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Trade Deadline Analysis - Relievers On The Move

Paul Sewald - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB DFS Picks, Betting Picks

The trade deadline is here! Yet, unlike in years past, we don't have to wait until hours before the deadline to get our fix. We've seen some monster names traded away already, like Max Scherzer, Trea Turner, Kyle Schwarber, and other players that aren't on the Nationals.

However, for today's article, I'm just going to look at the trades made on Thursday, July 29th that involved relievers. I'll try and help you figure out how the trades may impact a reliever's fantasy outlook and which names are the ones to be spending your FAAB money on this week. Hopefully, you've left some money to spend on the wire because post deadline is often where you can find good value in major leaguers in new roles or minor leaguers being called up to fill the gaps.

Just remember, spend wisely and look ahead. Sometimes a player on a new team isn't always a good thing, and sometimes the player that has a role now isn't the player that is most likely to have it in two weeks. But let's try and make sense of all of that.

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Diego Castillo Traded To Seattle

Diego Castillo

Let's start with Castillo because he's obviously the biggest domino in this trade. We also have an idea of what to expect from him because of this insight from Daniel Kramer, the Mariners reporter for MLB.com.

Diego Castillo being called the closer is good, but remember, as Kramer pointed out, that won't mean every single save. Kendall Graveman was sometimes called on in the 7th or 8th inning to face the best hitters in the opposing lineup, leaving residual saves for Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider.

However, given the way Tampa Bay manages their bullpen, this doesn't really change Castillo's value at all. In fact, if I have Castillo (and I do on a few teams) then I'm happy about this trade. The Mariners may not win as many games as the Rays the rest of the way, but I know that Castillo is going to be called on to get the biggest outs for the Mariners the rest of the way, and I simply didn't have that confidence in Tampa, especially with Nick Anderson nearing a return. So while this doesn't increase Castillo's value tremendously, I think it protects him from a major value hit in the coming weeks that would have likely happened in Tampa.

Paul Sewald

Sewald is the biggest player impacted in this deal. For one glorious day, those who had scooped Sewald up on waivers thought they had a closer. Sadly, it wasn't to be. Now, that's not to say you have to drop Sewald. Over the last two months, Sewald has a 2.82 ERA, four saves, and a 15.72 K/9 in 22.1 innings for the Mariners. That's the second-most innings of any pitching in their bullpen, behind Hector Santiago, who is their bulk reliever.

So Sewald is still going to pitch often for Seattle and grab the occasional save here and there when Castillo needs a day off or works the 8th against the meat of another team's order. The other upside for Sewald in that scenario is that he will rarely face the opponent's best hitters if Castillo gets the highest leverage innings. That should help Sewald continue to have success, as he has this entire season. If you need ratios and strikeouts, Sewald might not be a bad option to hold on your roster; however, if you're primary concern is saves, I don't see him grabbing more than a handful for the remainder of the season.

Andrew Kittredge/Matt Wisler/Drew Rasmussen/Nick Anderson

What will Tampa do with its bullpen now? I mean, isn't that always the question. With Pete Fairbanks also hitting the IL, the Rays have a hole at the end of their bullpen right now. The obvious signal - I mean, neon sign glowing in the dark obvious - is a trade for Craig Kimbrel. The acquisition of Nelson Cruz already showed they were trying to compete this year and not afraid to acquire rental players to do it, and almost every trade so far this deadline has shown us that the price for rental players isn't costing as many prospects as we've seen in the past.

The other big name to watch is Nick Anderson. The Rays old closer, who has been hurt all year, has begun appearing in rehab games in the minors and might be back within two weeks. I don't believe the Rays would throw him into the ninth every time once he returns, but they never really did that anyway to begin with. However, if you have the bench/IL space, I would certainly be stashing him.

I know Andrew Kittredge is the frontrunner in most circles right now, and I will certainly be putting some small FAAB bids on him because he's having a really strong season, but the Rays like using him in multiple different roles, and he's never really had the strikeout stuff you like to see from a closer. His 19.5% K-BB% is fine, but he's also sporting a .221 BABIP despite having a career .305 mark, so I expect some regression there.

