Collette Calls: Bullpen Watch at the Break

Collette Calls: Bullpen Watch at the Break

This article is part of our Collette Calls series.

Now that we're in the All-Star break, we enter the final stretch of the Hot Stove trading season. Playing times get altered, rookies get called up and, without fail, setup men become closers and even some closers become setup men. Let's look at each team's closing situation and which teams will beef up the path to the closer and which teams could end up with new closers in the coming weeks.

AL EAST

Baltimore: The Orioles just got Zach Britton back and their bullpen is finally at full strength for the first time all year. It feels like too little too late as the Baltimore starting staff has been atrocious and the offense has mostly underperformed. It is unlikely any of the relievers are traded unless the Orioles test the waters with the versatile Brad Brach.

Boston:
Much like Baltimore, this is a stable situation. Craig Kimbrel has been unbelievably dominant this season, and the rest of the pieces have been mixed and matched well to get the ball to him. That said, it would not be surprising to see Boston add another reliever at the deadline, but the same team that has overpaid for Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg in back to back years might be a bit gunshy to go out and dip its toes in that water yet again.

New York:
Aroldis Chapman has his part of the deal nailed down, but Dellin Betances has hit a few speedbumps lately, including a four-walk outing against the

Now that we're in the All-Star break, we enter the final stretch of the Hot Stove trading season. Playing times get altered, rookies get called up and, without fail, setup men become closers and even some closers become setup men. Let's look at each team's closing situation and which teams will beef up the path to the closer and which teams could end up with new closers in the coming weeks.

AL EAST

Baltimore: The Orioles just got Zach Britton back and their bullpen is finally at full strength for the first time all year. It feels like too little too late as the Baltimore starting staff has been atrocious and the offense has mostly underperformed. It is unlikely any of the relievers are traded unless the Orioles test the waters with the versatile Brad Brach.

Boston:
Much like Baltimore, this is a stable situation. Craig Kimbrel has been unbelievably dominant this season, and the rest of the pieces have been mixed and matched well to get the ball to him. That said, it would not be surprising to see Boston add another reliever at the deadline, but the same team that has overpaid for Carson Smith and Tyler Thornburg in back to back years might be a bit gunshy to go out and dip its toes in that water yet again.

New York:
Aroldis Chapman has his part of the deal nailed down, but Dellin Betances has hit a few speedbumps lately, including a four-walk outing against the Astros last week. Getting the ball to that duo has been a problem for the Yankees as Tyler Clippard has been flat-out awful the last few weeks. The Yankees could look to add a second division closer to help Betances or try to rebuild what they had in Betances/Miller/Chapman and replace Miller with Brad Hand.

Tampa Bay:
Alex Colome has had the job all season but he has not pitched well the last few weeks, having allowed runs in five of his last six appearances. Brad Boxberger recently returned and, thus far, looks more like the good version of him before he became closer. If Colome continues to stumble, the Rays could go back to Boxberger. They desperately need more depth in the pen and Durham does not have much to offer now. Someone like Pat Neshek would be a great fit, but the Rays have typically added smaller pieces at the deadline even when they have been closer to the pennant than they are this season.

Toronto:
Roberto Osuna has been terrific in his role even if his team has not been as good as projected. Osuna is unlikely to go anywhere, but the Jays could move some of the pieces that have helped get the ball to him. Joe Smith is on the disabled list with a balky shoulder, but is just the kind of reliever a contending team would want to add. Lefty Aaron Loup could also find a new home if the Jays decide to hand that role off to southpaw Jeff Beliveau.

AL CENTRAL

Chicago: Now we get into some instability. David Robertson is all but gone in the next few weeks as the White Sox should absolutely move him for value. The question is which guy they will give the role to when he is traded. Nate Jones was supposed to be that guy, but he has been out awhile with an elbow issue and just rejoined the clubhouse the other day. Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak have thrown darts in the late innings with Kahnle leading the pack.

PITCHERTBFAVGWHIPK-BB%LOB%
Kahnle129.1970.943875
Swarzak149.2090.992175

One would think he would be the favorite to take over for Robertson even if Jones gets healthy sooner rather than later.

Cleveland:
Cody Allen has 16 saves to Andrew Miller's two. Miller has picked up where he left off last year while Allen has taken it up a notch and has a career-high 13.2 K/9. Allen has not shown any signs of giving up the job other than the occasional night off after back to back outings. The rest of the pen looks rather set with the likes of Bryan Shaw, Nick Goody and Boone Logan working the middle innings. The team could add some middle-relief depth, but the late innings are rather set with the Shaw/Miller/Allen trio.

Detroit:
The Tigers waited too long to stick a fork into Francisco Rodriguez as the closer. Justin Wilson has the job now and is unlikely to relinquish it. That said, it is not like he has provided a plethora of saves as he leads the team with just nine saves on the season. The Tigers should be in sell mode, but their bullpen is a big reason why they are where they are, so it is tough to imagine them selling off any pieces. This pen is what it is the rest of the season, and it is mostly bad.

