Players’ fantasy values change when one or more of the following three determinants change: skill level, run environment, or role. If you can predict any of these changes, you can acquire value. Often, it is easiest to predict the latter.
Each year, there’s turnover in many teams’ bullpens. Numerous teams change closers. A player who is not a closer now, but could be a closer next year, could be a valuable add in a keeper league, either through free agency or trade. So, I want to take a look into some players who may see a fantasy-relevant change in role between today and the beginning of next season.
There are many different league setups regarding keeper structure that may make some of these players more or less appealing as possible adds. So, I will refrain from making too many specific recommendations and instead focus more the players potentially in play. In each of the sections below, I’ll discuss players generally in the order of most valuable/likely to least valuable/probable.
Entered 2012 as a closer, lost the job one way or other, should/could have a job back in 2013
Brian Wilson lost his job to injury but likely should have a closing gig next season. He says he’ll be ready for the season opener. Even if that’s not the case, I’d expect him to get the most save chances in San Fran next year.
Sergio Santos was signed to be a closer and proved he had the stuff to do it last year. Casey Janssen has been fantastic taking over but is a free agent next year. I’d expect them both to have closing gigs next year.
Joakim Soria is not a lock to close next year. He’s a free agent and could be signed either as a higher-priced set-up man by a contender or a closer by a more mid-level, budget-conscious team. He has closer pedigree, however.
I have to think John Axford will be given another chance next year, if not this year.
Sean Marshall has been quite good for the Reds after some early-season hiccups. However, once he faltered, he got Wally Pipped by Aroldis Chapman. Marshall was a trendy pick to be a below-the-radar stud closer. He’s a free agent next year, and the Reds may try to keep him, given their status as sustainable contenders. But somebody else may very well sign him to close.
Who knows what is going to happen to Brett Myers? He’s a free agent. He could be signed as a closer by a non-contender. He could be signed as a setup guy. I could even see a budget-conscious team or a team with a strong, expensive front three or four taking a chance on him as a back-end rotation/spot-starter-reliever hybrid guy.
I put Myers ahead of Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour because I think he’s a better bet to retain a job if he’s given one. I will mention Balfour and Fuentes, as well as Matt Capps, because they represent possible closers in 2013, even if not probable ones. Ditto for David Aardsma.
Finally, there’s Drew Storen. Both he and Clippard are under team control, and I assume they’ll both be in Washington again next season. There’s only one job there, though. Storen certainly has closer talent, but I don’t expect him to move in the offseason.
Doesn’t have a closer job now, but could have on next year
Sean Burnett has been one of the best middle relievers in baseball this year. He’s a free agent, and the Nationals already have two studs in their bullpen deserving of closing gigs. Burnett is the most likely to go. Like some of the other players discussed here, he could wind up setting up on a contender or closing on a non-contender or budget-conscious team.
Frank Francisco may or may not survive this season, but the Mets will have a new closer in 2013 one way or another. If they stay internal, Bobby Parnell is the leading candidate to be given the reins.
The Rockies did not move Rafael Betancourt at the break, but they could do so in the offseason and give Rex Brothers a shot. Betancourt has earned the opportunity to close wherever he goes (should he go). Betancourt is also under a team-friendly contract with a team option next year, and Brothers hasn’t been amazing, so they’ll have to get a pretty nice offer to move him.
Has a job now, but likely will be out of one next year.
If you have Francisco, Francisco Rodriguez, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, or Santiago Casilla—or any other Giants reliever somebody in need of saves may covet, you might want to consider swapping them for a player likely to gain a job next year, as these players will lose them. The Giants trio is currently competing for rights to first chair if Wilson has a hiccup in his recovery or is egregiously ineffective upon initial return, something we’ve seen before, a la Joe Nathan.
Inherited a job this year and won’t be giving it back
Chapman is not going anywhere in Cincinnati unless it’s to the starting rotation. Janssen and Tom Wilhelmsen should close again in 2013. I also think Tyler Clippard will remain a closer. As the incumbent, he’s close to a lock to close. I doubt the Nationals would demote him to move Storen back to the role, so that means if Storen ends up closing, he would do that through a trade. I guess it’s possible that they trade Storen and re-sign Burnett, as they’d be set to lose Burnett outright, while they could likely get legitimate assets for Storen.