Trade deadline: A few bullpen situations to watch

MLB’s trading deadline is around the bend. How many times will obsessive fantasy junkies be checking Twitter for trade scoops this week?

Some leagues may be won and lost this week on the basis of the quickest waiver wire trigger finger. Will there be any major sources of saves to come into fantasy leagues over the next few days? Time to review some bullpen situations just in case…

Arizona: Chad Qualls has the job at the moment and he’s been absolutely solid. Unfortunately, the team is nearly out of contention, and reportedly at least a dozen teams have inquired about the Diamondbacks’ ace reliever. Earlier in the month, the team traded reliever Tony Pena to the White Sox. Pena probably figured to be Qualls’ replacement, but now that he’s gone, where would the team turn? The most logical candidate is Jon Rauch, who has closer experience and currently serves as the team’s eighth inning setup guy. However, Rauch has been positively dreadful this year with a slipping K/9 rate and borderline command. He’s been much more lucky of late than good, and it’s hard to figure he’d keep the job very long—if he gets it at all. Instead, deeper leagues may wish to roster Juan Guttierez (more impressive than his stats show) or Clay Zavada.

San Diego: The Padres have told teams they are open to hearing offers on Heath Bell, although supposedly, they have also told teams the price will be high to attain Bell. Many people have speculated that Edward Mujica would be Bell’s replacement, but Mujica has been inconsistent this year. A few too many fly balls and walks limits his ability to lock down the closer role. Meanwhile, the Padres bullpen is stuffed with more candidates, including Luke Gregerson (50 strikeouts in under 44 innings), Mike Adams (a 1.06 ERA and 0.76 WHIP since returning from DL), and Greg Burke (one of those closer-of-the-future guys). This has all the earmarks of a closer-by-committee.

Cincinnati: There have been mixed reports about whether the Reds are buyers or sellers at the deadline. If the team decided to sell its closer, Francisco Cordero, a number of teams would be interested. The team doesn’t have a clear-cut heir apparent. David Weathers is pitching eighth innings at the moment and has been very solid this season. However, Weathers will be 40 years old in September, and if the team wishes to think about next season and give a kid a shot, they could turn to Nick Masset, sporting an impressive 2.55 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.

Pittsburgh: The trade-aggressive Pirates seem inclined to trade Matt Capps. The closer has been terrible this year, so maybe the question should be why anybody would want him. Regardless, if Capps goes, the team would need to find a replacement. The most logical candidate is current setup guy John Grabow, but his 25 walks in 44 innings is hardly impressive. Our bet is that Joel Hanrahan might eventually end the season as he started the season—a closer. Hanrahan has good stuff but had underperformed his peripherals in Washington. As a Pirate, though, he’s got a 3.38 ERA. So far, so good.

Toronto: Last week, Scott Downs let up five earned runs in three innings, perhaps tamping down trade interest from other teams. However, he’s been solid most of the year and if the price is right, Toronto might very well dish him for a prospect. Jason Frasor would presumably pick up the job again, although he was shaky in the role when given the opportunity to fill in for an injured Downs earlier this season. Keep an eye on Brandon League, who has combined impressive strikeout ability with a great groundball rate. The team could always pick up a reliever in trade too, especially if Downs is part of a Roy Halladay deal.

Who else might go? Will there be deals that nobody anticipates?

I’ll be posting fantasy analysis on breaking trades this week on Twitter @fantasyfix

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  1. Ken said...

    Also surprised how down you are on Rauch. Been stellar since a terrible April, especially in June and July.

  2. Andrew said...

    Surprised you didn’t mention Baltimore, which might be more likely to deal its closer than any other team

  3. Eriq Gardner said...

    Yeah, meant to include Baltimore, but overlooked it as I was writing the story.

    Logical guy would be Jim Johnson. He’s an extreme groundball guy who won’t be spectacular, but may get the job done. I also wouldn’t rule out the team moving one of their younger pitchers (like David Hernandez) to the role. Haven’t looked closely to see whether there’s any need to conserve innings on a young arm, but given that the team has a bevy of top young pitching prospects, it might make sense to leverage one of them as a dominant closer.

    As for Rauch, I’ve been a bigger fan in prior years. This one, his slipping strikeout rate concerns me. From 8.3 K/9 last year to 5.4 K/9 this year. Yes, his ERA has been good lately, and it’s hard to say that performance will match peripherals on a reliever who pitches few innings, but unless I’m desperate for saves, I probably pass on him.

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