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MLB Closers and Saves Report - Week 15 (Trade Deadline Preview Edition)

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The All-Star Break came and went, and now everyone knows the name Aaron Judge. Some people now know the name Justin Bour as well. It was a fun break from "real" baseball, and now that the All-Star Game doesn't "count" it seemed like the players all had more fun, especially Nelson Cruz.

With the All-Star Game behind us though, it means the trade deadline is the next big baseball holiday. With the trade deadline always comes huge changes in the fantasy landscape.

Closers will become setup men, setup men will become closers, and some middle relievers will move up all the way to the ninth inning. This week's Closers and Saves Report is a special trade deadline preview. Let's take a look at some potential moves before July 31:

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Bullpen News for Week 15

Atlanta Braves

The Braves have been surprisingly decent this season, but they're still nowhere near the playoff race in a very top-heavy National League. Closer Jim Johnson is likely to be traded, and he won't close for his new team. Fantasy owners should be trying to move Johnson for whatever they can get, because his value is about to take a huge hit any day now. Meanwhile, Arodys Vizcaino should take over as closer in Atlanta as soon as Johnson moves. While he's currently on the DL, Vizcaino's due back soon and has some nice upside once he controls the ninth inning.

Miami Marlins

The Marlins are going to be sold soon, but probably before that happens, the Marlins are going to sell some players. Rumors have swirled of teams being most interested in closer A.J. Ramos and setup man David Phelps. Neither is likely to end up closing for another team, at least not right away. Anyone hanging on to Phelps hoping he'd take over after Ramos is dealt can probably cut bait now, as it seems more likely for Phelps to be wearing another uniform than Ramos. Ramos, meanwhile, has a chance to close if he goes somewhere like Washington, but is more likely going to setup somewhere. With another year of team control next year though, it's possible Ramos stays in Miami and continues closing. Still, he and Phelps are both "sells" right now in fantasy, with Kyle Barraclough looking like the closer-in-waiting.

New York Mets

Mets closer Addison Reed is in a contract year and the Mets have no reason to hang onto him. He'll likely be moved to a team looking for a late-inning bullpen upgrade, but he almost certainly won't close for his new team. Reed excelled in a setup role the last few seasons, so while owners in standard leagues certainly wouldn't want to see him move, owners in save+hold leagues may actually see a bump in his value. It's unclear who in the Mets bullpen would take over the ninth inning, as Jerry Blevins may also be dealt. Fernando Salas has closing experience but hasn't been great this season, so perhaps Paul Sewald will take the ninth despite no experience. Reed is a sell, but there are no buys in this bullpen for now.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals Carousel of Closers should finally and mercifully come to an end soon when they acquire a big name closer before the deadline. For now, Matt Albers has brought some stability to a very unstable bullpen, but there's probably a less than one-percent chance that he's still the closer in August. While it's unknown for now who will close for the Nats, Albers is a definite sell as he'll slide back into an earlier inning soon.

San Diego Padres

The Padres bullpen has some trade chips in lefty Brad Hand and closer Brandon Maurer. Despite ugly "baseball card" stats, Maurer has some solid peripherals and smart teams could look at him and see potential. Still, it's hard to see any team trade for Maurer and his 5.60 ERA to slide him right into the closer role. He'll likely setup or maybe get a seventh inning job with a new team, killing the fantasy value he's had while earning saves for the Padres. Hand is almost certain to move, but he also won't close with a new team. He's been a great reliever this season though, and could end up setting up for a playoff contender before the month ends. With Maurer and Hand both likely changing addresses, the Padres will need someone to close out their victories. Phil Maton seems like a good candidate, and he's the one with the most upside in San Diego. Because it's not quite certain if Maton will get the ninth yet, he's not a must-add from the waiver wire, but fantasy players with an extra space on their roster looking for a speculative add could do worse. Meanwhile, Hand's value should remain about the same with perhaps a small jump due to more holds opportunities in holds leagues. Maurer's value will crash, so owners should sell for whatever they can get at this point.

Baltimore Orioles

Rumors are rummaging about that teams like the Dodgers and Nationals are interested in Orioles closer Zach Britton. Of course they are, Britton is one of the best closers on the planet and all teams would be interested in him for the right price. It remains mostly unlikely that Britton pitches for anyone besides the Orioles this season, but a trade to the Dodgers could vastly impact his fantasy value. If he goes to the Nationals or almost any other team, he'd remain a closer and the change in his fantasy value would be negligible. But if he goes to the Dodgers, he'd slide in behind ultra-elite closer Kenley Jansen and become one of baseball's best setup men. Owners of Britton should keep an eye on rumors without being overly worried for now. In the unlikely event that Britton is dealt, Brad Brach would recover the closer role that he occupied while Britton was on the disabled list.

Chicago White Sox

It was a minor surprise that the White Sox didn't trade closer David Robertson before the season began. It would be a major surprise if they didn't trade him before the trade deadline. With Robertson almost certainly gone and Nate Jones out for the year, setup man Tommy Kahnle is set to take over the ninth inning. Kahnle has been excellent this season, putting up a 2.65 ERA along with 15.09 K/9 and only 1.85 BB/9. That's elite closer status once you add in saves. Kahnle is a must-own and anyone looking for saves should check the waiver wire immediately. Robertson's value won't change much, as he's pretty sure to be picked up by a team in need of a closer.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers have a gem in Justin Wilson, and they may try to cash in on that gem before the trade deadline. The Dodgers and Astros have shown interest in him, but unfortunately for his fantasy owners, he likely won't close if he's moved. The best case scenario, fantasy-wise, is for him to stay in Detroit and stay in the ninth inning. If he is moved, Bruce Rondon seems like the most likely candidate to move into the ninth inning for the Tigers. With plenty of uncertainty here, there are no immediate buy or sells, just more of a wait and see.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals have a solid bullpen, and after a slow start to the season, they've actually picked things up to get back into playoff contention. They still seem willing to move Kelvin Herrera, who hasn't been as great this season as in past years, but is still a solid closer. The Nationals have shown interest as have a few other teams. Depending on where he goes, he may close, or he may setup. It's a tricky situation for fantasy owners because there are a few unknowns here. For now, he seems like a hold (and Joakim Soria/Mike Minor seem like watch list guys just in case.) Keep an eye on rumors revolving around Herrera and be ready to make a quick move if necessary.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers bullpen has blown 17 saves this season, yet the team is still only three games out of the Wild Card in the Amercian League. General Manager Jon Daniels has already said he doesn't see his team as sellers, so they will probably have "closer" at the top of their wishlist. Currently running with an ugly committee, there aren't really any fantasy must-owns in this bullpen, but anyone they acquire to pitch their ninth would be worth owning immediately. If they are unable to reach a deal for a closer, Keone Kela makes for an interesting closing option once he returns from the disabled list.


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