There haven’t been too many changes as far as closers go over the past week, but there is a decent bit to speculate on, especially now that trade rumors are swirling.
As expected, Brad Lidge was announced as the Houston closer — again — as manager Phil Garner said that he would ease Lidge into the role. Lidge’s response to the role change? He gave up a home run and blew the save. This led to speculation that Lidge’s 9th inning duties might be short lived, but with Dan Wheeler giving up 4 runs tonight, I don’t think there’s too much to worry about. Lidge has good peripherals, and as long as he doesn’t get too unlucky he should be a fine closer the rest of the year.
In Chicago, Angel Guzman was placed on the DL last week with a strained medial ligament in his pitching elbow. Early reports had mentioned Tommy John surgery as a possibility, but this shouldn’t happen now. He’ll be shut down for at least two weeks, but when he returns he should have a decent chance of claiming the closer’s role. Those in deep leagues should hang onto Guzman.
Bad news for Huston Street owners: Street will be shut down indefinitely. The original diagnosis was that there was no structural damage to the ligament in his elbow. He’ll seek a second opinion as the San Francisco Chronicle says the possibility of a pre-All-Star break returns “seems unlikely.” As far as Justin Duchscherer goes, the report on him is that he won’t resume throwing activities for another two weeks. When he does begin to throw again, it should take at least another week for him to get game ready, assuming there are no setbacks. Alan Embree looks like a solid option for the rest of the month.
Since joining the Marlins, Armando Benitez has given up just 1 run. He has struck out 5 batters and walked 2 in 7 innings pitched. Kevin Gregg gave up 3 runs on June 10, but his overall surface numbers and peripherals are pretty solid, so I don’t think his job is in severe jeopardy. I doubt the Marlins acquired Benitez to watch him work before the ninth all year, though, so his shot at the closer role could be coming soon.
In Philadelphia, Antonio Alfonseca has given his fantasy owners some nice support while manning the end game duties for the Phils, but with Brett Myers set to return on Monday, his fantasy value should drastically diminish. If, for whatever reason, Myers was dropped in your league, pick him up. He should be a Top 10 closer the rest of the year.
The Rockies haven’t been talked about much with Brian Fuentes pitching well, but the possibility exists that the Rockies will try to trade him as the trade deadline approaches. Manny Corpas seems to be the closer in waiting, should Fuentes get traded. His peripherals aren’t bad and he would make a decent addition to any team. His line: 7.18 K/9 | 3.16 BB/9 | 2.27 K/BB | 58.3% GB
The Rangers seem to be the most likely team to trade off some veterans, and with two very good closer options, at least one seems certain to go. In the basement of the AL West and 17.5 games back from first place, the Rangers have no need for both Eric Gagne and Akinori Otsuka. Otsuka should be picked up by those speculating for saves (if he isn’t already owned) because there is a very good chance he’ll be closing somewhere by the end of July. Gagne could get traded, creating an opening. Otsuka could get traded to a team looking for a closer. Both could get traded to teams looking for closers. Of course, the possibility exists that he gets traded into a setup role (or that no trades occur at all), but Otsuka is as good a bet as any current setup man to become a closer this year.
The last trade candidate I’ll mention is Chad Cordero. The Nationals have little need for a closer with how rarely they give him a save opportunity. If he is traded, Jon Rauch would probably step into the least desirable closer job in Fantasy Baseball. He has struggled lately and his peripherals are nothing spectacular, but the Nationals don’t have a boatload of better options. Hopefully you do.