With about a month before we hit MLB’s July 31st trade deadline, let’s take a look at a few teams with closers who may be moved by that time.
Colorado Rockies: At 37 years old, Rafael Betancourt clearly isn’t the long-term option for the Rockies, but he has been extremely effective since being acquired from the Indians in 2009 (this season’s excellent 2.67 FIP and 4.14 K/BB are his worst rates since donning a Colorado uniform). As it stands now, Matt Belisle is the next in line for saves. Belisle is a strike throwing groundball machine (1.58 BB/9, 61.8% GB), a pretty good combo if you’re going to pitch in the thin air of Coors. The more exciting option in the Rockies bullpen is Rex Brothers. Brothers was sent down to the minors after struggling with his control in May, walking as many batters as he struck out (8) in 6.1 innings. Since getting called back up to the big leagues on June 2, he’s struck out 19 of 43 batters faced in 11.2 IP, walking only 3. If you’re in a holds league, or need help with Ks and ratios, grab him now. If he continues to pitch like this – his zone% and first pitch strike% are both vastly improved over his early season marks – there’s a chance the Rockies may have a Brother(s) closing games for them if Betancourt is traded.
Kansas City Royals: What a difference a year makes. Jonathan Broxton has a 1.52/1.28 ERA/WHIP, down from last season’s 5.68/1.89 showing. His improvement has come from throwing more strikes (58.1% first pitch strikes, up from 48.4% a year ago) and inducing groundballs at a rate 13 points higher than he did in 2011. He’s struck out over a batter per inning in June, pulling his seasonal K rate up to a passable 6.98 per 9. Put it all together, and there’s a decent chance the Royals will be able to move him by the deadline. Greg Holland (13.14 K/9, 2.55 FIP), Aaron Crow (8.47 K/9, 2.62 FIP), and Kelvin Herrera (5.56 K/BB, 3.02 FIP) all have strong cases for being the next in line, but it’s Holland who has been used in the highest leveraged situations, and it’s Holland I’d put money on to take over the 9th. Both Herrera and Crow have higher K/9 upside, with swinging strike rates just below 13%, and in holds leagues they’re both worth owning.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Should the Pirates falter over the next few weeks, Joel Hanrahan could find himself on the move. Jason Grilli and his 13.96 K/9 and 2.79 FIP would likely find himself taking over as closer for the Pirates if that occurs. While his current K rate is much higher than his career mark (7.41 per 9), his swinging strike% is at a career high 15.1%, and in 2011, a 12.4% swinging strike rate came with a 10.19 K/9. His average fastball is also nearly 2 MPH faster than last season, so the uptick in Ks appears to be mostly real. He should be owned in deep leagues and leagues with holds, and in shallow leagues he should be placed in watch lists.
Minnesota Twins: After Matt Capps suffered a shoulder injury, I droned on for a huge paragraph about how Glen Perkins has made an excellent transition to the bullpen. I thought that his work in the 8th inning this season, his reverse platoon split (3.58 FIP v L, 2.65 v R; in 2011 the split was 3.14/1.88) and Ron Gardenhire’s previous experience with a left-handed closer (Eddie Guardado) would lead to him getting the nod. I biffed. Jared Burton has converted the last two saves, and his 4.84 K/BB is solid. He’s going to be shielded from lefties (4.89 career FIP, 5.87 FIP in 2012), but being right-handed, will see the bulk of the work in the 9th. Perkins’ value may be somewhat diminished while he’s being matched up against lefties, but is worth holding onto if you are desperate for saves.
San Diego Padres: Provided Huston Street stays healthy, there’s a strong chance he’s moved sometime in July. His 11.50 K/9 and 2.73 xFIP in 18 IP would play in any ballpark, the only question with Street is obviously his health. After seeing his strikeout rate fall to 5.50 per 9 in 2011, Luke Gregerson has missed bats again in 2012, boasting a 9.45 K/9. Assuming that he also isn’t traded before the deadline (5.00 K/BB and 2.75 ERA in June may entice someone to bite), he’s the likely candidate to replace Street. If Gregerson is also traded, Dale Thayer would win the job by default. His 5.57 ERA is an eyesore, and his June performance of 2.00 K/BB and a 4.45 xFIP isn’t inspiring, either. 24 year old Brad Boxberger was a darkhorse candidate to enter the closing picture, but struggled with his command and was sent down to the minors after walking 7 batters in 6.1 innings. If he makes strides with his command in the coming weeks, there’s still a chance he closes games for the Padres by the end of the season, but it’s more likely that he’ll do so at some point in 2013.
Oakland Athletics: After allowing 4 runs and 4 baserunners without recording an out on Friday, Ryan Cook recovered to nail down 2 saves against the Mariners. His 4.31 xFIP screams regression, but his home ballpark will likely help keep his ERA somewhere in the low to mid 3s. For deep leagues, the possibility of both Grant Balfour and Brian Fuentes being traded could open the 8th inning to Sean Doolittle. Doolittle’s been electric since being called up a few weeks ago, striking out 17 and walking 2 in 8.2 IP. His only blemish so far has been a .500 BABIP, which has resulted in a 4.50 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. If you need ratio help, why not? He won’t get saves, but he’s sporting a 14:1 K:BB ratio against right-handed hitters, and he struck out over 50% of batters faced in the minors.