this would be the time to trade him, just in case he gets dealt to a team that doesn't give him save opportunities. Or you can just pick up Jeremy Jeffress as his handcuff.
Tyler Clippard could change teams at the deadline, and wherever he goes, he is almost certain to lose value. He has spent much more of his career setting up than closing and could easily move back to that role. There is also a very short list of places where his 23 percent ground ball rate would play as well as it has in Oakland. Clippard's flyballitis has apparently spread to likely successor Evan Scribner, who has allowed 13 earned runs over his last 13 innings. The Oakland bullpen should probably just be avoided, but if you wanted to write a book about it, you could call it "Abad Situation."
8. Blue Jays
The Jays have been in the market for a closer at least since spring training, so as well as Roberto Osuna has performed, I wouldn't count on him keeping the role. Papelbon, Clippard, Rodriguez and Aroldis Chapman have all been mentioned as possible additions, and Cishek has recently been tacked on to that list. There's no need to hunt for an internal replacement for Osuna -- one is hardly needed -- but Osuna owners may soon have to look for saves elsewhere.
Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon has expressed a preference for Fernando Rodney as his closer. Rodney has blown three of his last six save attempts. Carson Smith hasn't blown one since April, and he has been credited with six of the Mariners' last eight saves. In other words, even though McClendon has been looking for a way to return Rodney full-time to his previous role, Smith is making it difficult for him to do so. As much as I would like to assume Smith will win the job outright, it seems like this controversy is far from over.
A closer controversy with a Joe Maddon-led team? Say it ain't so. Jason Motte has nailed down four of the Cubs' last five saves, so he could be the closest thing that the Cubs have to a full-time closer. Given that Motte has become an extreme contact pitcher -- and one with a low ground ball rate -- I don't have much faith in him holding down a full-time role. If Hector Rondon shows signs of becoming the primary closer, I could see picking him up. Otherwise, I'm passing on this entire situation.
Reports have surfaced that Jay Bruce is available for trade, and the Johnny Cueto rumors are proliferating, so can the Aroldis Chapman trade talk be far behind? Wherever Chapman lands, he is certain to close and to be highly effective in doing so. J.J. Hoover seems like a lock to take over whenever Chapman departs, and he'd be a serviceable option in deeper mixed leagues.
The Padres' closer situation may soon come full circle. They appeared set to go into the season with Joaquin Benoit as their ninth-inning man...until they traded for Kimbrel on April 5. Now with the Padres looking like sellers, Kimbrel could be on the move again, and Benoit could be back as the team's closer. That is, unless they trade him as well. Though his future is uncertain, Benoit is not a bad target for a speculative pickup.
Maddon may be gone as the Rays' skipper, but Kevin Cash is maintaining the tradition of not going with a set closer. For the past month, Brad Boxberger has been used as if he is the team's primary closer, yet in a recent interview, he said that he has been told that the only constant in his usage is that he will pitch from the seventh inning on. Even though he entered the All-Star break on a roll, earning saves in each of the Rays' final three games of the first half, don't be surprised if he bounces between closer and setup duties. Still, if I am going to own anyone in the Rays' bullpen, it's going to be Boxberger, and not Jake McGee or Kevin Jepsen.
Even before Jason Grilli tore his Achilles, the Braves' closer situation looked to be a fluid one, since Grilli would have been a prime candidate to be traded away. Grilli's replacement, Jim Johnson, could face the same fate, so don't get too attached to him as a saves source. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has mentioned Arodys Vizcaino as a potential setup option, but he could be the one whom Gonzalez turns to in the ninth inning over the season's final two months. The hard-throwing righty has strikeout potential, but with all of 25 1/3 innings of big league experience, he should not be a top target in Fantasy.
Papelbon has seemingly been on the verge of being traded since last season, and he's even more tired of his limbo status than we are, as he has made abundantly clear during the All-Star break. While the Phillies have not provided Papelbon with many save opportunities, he has been outstanding, converting all 14 chances with a 1.60 ERA. He should find a gig as a closer somewhere, and his likely replacement, Ken Giles, should be similarly effective, though with a few more control issues. The time to add Giles, who is 27 percent owned on CBSSports.com, is now.