2014 Fantasy Baseball: The Week 18 Closer Report
With the passage of the trade deadline, we now have a relatively clear picture of what each team’s roster will look like heading into the offseason. We get a chance to pause and reflect on our teams and the fantasy landscape as a whole. As I did last year, I’ll take a look forward at the closer’s role for 2015. Who will be in and who will be out? And can we target any of these players now in our keeper or dynasty leagues?
Notes on 2015
This pen is currently a mess and any of these four could close. That is the same sentence I opened with last year and it could apply this year. However, Addison Reed, who hasn’t been great in the closer’s role this year, is under team control for the next three seasons. I foresee him returning to the gig and muddling along as a mid-tier closer for 2015.
Zach Britton has run with the closer’s job since taking over for Tommy Hunter. He’s under team control via arbitration through 2018 and he hasn’t shown any reason to not give him the job next year. Hunter is arbitration-eligible for the final time and he could come back as a setup man or could be non-tendered. Darren O’Day has also been effective and should be back on his club option next year, but Britton is my bet to be the closer for 2015.
Boston Red Sox
Koji Uehara heads to free agency off of his best two seasons in the major leagues. The 39-year old could attempt to cash in, but may not find a long term deal. He could also be welcomed back to the Red Sox who have benefited from his output the last two years. And since he wasn’t dealt at the deadline, the idea that they might extend him a qualifying offer makes a bit of sense.
The Red Sox don’t currently have much else in the pen to challenge Uehara. Edward Mujica was my choice for most of the season as the heir apparent. I know, he’s been bad, but the usage patterns this year have put Mujica (signed through 2015 at $4.75M per year) as the handcuff even though Junichi Tazawa has been the better pitcher.
I’d certainly put Tazawa in the role if I were running the club, but I’m not and Sox management may have a comfort level with the veteran Mujica that they don’t with Tazawa. Closers aren’t always chosen based on skills, but I think that the Red Sox will offer Koji that projected $15M dollar one year deal and he’d likely jump on it.
The Cubs are my favorite bullpen because the organization has one of my favorite arms – Arodys Vizcaino lurking in the minor leagues. Vizcaino has struggled since he’s been bumped up to AAA (but a .536 BABIP and 1.42 HR/9 will do that to you). That said, he’s the best arm they have and I think he gets shot to hold down the role.
The only stumbling block is that the Cubs probably won’t be contenders in 2015 and could hold Vizcaino back (he’s still only 23) to save some money and go with a mix and match bullpen in 2015 ala the Houston Astros this year. I’m still predicting that Vizcaino comes out as the closer in 2015, but I know that’s a longshot. What other options are available?
Kyuji Fujikawa has a $5.5M option for 2015, but he’s just recently begun his rehab from Tommy John surgery and I could see him heading back to Japan just as easily as I could see him re-signing with the Cubs. Hector Rondon has been pretty effective in the role and Neil Ramirez has also been an effective reliever in the setup role this year (but he’s hit the DL with some arm issues).
It’s more than likely that one of Rondon or Ramirez will get a crack at the job (along with Vizcaino). Rondon would be the favorite (especially if this velocity increase can be maintained into next year) with Ramirez just behind him, but Vizcaino is the play for me as he has more upside than the other two. Hopefully Fujikawa gets back to pitch some MLB innings this season so we can see where he stands.
Chicago White Sox
I don’t really want to write another word on the White Sox bullpen ever again. However, I’m obligated to do so as part of my job. No one on the current active roster has shown any consistency in the role and I can’t imagine they’d be considered next year. Matt Lindstrom will soon be back from the DL, but he’s a free agent after this season and could walk. The best bet for 2015 is a healthy Nate Jones and that bet crashed hard as he’s now done until late 2015 with Tommy John surgery.
Jake Petricka has filled in pretty well since Zach Putnam hit the DL, but we’ll need to see what happens over the last two months of the season to see what Spring Training might look like. At this point, I’m going to say that the White Sox will go out and sign a closer in the offseason, but if Petricka continues to succeed he could get a crack in 2015.
Aroldis Chapman is the man here. No others need apply. He enters his second year of arbitration after 2014 and the Reds have shown no signs of slotting him into the rotation.
Cody Allen has been solid since taken over for John Axford. He’s under team control through 2015 and should have the role as they enter Spring Training in 2015. Bryan Shaw hits arbitration after this year and will likely price himself out of Cleveland after 2015 unless he signs a team-friendly deal this offseason.
Latroy Hawkins is still a member of the 2014 Colorado Rockies. He’s got a $2.25M option for 2015. He’s currently 41 years old. He’s going to be the closer in Colorado next year. All of those statements are true. I know. I don’t believe it either, but that’s what the Rockies are saying. If someone still believes Rex Brothers is the closer of the future, deal him to this individual.
Joe Nathan has pitched pretty poorly for the Tigers this year. However, unless he’s hurt, I can see Nathan entering next year as the closer as he’s signed through 2015 at $10M per year. I don’t think the Tigers will be able to offload Nathan onto another team either.
