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In just more than a week, the closer landscape will look a lot clearer. Right now, a lot of situations are in a holding pattern, as teams try to gauge the trade market and figure out if they need reinforcements or are ready to move on from their ninth-inning guys.
One such situation that probably won't be cleared up by the deadline is the Royals, where long-time closer Greg Holland continues to just not look like himself. His 3.34 ERA wouldn't be a problem, of course, if not for the presence of Wade Davis, arguably the best reliever in baseball.
Holland has been tagged for at least one run in four of his 10 outings in July, after going scoreless in nine of 10 in June. The bigger concern is probably that he has just been so hittable, though; 13 of the 22 hits he has allowed this season have come in July, and he has added five free passes to compound the problem. He is still striking batters out at a healthy clip -- 28.9 percent -- but that is actually down pretty significantly from the previous two seasons.
So, Holland isn't quite bad, but he isn't nearly the pitcher he used to be. Meanwhile, Davis continues to mow throw hitters, posting an 0.44 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, and already proved earlier in the season he could handle the closer's role when Holland went down for the season. If the Royals called on him, Davis could hold down the ninth without issue.
Will they make that move? Is there even a chance of it? That's the tough question to answer. Holland clearly isn't himself right now, but he has also earned the benefit of the doubt with his career track record. And, though the Royals have their sights on the World Series and can't really afford any weak links, their 6.5 game lead in the division gives them enough breathing room to let Holland work through his issues without much reason to panic.
If you own Holland, you can't be thrilled with the way his season has gone, but you also probably shouldn't panic. More likely than not, his job is in no doubt. However, scooping up Davis just in case isn't the worst idea in the world -- especially because he can be a very helpful Fantasy piece even in a setup role.
Brad Boxberger, Rays
Though Jake McGee continues to loom large -- and would be my personal pick if the Rays asked who I think should close for them -- Boxberger has pretty valiantly fought him off for the job. McGee got a save opportunity last Saturday, his fourth of the season, but Boxberger came right back for the next chance Tuesday evening. His hold on the job is tenuous, but every day that passes with McGee moving in on his territory is one less reason to think it will happen. McGee might have more upside, but until they move away permanently, Boxberger continues to be worth your attention.
Last week's stats: 2 IP, 1 K, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 1 S, 1 H
Joakim Soria, Tigers
Soria's overall season numbers still look fine, as he carries a 3.19 ERA into play Wednesday. He has saved 21 of his 24 opportunities, and has allowed a run in just one of his last 10 outings. That is very good news for the Tigers, who are reportedly looking to sell at the deadline. Though Soria hasn't been mentioned specifically as a trade candidate -- the club has reportedly yet to decide whether they will even look to make moves -- he would be an obvious candidate if they do look to retool with young players. Soria is an impending free agent who has shown just enough cracks in the armor that a non-contender probably doesn't have much need for him. Soria could land somewhere he can close, but that seems less likely than Soria ending up as a setup man somewhere for the second trade deadline in a row.
Last week's stats: 2 IP, 3 K, 1 H, 1 BB, 0 R, 1 S
Shawn Tolleson, Rangers
With a groundball rate in the low-40's, Tolleson has been playing with fire a bit this season, and he got burned over the last two weeks. After allowing just three home runs in his first 36 2/3 innings of work, Tolleson was stung by the long ball in his last three outings, as he gave up two homers and five runs total in his last 2 2/3 innings of work. His overall performance still looks solid -- 3.43 ERA, more than strikeout per inning, strong control -- but this is a reminder of the downside with any reliever who gives up fly balls. You shouldn't be looking to drop him, and his job security probably isn't in doubt, but Tolleson is going to have these kinds of outings that prevent him from being a truly high-end closer. The fact that he plays for a team that has given him just nine save opportunities since June 1 doesn't help.
Last week's stats: 2 IP, 1 K, 2 H, 0 BB, 2 R, 1 S