Kansas City:
The Royals are stuck in no-man's land. Common sense says they should trade their assets in the final year of their deals such as Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain. The team could move those assets to get good pieces for the future and rebuild the franchise. The problem is the players are not willing to do that just yet, and the Royals are playing some of the best baseball in the league these days. It would take a dramatic turnaround after the break to turn this team into a seller, so its bullpen situation is likely to remain as it is. If it does change, Mike Minor would be someone the team could move while his value is likely at its peak, but I expect the Royals to stretch this out as long as they can.

Minnesota:
The Twins should sell. They are not as good as the Royals, but it isn't like the Twins roster is laden with the type of expiring contracts Kansas City has. That said, they are one game out of the wild card. Brandon Kintzler continues to pitch his way through contact to saves and has 24 of the team's 25 saves this season. It is unlikely this club makes any additions at the deadline nor would any of its pieces go elsewhere to be of fantasy relevance.

AL WEST

Houston: Three relievers have multiple saves on this club, but Ken Giles should hold this job the rest of the season. Will Harris is next in line, but the Astros have an embarrassment of riches in their bullpen and could grab another guy for the pen. Chris Devenski and his dragon changeup is essentially their first lefty out of the pen the way that pitch works while Tony Sipp is the actual lefty specialist. Roles are unlikely to change as this team continues to challenge the 2001 Mariners modern record for 116 wins. After all, the Astros average a full seven runs a game on the road. You should trade them like home starts against the Rockies with pitchers in your lineups. Just don't do it.

Los Angeles:
The Angels are three games out of the wild card and are getting the game's best player back after the All Star break. They are two games below .500 but the wild card could keep hope alive and prevent them from cashing in on Bud Norris. They should still consider cashing that chip in at peak value because teams will overpay for relievers in desperate times. They could also do the same with a recovered David Hernandez or Yusmeiro Petit, whom they are using like a rented mule this season. If Norris is dealt, one would expect Cam Bedrosian to inherit the job as he is the future but it is unlikely the Angels do anything until the end of July as they make one final push after the break to see what ground they can make up.

Oakland:
This team is in obvious sell mode. The curveball is that Santiago Casilla has another year on his deal as does Ryan Madson. Both guys would be obvious trade candidates in walk years, but aging relievers and the volatility that is associated with most relievers might make teams gun shy in acquiring either guy unless the A's eat some salary or the cost is dirt cheap. Both should still go, leaving the job for Sean Doolittle to have for a good chunk of the second half. He is under a longer-term deal that is more cost controlled and is the one who should stick around.

Seattle:
The Mariners are four games off the wild-card pace. Edwin Diaz has been a bust because he has struggled to throw strikes and has given up too many home runs this year. Much like Detroit, nobody else has stepped up on this squad as Diaz is the only guy with as many as two saves on the team. This pen is likely to stay the way it is the rest of the season except for flipping Steve Cishek somewhere to help in middle relief.

NL EAST

Atlanta:Jim Johnson has gotten the job done for the club, but the Braves are essentially done this season since the National League is so tough. As it were, the defending World Series champs are 7.5 games out of the wild card and the Braves are a half game behind them. Johnson, like Madson and Casilla, has another year on his existing contract so any interested team would have to commit to paying him $4.5M next year as well as some performance bonuses. If that happens, these are the next options:

PITCHERTBFAVGWHIPK-BB%LOB%
Sam Freeman125.2391.431281
Jose Ramirez139.1821.071178
Arodys Vizcaino140.1981.091991

Vizcaino would be the best option given his skills, but he is on the disabled list with a finger strain on his pitching hand. As long as he recovers from that, I expect he would get the first crack at the job if the team decides to move Johnson. If Johnson is moved, it is unlikely he would take over as the closer in his new home and would more likely be used to deepen the late-relief options.

Miami:
The Marlins should absolutely sell A.J. Ramos. He will be very expensive in arbitration in a system that is based mostly on saves. Ramos is not having a good season by his standards, but he can still miss bats and that has value in the late innings. Brad Ziegler would be a logical replacement, but he is on the disabled list with a balky back. Kyle Barraclough has taken a step back this season after blowing everyone away last year, so I would put my money on David Phelps to take the job over once Ramos is gone assuming Ziegler stays out awhile.

New York:
Like most NL teams, the Mets are out of it. They're 10.5 games out of the wild card and aren't catching the Nationals for the division title. Addison Reed will get expensive in arbitration next year as he is already making $7.8M this year and is on pace for 25-plus saves this year. If the club is confident Jeurys Familia can return by next year from his blood clot issue, they could decide to cash in Reed for other pieces and find a late-inning replacement in the offseason. If that happens, there is no clear-cut favorite to take over saves the rest of the way as the rest of the pen is rather messy.

