The trade deadline is fast approaching this Tuesday. There has not been much movement yet on the market, but we expect that to change in the coming hours. We will be tracking those moves and examining what they mean for our fake teams moving forward into the last 60 games of the season. Until then let’s take a look at the musical chairs in bullpens around baseball.
MLB Bullpen Updates
Things are getting interesting again in Boston with the usage pattern of Garrett Whitlock. Whitlock earned a two-inning save on Tuesday which raised some eyebrows if one only looks at the box scores. Then on Thursday, Whitlock got another save. A deeper dive reveals that Tanner Houck had pitched in two straight games, so the last save can best be characterized as a vulture save. When pressed on the issue, manager Alex Cora suggested he prefers Whitlock in the rally-killing stopper role, which would seem to leave Houck as the closer. Speculation will be rampant especially after Houck blew the save and took the loss on Wednesday. Houck has not earned a save in almost a month now; this may have more to do with the Red Sox troubles in July than anything.
Tampa Bay used Pete Fairbanks to close out the Cleveland Guardians yesterday afternoon. Fairbanks earned his second save this week after being activated from the IL in mid-July. Jason Adam got the seventh, Colin Poche the eighth, and Fairbanks the ninth, as the Rays continue to play matchups and use a committee plan. Keep in mind that Nick Anderson will soon be added to this mix; his rehabilitation just moved to AAA Durham this weekend. Things could get even more interesting soon.
Word on the street is that the Detroit Tigers are willing to sell just about everyone not named Riley Green or Spencer Torkelson. They have prime bullpen pieces in Gregory Soto, Michael Fulmer, and Andrew Chafin. We could also see Alex Lange, Will Vest, and Joe Jimenez moved too. Whoever is left could end up being the closer.
Seattle put reliever Diego Castillo on the IL with shoulder inflammation. Castillo has been a key cog in the Mariners’ pen this year, but he is expected to only miss the minimum number of days; this could be clever manipulation to get him some rest. Matthew Festa, an unheralded righty who has been really good for them this year, got a vulture save on Wednesday. For now it appears that Paul Sewald remains the closer even as the pecking order changes around him. Erik Swanson has quietly moved into setup role; Festa is in that chain too. Andres Munoz will be the closer one day and has been fantastic in June and July: 37 punchouts in 25.1 innings, with only three walks. He’s a valuable weapon for a team with playoff aspirations. Who knows? They could also add arms here after having traded for Luis Castillo on Friday night. Sewald earned save number 13 last night with Swanson getting the victory.
Things have been interesting in Texas, where Brett Martin has not really been the answer in absence of a true closer. It was reported this week that former closer Joe Barlow was going out on a rehab assignment, so it’s possible he may get his old job back upon his return. That said, the Rangers used veteran Matt Moore the other night to close out a save, but that had more to do with Martin having pitched in three of four games ahead of that. It’s interesting to look at the names here and speculate on potential closers: Jose Leclerc, who had the job before injury two years ago, has struggled to regain his form and the K% is way down to 22% right now; Jonathan Hernandez is being brought back slowly but has been sharp. Either one could lay claim to the throne. This will be an interesting one to watch over the last 6o games of the season. Texas could also be active in dealing any of these arms as they are 45-54 and treading water at this point. In the short term my money would be on Moore as Martin struggled again last night.
It appears that Philadelphia will add at the deadline, and they could be looking to add to their bullpen. Yet a closer look at Seranthony Dominguez shows he’s been excellent this month, converting all five of his save opportunities in July. Maybe they add depth as opposed to a full-blown closer? Maybe they just need to leave Dominguez alone.
The Chicago Cubs look to be active sellers at the trade deadline as they retool, or as what most fans see, rebuild. Chris Martin was moved to the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday to help fill in their middle relief innings. Expect David Robertson and possibly Mychal Givens to be moved in the next few days. That begs the question, who gets the handful of save chances the rest of the way? Good question. While many would likely point to Rowan Wick, he struggled until mid-July, although he now has six straight outings in which he has been unscored upon. Maybe it’s him, or maybe it’s Scott Effross. Stephen Brault has also been used effectively in relief. Or maybe they all get traded. Who knows.
Cincinnati lost erstwhile closer Hunter Strickland to the bereavement list this weekend which opens an audition for the closer role for others in a revitalized Reds’ bullpen. Unbeknownst to many fantasy players, prior to Strickland blowing the save on Thursday, the unit had been unscored upon in their last 15 innings. With Strickland out for at least a few days, the best bet for saves here should be Alexis Diaz, and here’s hoping that is the case. My #GLARF team is in desperate need of saves and I have Diaz rostered there. I would not be surprised in the least if Cincinnati moves Strickland this weekend ahead of Tuesday’s trade deadline. That would open the closer chair, and Diaz would be the most likely candidate. Manager David Bell spoke glowingly of Diaz this week. It’s always super important to listen to what managers say about their bevy of arms in the bullpen. Great nuggets on insight into their thought processes there; always follow the beat writers on Twitter to get this potentially useful information.
The Colorado Rockies completed a head-scratcher of a move for me, locking down 37-year-old closer Daniel Bard for two more years and $19 million. Bard has converted 22 saves for the 46-56 Rockies, who many thought would be sellers at the trade deadline. They still could be with two days left before the deadline, but Bard will be staying. He is a wonderful story of grit and perseverance, making it all the way back from devastating injuries and control issues, and by all accounts is a clubhouse leader. But keeping him when there is a market forming for top relief pitchers seems like the wrong move if they could get prospects for him. Granted, they don’t have much else they can rely on to close out the games they do win.
San Diego looks like they are going closer-by-committee given the recent struggles of Taylor Rogers. This could mean looks for Luis Garcia and Nick Martinez when he returns from the paternity list. Do not sleep on Adrian Morejon, who has looked very good recently since returning from a long injury absence. Hopefully, Rogers is able to work out his current issues in a lower leverage role and return to his role as closer; he’s been excellent up until recently.
San Francisco continues to make use of every available arm, with Dominic Leone earning his third save last night in a win against the Chicago Cubs. Tyler Rogers was called on in the for the fifth and sixth innings in relief of Jacob Junis, who is being brought back slowly in his starting role. This will be an intriguing pen to watch in the coming weeks, with Trevor Rosenthal lurking soon with a $4.5 million guaranteed contract. Camilo Doval lovers, be prepared for musical chairs here. It could happen easily.