The name I actually prefer is Matt Wisler. Wisler has been great since coming over from San Francisco, throwing 20.2 innings with a 2.18 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 27 strikeouts to only three walks. His 27.3% K-BB% is more in line with what I like to see out of closers. Wisler also has the 2nd-highest game leverage index (gmLI) on the Rays since June 1st, which means only one pitcher on the team is used in more high-leverage situations than him: Pete Fairbanks.

This, plus his swing-and-miss ability makes Wisler the more intriguing add in my eyes.


Nationals Trade Away Brad Hand and Daniel Hudson

Brad Hand/Jordan Romano

This worked out pretty well for Brad Hand. He went from a team that was selling away all moving pieces to a team that is fighting for a playoff birth and needs a left-handed arm in the back-end of their bullpen. Jordan Romando has emerged as the favorite for saves over the last few weeks, but the Jays only had Tim Mayza to turn to when they needed a lefty arm late in the game. Hand will change that, which is bad news for Jordan Romano's value. I would anticipate that the Jays now go with a matchup-based closer job where Romano, who has actually been slightly better against lefties this year, will get save opportunities when it matches up with the team's best right-handed hitters and Hand will get them if the opponent's best left-handed hitters are up at the end of the game.

However, I wouldn't rule out the idea that Hand implodes here down the stretch. I know I've been calling for his fantasy demise for a while, and he continues to prove me wrong, but I think the high saves total in Washington is covering some real blemishes. For starters, Hand has a 3.59 ERA, 4.65 xFIP, and 4.14 SIERA. More alarmingly, he has a 13.2% K-BB% and 8.86 K/9, which are both the lowest he's had since 2015. He's also giving up an 8.5% barrel rate, which is the highest of his career. So he's giving up more hard contact, striking out fewer batters, and now being traded into a ferocious offensive division while playing in a stadium that is a plus-offensive environment? Those are all major red flags for me, and I'd be trying to swap Hand out for another closer if there's a manager in your league who thinks him moving to Toronto is a good thing.

Mason Thompson

Daniel Hudson isn't going to close in San Diego, and he'll pitch fewer high leverage innings in that crowded bullpen, so we don't really need to discuss him here. However, Mason Thompson interests me. Credit where credit is due, Greg Jewett had some great information on Thompson, citing that he has seven saves in 26.2 innings in AAA this year, with a 24:8 K:BB ratio in the hitter-friendly West division, which is formerly the PCL). He's 23-years-old and the Nationals are clearly not competing this year, so it's possible Thompson could get some opportunities down the stretch.

Kyle Finnegan / Tanner Rainey

The more immediate names to know in Washington are Finnegan and Rainey. Finnegan got the save in the first game of the doubleheader and was fourth on the Nationals in gmLI in the month of July behind Hand, Hudson, and Sam Clay, who is their only left-handed reliever and not a threat to take the closer's role. So the Nationals clearly trust Finnegan in big spots, and they've proven that they like to use one arm to close games. However, Finnegan's 13.8% K-BB% is a bit concerning, even if he is limiting hard contact.

I'd still keep an eye on Rainey, who had a rough start to the year but had seemed to figure things out a bit in June before landing on the IL. He was brilliant last year and has flashed better swing-and-miss stuff than Finnegan, so if he can "get right," he's the best pitcher they have in that bullpen. Even though the big questions really are: how many games is this team actually going to win and do you really want to roster either of these guys if the upside is just a small handful of saves. is this really better than rostering Paul Sewald?


Cubs Trade Ryan Tepera to the White Sox

Rowan Wick

With Andrew Chafin in Oakland, Ryan Tepera moved to Chicago (where he obviously won't close), and Craig Kimbrel likely traded today, that leaves the Cubs with Dan Winkler and Rex Brothers. However, I'm not interested in either of those arms. Rather, I've been adding shares of Wick, who is currently on a rehab assignment at Triple-A and showing his old swing-and-miss stuff. The 28-year-old was tremendous with Chicago the last two years, but took a step forward in 2020, showcasing better command and the ability to harness a wicked curveball along with his 95 mph fastball.

Considering Wick has had success in the past and is on a one-year deal with the Cubs, I'd expect the team to see what they have in him over these final months before making a decision on where he fits in their long-term plans.

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