Should Nathan be injured or somehow get traded, it’s not clear where the Tigers might go. Joba Chamberlain is a free agent after the year and may attempt to capitalize on the solid year he’s had with a multi-year contract. The Tigers could attempt to bring him back. Joakim Soria has a $7M option so he could be back in 2015 if he performs well down the stretch. That said, Nathan is probably the closer on Opening Day next year.
The Astros are still rebuilding so they don’t have to spend on a top notch closer. However, their bullpen has settled a bit since Chad Qualls took over as closer and Tony Sipp moved into a setup role. Qualls is the fourth highest paid player on the team this year, but his number for 2015 is only $3M. I see the Astros bringing him back to keep the bullpen in order for 2015 as the Astros hope to start their rapid ascent up the standings.
If not Qualls, I could see the Astros going to Josh Fields next year. He’s really improved since the beginning of June to the tune of a 0.68 ERA, 20:2 K:BB ratio in 13 1/3 IP.
Kansas City Royals
Greg Holland heads into his second year of arbitration and it will be interesting to see what he gets. Jim Johnson got $6.5M to avoid his second year of arbitration in 2013. Holland should see a number greater than that and it could be his final season in Kansas City (especially if the Royals don’t make the playoffs in 2015). Holland will be the closer on Opening Day 2015, but the Royals have a ton of flame throwing relievers (Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Louis Coleman) to take over if they need.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Joe Smith has given every indication that he can handle the role and he’s signed through 2016 at $5.25M per year. He’s the closer entering 2015.
Not so fast my friend. A late breaking trade on Saturday night, puts Huston Street into the closer’s role and probably leads to an audition for 2015. Street has a $7M club option for 2015 and his performance in the last half of 2014 will dictate the Angels’ move.
I’ve slid Street into the closer’s role for 2015 as I believe he will continue his solid season and the Angels’ will pick up his option.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Kenley Jansen heads into his second year of arbitration and he should be the closer again in 2015. He’s the best arm in that pen. I don’t care (and the Dodgers likely don’t either) that they are paying Brandon League big money to operate in low leverage situations. That’s probably where he’ll stay in 2014 at a price of $8.5M. They could also bring Brian Wilson back to set up again, but Jansen is going to be the man for years to come.
Steve Cishek heads into his second year of arbitration eligibility after this season. He’s in line for a pay raise that could push him out of the Marlins budget (he’s the third highest paid player right now). He’s a candidate to be dealt this year, but until he’s dealt I’ll say he’ll be the closer in Miami again in 2015.
Francisco Rodriguez has been a revelation this season, but he’s struggled recently as I noted last week. His work this season probably prices the Brewers out of his market (he’s a free agent after this year) and his recent struggles lead me to believe they see the same decline in K-Rod we thought we’d seen last year.
Enter Jim Henderson – the assumed closer until Opening Day. He’s working himself back from a shoulder issue and his rehab has been moved to AAA. He’s been great on the assignment and I could see Henderson slotting into the role in 2015 if not sooner. And Henderson hasn’t hit arbitration yet, so he won’t cost the Brewers much.
Glen Perkins is signed through 2017 at no more than $6.5M per season with a 2018 option at $6.5M. He’ll be the closer in Minnesota as long as he’s effective.
New York Mets
Jenrry Mejia has done well as a closer this year even though the original plan was for him to be in the rotation this season. His performance this year has given the Mets reason to keep him in the pen. Moreover, the Mets will have a number of contenders for the rotation next season, so I believe the Mets will leave Mejia in the pen to thrive.
Bobby Parnell is still on the mend and he is under team control next season so he could be in the mix if he heals from his TJ surgery. But he could just as easily be non-tendered.
New York Yankees
David Robertson has done a fine impersonation of Mariano Rivera in his first year as Yankees’ closer. However, he is a free agent after this season and the Yankees could let him go if they are trying to save money (they will have $90M tied up in Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixera, C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka in 2015).
However, the Yankees do have a fine substitute in Dellin Betances who is the break out star among young relievers. Betances has the skills to hold the job and it would be interesting to see the Yanks hand the job over to another pitcher so soon after turning it over to Robertson. At this point, I still think they go after and re-sign David Robertson, but I’d put the odds at 60/40 that they sign him. Betances is a must own in dynasty/keeper leagues.
It’s Sean Doolittle‘s world and we’re just spectators. Doolittle is signed through 2018 (with club options for 2019 and 2020). His deal from 2015 to 2018 will cost the A’s just $9.25M total! He’s the man there for the foreseeable future. There isn’t any reason to speculate on any other reliever in the A’s pen at this point.
Jonathan Papelbon remains a member of the Phillies’ bullpen as Ruben Amaro, Jr. was unaware that the trade deadline was on Thursday. Papelbon has a diminishing strikeout rate and a contract that pays him $13M per year through 2015 and a vesting option for 2016. He needs only to finish 10 more games this year to guarantee his 2016 for another $13M.
