2014 Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: What, Me Worry?
The tweets and emails are coming in hard and fast right now as critics of the “pay for saves” mentality are standing on their soapboxes with their sh*t-eating grins and a big bag of “I told you so’s” to serve up to me. Well, get your licks in while you can because come season’s end you’re all going to be coming back to me with hat-in-hand begging for forgiveness and more closer advice. Yes, the closer chaos is maddening and the nightmare of injuries, blown saves and lost jobs is casting a very dark shadow on the position right now. But I’m here to tell you to stay the course, don’t freak out and continue to have faith that all will be right with the universe soon enough.
For the record though, allow me to say this: when I talk about investing in saves, I’m not talking about drafting two mid-tier guys who have mediocre job security in the 12th and 13th round. I’m talking about investing in a guy like Greg Holland, Kenley Jansen or Craig Kimbrel and then supplementing him with a mid-tier guy. The owners who wisely did that are sitting there laughing at you right now as you piss away your FAAB budget on the likes of Pedro Strop and Jonathan Broxton. Laughing at you. They did it right and you did it wrong, and if they so happen to have one of these rough closer situations affect their team, their top-flight closer in whom they invested is still keeping their squad balanced.
And don’t start talking about Aroldis Chapman here and how that investment went to crap. A freak injury like that is not the reason you don’t pay for saves. That kind of mentality is going to guide you right into last place. Now here’s a look into a few situations that may be causing fantasy owners to panic, but shouldn’t. Scramble a little, maybe. But certainly not panic.
OK, so Jim Johnson got off to a nightmarish start this season and after allowing seven runs over just 3.1 innings, Bob Melvin gave him the hook and replaced him with a closer-by committee situation. Again, let me reiterate – a closer-by committee situation. Luke Gregerson picked up two-out save Saturday and Sean Doolittle got the save on Sunday. Ryan Cook and Dan Otero are also in the mix for save work as well. Which one should you grab? Well, if you’re desperate, then probably Doolittle…maybe Gregerson. But don’t go panicking just yet because Johnson will get his job back as soon as he shows some consistency with his work and that’s coming much sooner than later.
Let’s face it, people. The A’s did not trade away Jemile Weeks and invest $10 million dollars so that Johnson could be the most over-priced set-up man in the game. Melvin wants to give him back his job and will as soon as he can. The reason he went with a committee approach is just that. If he anoints someone, then he has to deal with a potential controversy when Johnson is ready to resume his work. But with a committee, Johnson can re-enter the mix seamlessly and Melvin looks like a genius. And yes, it’s as simple as that. Johnson could still get traded should the A’s need/want some late-season help to push them towards the playoffs – that’s why they built up their pen so well in the offseason – but he’s not going to have much trade value if he’s not on full display and closing out games for the A’s.
Fantasy owners can take a deep breath and relax. And if some idiot in your league dropped Johnson, you best be grabbing him ASAP. And if you’re that idiot, shame on you and go get him back.
OK, listen. If you were relying on Jose Veras to be your closer this season, then you’ve got some serious delusions. His story this year was exactly the same as it was last year -- he’s got the potential to be the team’s full-time closer but is shaky at best and always a mid-season trade candidate who will end up back in a set-up role. And with a guy like Pedro Strop in the pen, the leash was not expected to be long. Drafting Veras was not investing in saves and if you made the decision to pick him up then you should have handcuffed him immediately to Strop. If you didn’t, then you’ve only got yourself to blame. Strop may not be the best guy to rely on either, but he does have a strong strikeout rate and should be able to hold off the rest of the bullpen for at least the next couple of months.
Manager Bo Porter continues to play the match-ups with his closer-by-committee in Houston, but it’s certainly worth noting that neither Josh Fields nor Chad Qualls were called upon to get the save over the last few games. Granted, it was more clean-up for Kevin Chapman than anything else, but Anthony Bass has now recorded two saves in his last three appearances. It seems really doubtful that Bass would be the guy Porter tabs for the closer job, but if the arm is hot, he’s going to use it. All three should stay in the mix for saves in the coming weeks and we’ll soon be able to add Jesse Crain to the fray. Crain is likely to be the guy who sees the most opportunities once he’s healthy, so make sure you keep note of that while making it rain at Club Waiver Wire.
Boston Red Sox
OK, so no panic but maybe some nervousness is warranted here. I probably wasn’t emphatic enough during the spring when I warned you about Koji Uehara and the potential for injury so I won’t sit here and tell you I was right. I did express concern over his massive innings increase from the 36 innings he tossed in 2012 to the 74.1 innings he threw in 2013 which doesn’t even include the extra 13.2 innings he tossed in the playoffs, but I didn’t stand on a mountain-top with a red flag. The Red Sox are downplaying the potential severity of the injury, but maybe the shoulder isn’t that worn down right now. He’s been long-tossing for the last couple of days but will need at least one bullpen session before he’s ready to go back out there. If you’re an Uehara owner, you should have Edward Mujica handy just in case. It’s very possible that Uehara is fine moving forward, but you can never be too careful.
Toronto Blue Jays
While Sergio Santos has been an outstanding pick-up for fantasy owners this year, his time as the Blue Jays closer is about to run out. With reports that Casey Janssen will appear in one or two rehab games this week and potentially be activated for the weekend series against Cleveland, Santos is officially closing on borrowed time now. The Jays may opt to ease Janssen back into the role, but manager John Gibbons has already stated that the job will go back to Janssen soon enough. You should obviously hold onto Santos if you’re a Janssen owner, but if you just snagged him for a quick fix, his time is over and you can drop him.
Something to always remember and something I just discussed with my cohort Michael Pichan on the Fantasy Alarm Podcast (now available on iTunes, by the way) Sunday – every closer has his missteps. None of them are perfect. Don’t dismiss Jose Valverde’s earlier performance just because he blew a save by giving up a home run to Raul Ibanez. Glen Perkins will be just fine. So will Ernesto Frieri. Fantasy owners have to accept the fact that every so often, your closer is going to get hit hard. It may sting initially, but in the end, it’s not going to kill you. If your guy has a string of bad luck, don’t just assume that he’s going in the tank and you need to pick up the next set-up guy on the team. They can’t all be Mariano Rivera, so take a deep breath and relax. It’s still super-early here. Remain calm. All is well.
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@tortowl rather have Iwakuma than samardzija.