"Dear Charlie, I still have those pics of you. I'd like to close games again -xox- Brad"
Photo Credit: Shannon Lamond
Whether you need another Closer or not you are chasing Saves. Even if you have a comfortable lead in the category you can use Saves as trade bait and a tool to manipulate the standings. I recently traded away Drew Storen (and Michael Brantley) and the deciding factor wasn't who I received (Nelson Cruz), but which team I helped boost in Saves. I can always find more Saves on the waiver wire (hopefully). As we inch closer to the non-waiver trade deadline we will speculate on which set up men could find themselves closing games in the near future. To the jump!
Joe Nathan (58% owned) In case you didn't know, Nathan has regained his role as the anchor of the Twins bullpen. Matt Capps blew another Save (BS No. 7) and that was that. Capps is out; Joe is in. We've seen an uptick in velocity from Nathan since his return. He's slowly gaining back arm strength after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of '10. Nathan hasn't allowed a Run to cross the plate since June 25th, his job is safe. You can drop Matt Capps and forget about him.
Ryan Madson (74%) Madson has returned from the DL and will be eased back into the ninth inning. He pitched (part of) the eighth inning today and was beat up [0.2 IP, 2 H, BB, HBP, ER]. Antonio Bastardo (49%) had to finish the inning for him and then pitch the ninth. Bastardo should continue getting Saves in the short term. Also on the horizon is Brad Lidge (49%). He's thrown a few innings on a rehab assignment and wants to return soon. We all know about Charlie Manuel's Brad Lidge affliction. Who will end up getting more Saves from here on out is any one's guess. If I was coaching the Phils (I'm not) I'd leave Bastardo in there.
Jon Rauch (29%) Rauch is the supposed Closer in Toronto. The team is playing musical chairs with the role and I don't expect Rauch to occupy the seat for long. Frank Francisco (46%) could regain the role and possibly, if John Farrell knew what he was doing, Octavio Dotel (2%) could get a chance and run away with the job. The team traded away Mike Napoli for Franky so they'll likely end up hurting the team in hopes of saving face.
Jason Isringhausen (14%) and Bobby Parnell (28%) The Mets haven't won a game by a close margin since the KRod trade, but we did see Parnell pitch the 8th inning on Saturday and Izzy pitch the 9th inning on Sunday. I do believe Bobby Parnell is the better Pitcher and has the stuff to most teams want in their Closer, but at the same time I can make a case for Jason Isringhausen: experience closing games, close to reaching a milestone (300 Saves), possible trade bait (showcase showdown) and he was the bridge to KRod (8th inning man). I suggest owning both, but look for Izzy to get the Saves until (if) he's traded.
Sean Marshall (21%) and Kerry Wood (5%) A day after Mike Quade said Marmol's job was safe, his job is safely in the hands of Marshall and Wood. Carlos has blown two Saves in his last four appearances and nearly blew a third his last time out. Carlos is currently working with Mark Riggins (Cubs Pitching Coach) to straighten out a reportedly minor mechanical flaw. This should be a temporary sabbatical for Carlos Agustín. If I had the choice between the two set up men I'd go with Sean Marshall. He saved the day on Friday (his second Save of the year) and has better numbers than Wood.
Mike Adams (36%) Heath Bell will be traded within the next two weeks, but Adams AND Chad Qualls (1%) could be dealt as well. Teams are asking about all three relievers. Adams is your first speculative add, Qualls is your second. Your hail mary long shot is Luke Gregerson (21%). Your onside kick, Hail Mary long shot is Ernesto Frieri (1%). Quite strange how Gregerson is owned in more leagues than Qualls.
Koji Uehara (22%) Kevin Gregg sucks and will be suspended soon (for fighting with Big Papi, not for sucking). Koji will get a chance to close out games and should eventually take the reins from Gregg. Uehara has been untouchable in a set up role (0.70 WHIP, 1.84 ERA) and has proven he is healthy enough to pitch back-to-back games. He pitched the ninth inning today and per his usual he pitched a clean inning with one Strikeout. Kevin Gregg threw a bullpen session and gave up two hits and a walk to imaginary batters (I'm assuming).
Mike Dunn (2%) and Steve Cishek (0%) The Sun Sentinal says there is a "good chance" that Leo Nunez is dealt before the non-waiver trade deadline as the team is unlikely to pay off his arbitration-fueled uptick in salary. The bullpen is strong so they can afford the move. If Nunez is dealt before the non-waiver deadline look for Dunn or Cishek to pick up the slack. Dunn has been the 8th inning man while Cishek picked up the Save back when Nunez was temporarily sidelined. Both have the ability to punch out batters, but Cishek has displayed impressive control (1.66 BB/9) while Dunn has been a BABIP poster child (.228 BABIP). I'd suggest owning both until something happens. I have a feeling Dunn will get the opps, but I'm officially rooting for Cishek.
Jamey Wright (2%) Remember the Great Brandon League Scare of May? Well the Mariners are taking calls regarding the availability of Brandon League. Jamey Wright could experience another waiver wire bonanza. Wright is nothing special, he's below average in terms of Strikeouts and Walks, but the Mariners don't have much else. David Aardsma (we'll give him the italics, no bold font for him) was recently stabbed by a doctor (TJS), he won't be playing baseball for a full calender year. Chris Ray (0%) has closed games in the past ('06 and '07 for BAL), but he shouldn't be trusted with the ball in any inning, let alone the last in a pressure filled situation. David Pauley (17%) could get a shot. He was being used in the long relief role, but he hasn't pitched 2 IP since early June. He's arguably the best of the bunch here. Wright of Pauley are the likely successors.
Jose Veras (7%) Veras is somewhat of a long shot Closer-to-be as Hanrahan is under lock and key at a discount rate for a few more seasons. The Pirates would require a heavyweight package to move Hanny. The Rangers did make a long distance phone call to Pittsburgh. They could use Joel in a set up role to Neftali and then as a closer when Feliz moves to the rotation. I'll chalk this up in the "unlikely to happen" category, but you never know.
Aaron Crow (15%) Joakim Soria is unlikely to be traded as he's locked up through 2014, but the "no-trade clause" news breakers are flying around like he's a man on the move. Crow has been excellent as a set up man (1.13 WHIP, 2.00 ERA, 45 K in 45 IP) and was the man earlier when Soria was temporarily removed from the job. Given Soria's early season struggles the Royals may not get an offer that wows them. I don't expect the Royals to move the Closer formerly known as "the Mexecutioner".
Brian Fuentes (35%) the A's are taking calls for Andrew Bailey, but he's locked up in a cost-controlled contract for the next three years so teams would need to offer something substantial to acquire him. It's unlikely to happen, but if it did I'd assume the ball would go back to Fuentes. Grant Balfour (9%) should be next in line, but teams are strangely attracted to Fuentes. Don't ask me why, I don't understand the fascination. Let's hope Bailey stays put, because no one wants to see Fuentes serving up meat balls in the ninth inning.
I didn't include Aroldis Chapman because Dusty Baker loves his vets and Francisco Cordero pitched a clean inning for his 18th Save on Sunday. His job is relatively safe. The comment section is all yours, give us your best conspiracy theory to why Buck Showalter hasn't handed the Closer's gig over to Koji Uehara yet. Til next time - peace out - @andrewakamds