Two trades happened mid-day Thursday, with the Angels and Diamondbacks picking up potential closers.
First, Tampa Bay traded reliever Brad Boxberger to Arizona for pitching prospect Curtis Taylor. Taylor looks to have a decent chance of succeeding but is still in Low-A ball. He’s fantasy irrelevant for this season.
Boxberger (463 ADP) looks like he’ll move immediately into Arizona’s closer mix, competing with Archie Bradley. Boxberger held down Tampa’s closer role in 2015, collecting 41 saves. After dealing with injuries in 2016, he lost his job to Alex Colome and was never able to regain it.
Boxberger has the talent to close, as he posted a 12.3 K/9 and a reasonable 3.4 BB/9 last season. If he’s handed the closer role in Spring Training, he has the skills to keep it all year, provided he can stay healthy.
As for the Rays, they still have Alex Colome, who led the majors with 47 saves in 2017, but the rest of the bullpen will need to work itself out.
Also, the Atlanta Braves traded Jim Johnson to the Angels for Justin Kelly in a salary-dump move. Kelly is a non-prospect and should be out of baseball in a couple of years.
Johnson moves to a team that had five relievers with at least three saves last season. No Angels reliever could keep the closer job. Johnson enters this mix.
The 34-year-old and his 5.56 ERA held onto the closer job in Atlanta long enough to accumulate 22 saves. He eventually lost the job to Arodys Vizcaino. While Johnson posted a decent strikeout rate (9.7 K/9), his walks (4.0 BB/9) and home runs allowed (1.3 HR/9) increased from 2016, ballooning his ERA in the process.
Right now, it’s almost impossible to figure out who is going to slot into what role in the Angels’ bullpen. Blake Parker closed at the end of the season, so he likely starts 2018 as the Angels’ ninth-inning man. That said, if Parker struggles like he did in 2015 and 2016, Johnson could slide into the closer role.
In Atlanta, Arodys Vizcaino will keep the closer role in 2018 assuming he’s not traded away.