Unless the Phils can find someone to take this contract, he’ll be the closer again in 2015 an Amaro’s performance this trading deadline leads me to believe that Papelbon would need to be kidnapped in order to leave Philadelphia.
Ken Giles has shown well this year and would be my pick to take over should Papelbon be smuggled away.
When the Pirates dealt Jason Grilli they handed the job to Mark Melancon. Melancon is arbitration eligible for the second time this offseason, so he’ll probably see his salary move toward $5M for 2015. That isn’t outrageous for a closer and the Pirates can probably handle it (especially since I don’t see them hanging onto Ernesto Frieri once the season finishes). Melancon also has some closing experience at the major league level in the past.
If the Pirates want to go cheap, they could hand the job off to Tony Watson, a lefty, don’t show a huge platoon issue. Watson has been effective the last couple of seasons for the Pirates, but I don’t believe they’d go that route.
St. Louis Cardinals
Trevor Rosenthal hasn’t been nearly as lights out as he was last year, but he’s been effective nonetheless. The Cardinals have been able to keep him in the pen even with the myriad injuries to their starting rotation. I see no reason that they will pull Rosenthal from the role in 2015.
Jason Motte is a free agent and I have a feeling he’ll look to pick up a closer’s job if one is available in 2015. Pat Neshek has been great, but probably can’t repeat this season. Carlos Martinez has been in the rotation for part of the year and he probably will get a shot there next year as well. Shelby Miller was just recently moved to the bullpen. Could he be an answer in 2015? Probably not – they’d like for him to start if he can.
San Diego Padres
The Padres finally dealt Huston Street, but hung on to fellow reliever Joaquin Benoit. Benoit is signed for $8M for 2015 and will be the Pads closer entering spring training. However, he could be a candidate to be dealt at the end of the 2015 as his situation will mirror Street’s this season and the Padres will likely be in the same spot in the standings at this time next year.
San Francisco Giants
Sergio Romo blew up and Santiago Casilla entered the vacuum and has run with the job. Romo is a free agent after the season and I don’t see the Giants ponying up for him again. Casilla is signed for $5M next year and the club holds an option for 2016. I can see Casilla holding the job for the next two seasons.
Fernando Rodney is signed through 2015 for $7M. He’ll be the closer in Seattle in 2015 as his 2014 season has been all the Mariners could have hoped for when they signed him.
Tampa Bay Rays
If contracts weren’t involved, it would be Jake McGee’s gig heading into 2015. However, Grant Balfour still has a year (and $7M) left on his contract. I think the Rays will open 2015 with Balfour at the helm, but McGee is a Betances-like talent who must be owned as I see similar odds to the Robertson/Betances duo with Balfour holding the 60/40 edge due to the money owed him.
Neftali Feliz is the heir to Joakim Soria’s recently-vacated throne and I believe he’ll be in that role in 2015. Feliz is arbitration-eligible for the final time after this year, but his salary should be manageable considering his poor 2014. True, Feliz has not shown much since his recall, but he’s held the job previously and I’m going to chalk this year up as lost.
Beyond Feliz, there really isn’t anything else to get excited about in the organization. Maybe a healthy Tanner Scheppers? If Feliz isn’t the answer, I think the Rangers look outside the org.
Toronto Blue Jays
I was wrong about Sergio Santos. He couldn’t wrest the job from Casey Janssen. Janssen has shown well as he heads off to free agency. The 32-year old Janssen will likely not settle for a short term deal or offer a “hometown” discount as this is probably his last chance at a big contract. For that reason, I see Janssen leaving Toronto and the Jays don’t have any real options behind him on the roster.
Sergio Santos was DFA’d. Brett Cecil still has his issues with right-handed bats though he was a closer in college. The rest of the crew is made up of has-beens or never-weres. The Jays will look outside of the organization for a closer next year.
Rafael Soriano has a club option for 2015 that vests if he finishes 120 games between 2013 and 2014. He is currently at 92 games finished over those two seasons and I believe it unlikely that the Nats will let him get to the 120 games finished necessary to vest the option (valued at $14M for 2015).
So, if Soriano doesn’t return, where do the Nats turn?
Drew Storen was seen as the closer-in-waiting for the Nats since the day he was drafted. Indeed, he held the job in 2011. His work this season makes me believe that he’s recovered from his disastrous 2013 (even if his peripherals don’t quite back up his surface stats). However, I don’t think the organization turns to him. Storen is under team control
Tyler Clippard held the job in 2012 for the Nats and has been a superior pitcher for the last few seasons. I think the Nats’ go to Clippard first as he has more classic closer “stuff” with a significantly higher strikeout rate to Storen. I give Clippard the lean 60/40 over Storen at this point.
Finally, the Nats could go outside the organization if they want to keep Storen and Clippard in their current roles, but I think the Nats will need to save their pennies and will attempt to muddle through with what they have in 2015.