Tradable closers

As if there hasn’t been enough closer turnover already this season, the July 31st trade deadline usually provides some chaos of its own as a few bullpen arms are likely to change teams. Although we can’t know for sure who will stay and who will go, it’s still important to be aware of who can stay and go. With that said, let’s take a look at this year’s closer trade candidates. Starting with the most likely:

Trade candidates

Brett Myers No team has more of an incentive to move its closer than the Astros, since Myer’s contract includes a hefty $10 million dollar option for next year if he finishes 45 games. The rebuilding ‘Stros certainly don’t want that sum on their books, so a trade makes sense.

Brandon Lyon and Wilton Lopez are the candidates to replace Myers as closer. Given his closing experience and Lopez’s recent injury, I’d give the nod to Lyon as the more likely replacement, though Lyon is also someone who could be traded, so he’s no lock to close even if Myers is dealt. Or, rather, when Myers is dealt.

Matt Capps Even though he strikes almost no one out, give Capps credit, he’s limited walks and enough hits to pitch pretty well this year. Granted, I surely wouldn’t want Capps to be my closer. But he’s still a valuable reliever, and could a be worth a secondary prospect to a contender. Either Glen Perkins or the surprising Jared Burton would step up if Capps is sent packing.

Huston StreetThe building and then breaking of the Padres bullpen is likely to continue this year when Street is flipped for prospects. Personally, I think the Padres should keep all of their bullpen arms and assemble baseball’s version of The Avengers. Imagine if they had done this and their bullpen was Street, Mike Adams, Ernesto Frieri, Cory Luebke, Heath Bell (the good version), and Luke Gregorson. Now that would be unstoppable.

Unfortunately, the Padres won’t be receptive to this plan and probably will just look to deal Street. I’d expect Gregorson or Dale Thayer to get saves if Street’s traded, by the way.

Jonathan Broxton The Royals placed a $4 million dollar bet this offseason that Broxton could turn around his career, and that bet has paid off so far in the form of a 1.63 ERA over 27 innings. Now the Royals are probably hoping it pays off in another way, in the form of a prospect or two. The clear replacement is Greg Holland, who I covered in last week’s Waiver Wire.

Rafael Betancourt Betancourt has been one of baseball’s best closers this year and also has a long history of success out of the bullpen. Any contending team should love to have his services, while the 25-40 Rockies haven’t much use for them.

If a trade occurs, setup man Matt Belisle would likely slide into a closing role for the Rockies, though he is also a trade candidate himself. If both are shipped, former first-rounder Adam Ottavino has broken out this year and could be handed the closer’s keys in Colorado.

J.J. Putz Putz has one of the best strikeout-to-walk ratios of any closer, but some bad luck with balls in play and home runs has his ERA at 5.14 for the year. Despite the ERA, Putz still should be viewed as an elite reliever. Currently at .500, the D’backs might not be sellers at the deadline, but if they fall a few more games back of the Giants over the next month, they might have to accept if a good offer comes their way. David Hernandez would fill in if that’s the case.

Final thoughts

The trade deadline usually plays out fairly unexpectedly, so it will be interesting to see where some of these names end up. As a last note, I expect the Cubs would love to move Carlos Marmol, but that would require eating lots of salad celery salary and, to be honest, who would really want Marmol at this point?

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11 years ago

I’ve found it interesting that across a good range of fantasy writers, I’d say about 2/3 say that Holland will be next in line for saves, and 1/3 say Crow. I have to believe Holland is the better pitcher, but they did turn to Crow last year (briefly) to close when Soria went down, and the Royals still appear enamored with him. So I’m not sure that Holland is the “clear replacement”. Maybe you have more info than me?

11 years ago

I’m not advocating Capps as my closer either, and I’m a Twins fan … but what are his numbers in save situations vs. non-save situations this year? Seems to be nearly every time he blows up is in a non-save.

Paul Singman
11 years ago

Jon, that’s an interesting observation. I agree “clear replacement” is too strong a phrase to describe Holland. Last week Holland was pitching the eighth when Broxton was coming in to close, and I just assumed he was first in line. The situation is more muddled though, as last night Crow came in for the eighth inning in a 2-0 ballgame that Broxton closed out. I’ll still give the edge to Holland, but keep an eye on this B-ref page and their stats in the next few weeks.

Paul Singman
11 years ago

Andy, I don’t have the exact numbers but Capps does seem to have a habit of allowing a run or two in tied games. I don’t think that would cause other teams to hesitate in trading for him and putting him in a non-closing role in their bullpen, for what it’s worth.

11 years ago

Wouldn’t Brothers also be in the mix at Colorado if Betancourt and Belisle were traded? He has pitched well since being recalled and based on last year and the fact that he was a closer in college would make me think he would get a shot especially over Ottavino.

11 years ago

I don’t see why any young pitcher would ever want to be a closer. Gone are the days of job security and teams investing patience in developing him. It’s kind of sad really. I suppose I understand the economics of it all, but if you had a solid closer and your team was losing, why trade away one of the few assets that can help you if you become competitive in the next year or two? I know it is the day and age of instant results but this year seems to be the worst for closer volatility. Blow two saves in a row and now you are just another casualty of the vicious closer merry-go-round.

11 years ago

Marmol to Boston for Youkilis, as a “we owe each other” move between Theo and Cherrington?

11 years ago

Any chance Boxberger steps up in SD if Street goes?

Paul Singman
11 years ago

Harry, nice catch. Brothers has been lights out the past month and should be added over Ottavino for sure.

Greg, the problem relievers are so fickle given the low numbers of innings they pitch, it often makes sense for teams to not commit long-term to a guy. The Rays essentially go year-to-year with their closer and do fine. I guess you’re right though, any closer can’t really settle down comfortably anywhere cause they are easy trade pieces. Most relievers are relievers by circumstance and not choice.

Paul Singman
11 years ago

Boxberger’s got the closer potential in him, but right now is still too wild. If he pitches well over the next month though, he’ll be in the mix.

11 years ago

Aaron Crow, hostorically, can’t get lefties out.  Not something you want in a closer and better off being one of 2 set up guys.  However this year he has the rather odd split of vs. LHB .100-AVG/4.38-ERA and RHB .284-AVG/1.56-ERA.  Odd.