Philadelphia:
Nobody on this team has as many as eight saves, but there are movable pieces in the pen. Hector Neris, the saves leader, could be sold as his flyball tendencies are not the best fit for his home park. Pat Neshek should absolutely be moved as should Joaquin Benoit. In short, anyone with age and experience should be a goner. If all three of these guys are dealt, the handful of saves the Phillies get could end up in the hands of Luis Garcia as he has the best skills of the remaining names.

Washington:
The team dominating the NL East does not have a single reliever with more than eight saves. Watching this organization dance with other closers is ridiculous because everyone knows it needs one as it would be a shame for a team with this talent to lose games late in the postseason. Whoever is acquired would immediately go to the front of the line. David Robertson's name has been there for months, but the fact it has not yet happened must mean the asking price is top-prospect Victor Robles. The best thing the Nationals could do is to go get Brad Hand and make him the closer, but that asking price is also going to be high.

NL CENTRAL

Chicago: The Cubs are 5.5 games out of their division and 7.5 out of the wild card. They do have 10 more head-to-head games remaining, so they have a good chance to control their own destiny, but seven of those games are in September and the other three are later this month. If the team continues to tread water the next month, it could be too little too late. Should that happen, Wade Davis is in his walk year and Koji Uehara is too old to hang around and both could be moved. Carl Edwards Jr. likely would inherit the job in that scenario. The Cubs have a favorable schedule out of the break with the Orioles, Braves and White Sox mixed in with the Cardinals and the Brewers. If they don't make up ground with the Brewers before that series that closes out of the month, Davis and Uehara could find new homes. Davis would unlikely pass through waivers, so he would need to be dealt in July in order for the Cubs to get anything in return for him.

Cincinnati:
The Reds are bad, but they're not going to trade Rasiel Iglesias out of his role. Sure, they could deal other pieces in the pen such as Drew Storen or Tony Cingrani, but the saves in this pen are not going to change unless Washington wants to give up Robles to acquire Iglesias. If they do that, Cincinnati cannot say no.

Milwaukee:
Corey Knebel has this job absolutely nailed down and he should have been the closer the entire time. It is easy to envision the club adding some bullpen depth to the puzzle, but nothing to endanger Knebel to lose the role.

Pittsburgh:
Felipe Rivero has this job and becomes arbitration eligible this offseason. The only way Pittsburgh deals him is if it is blown away with a top-50 prospect from another club. Otherwise, it is in its best interest to sit on him and his 100-plus heater and deadly slider. They could move lesser pieces in the pen to contenders, but it is highly unlikely Rivero is moved. If someone blows away the Pirates, Juan Nicasio has the best skills to take over the job the rest of the way.

St. Louis:
They are 5.5 out of the division and 7.5 out of the wild card. Like Chicago, it's all or nothing for them in July if they want to make any noise in September. It would be tough for them to flip Seung Hwan Oh at this time given all of the noise about them possibly looking to give the closer role back to Trevor Rosenthal. That said, Oh is in the final year of his deal, so he could be moved to a team looking for more depth in the back end rather than one looking for a new closer. Should that happen, Rosenthal easily slots back into the ninth full-time rather than the committee-like approach the Cardinals are using lately.

NL West

Arizona:Fernando Rodney had been on a roll recently until a big meltdown the other night. If he goes back to being, well, Fernando Rodney, the simple in-house replacement is Archie Bradley as he has been amazing in his current role. It is more likely we see Arizona go add some depth to the pen for an extra level of insurance and experience to help Rodney, Bradley, Andrew Chafin and Randall Delgado out.

Colorado:
It is simply amazing what Greg Holland has done as a fantasy zombie this year, coming back from the dead to pile up 28 saves and strike out 12 per nine innings as he has. Jake McGee looks a lot like the guy who dominated for Tampa Bay again, so there is no trade deadline scenario that impacts things.

Los Angeles:
Like Colorado, there is nothing that is going to happen here. Kenley Jansen has regressed lately, allowing two walks in recent weeks after allowing none in April, May and a good chunk of June. All joking aside, nothing is going to change here.

San Diego:
The closer role is not the one of interest, as Brandon Maurer will not have much market value. It is Brad Hand that everyone should watch. He has been terrific in his late-inning work, and the Padres should be asking for a lot for him. If someone pays that price for Hand (heard a rumor that they asked the Rays for a top-40 prospect), then that team is likely going to put him in the closer role. If Hand waves goodbye to San Diego, Kirby Yates steps up and gets that late role and could vulture some wins and a handful of saves.

San Francisco:
The Giants were wise to pick up Sam Dyson on the cheap as he has looked better for them than he did with the Rangers. They could now decide to flip him to someone looking for help and give the closer job to Hunter Strickland to finish out the season if Mark Melancon does not come back.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason Collette
Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999, and here at Rotowire since 2011. You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Sleeper and the Bust podcast every Sunday. A ten-time FSWA finalist, Jason won the FSWA's Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year award in 2013 and the Baseball Series of the Year award in 2018 for Collette Calls,and was the 2023 AL LABR champion. Jason manages his social media presence at https://linktr.ee/jasoncollette
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