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As the All Star break nears and the season’s first half is coming to a close, it’s time to start making preparations for your fantasy team’s bullpen in the second half. Save for the recent change in Pittsburgh and the disgustingness of the Angels bullpen, there really hasn’t been much movement on the closer front yet many fantasy owners are still finding themselves desperate and hungry for saves. In-house solutions for many teams looking to bolster their pen have been spent already, so it’s time to start looking at the potential trade market and try to stay ahead of your competition with some legitimate speculation with what could possibly happen as the trade deadline rapidly approaches. We’ll look at this in two installments with this being the first – a look at the potential sellers. We’ll check out some names that could be on the move and whether there’s a chance they continue to close or end up as set-up men, thus diminishing their fantasy value. Over the weekend we’ll cover the buyers and see what situations could be upended
While the Phillies Phaithful will be quick to point out that the team is just five games out of first place in the NL East, conventional wisdom has them as one of the top sellers with Jonathan Papelbon as one of the first to go in the fire sale. The 33-year old right-hander has a 1.44 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP and a 27:9 K:BB over 31.1 innings this season and is at the top of the wish list for a few teams looking to bolster their bullpen for a second-half run. The fear of many owners is that their closer could end up a set-up man, but there are enough concerning situations around the league that would lend to the belief that he would be moved to a team looking to add him as a closer. Should the Phillies move Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo could be called upon to handle the second-half work in the ninth.
From Day 1, it was expected that the Rockies would use LaTroy Hawkins as their closer for the first half and when it came time, whether they were buyers or sellers, they would deal him for whatever their needs would be. Hawkins has been fairly solid in the role this season and has a 2.67 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP. The strikeouts, just 11 in 27 innings, are weak, but he has maintained a ground ball rate close to 48-percent this season which has helped him notch 14 saves and keep his ratios in check. Unfortunately, few teams see the 41-year old as anything but a potential set-up man, so the teams looking to add him might just be the ones looking to bolster their work in the seventh and eighth innings. If/when he is moved, the assumption has always been that Rex Brothers would take over the job. However, given some of his struggles this season, Adam Ottavino may be the one to watch in the second half.
San Diego Padres
Firing GM Josh Byrnes and a reserved spot in the basement of the NL West has indicated that the Padres will also open up the store this season with Huston Street and even set-up man Joaquin Benoit who has closer experience, as potential trade chips. Street’s injury history is likely to scare off some, but desperate times call for desperate measures and the risk just might be worth the reward. Both guys have a chance to end up as set-up men, but like Papaelbon, Street would be more of a target to close. Benoit could go either way – stay as a set-up man or actually move into the ninth. If one is dealt, the other would have the job, but if both go, then perhaps Dale Thayer and his moustache or even Alex Torres could get a look.
New York Mets
The understanding coming into this season was that Vic Black would eventually be the Mets closer and that plan hasn’t changed. That means the likes of Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia could find themselves somewhere else if the Mets can get a decent return. The problem here for Mejia owners is that he would likely be picked up more for a set-up role than for a team who is looking for a bona fide closer. Familia is more likely to remain a set-up man. Regardless of the level of trade activity, Black is still the guy to own here in the second half.
While baseball is alive and well in Houston and Astros fans absolutely love what they’ve been presented by ownership, they’re still not going to make a playoff run. That puts Chad Qualls, Josh Fields and even Jose Veras on the trading block, though what they could fetch for any of these guys is likely to be minimal. None of them are really seen as quality closers though, so any one of them, or even all of them, are likely to end up more as bullpen depth than they are as a potential closer for a contending team. How it all falls out after the deadline will depend on who gets moved. Jesse Crain and Matt Albers are both options that may stay because of current injuries and Josh Zeid could even be considered a dark horse. Whoever does land the job, they could be in for some decent work as the Astros are looking more and more competitive as the weeks roll on.
Tampa Bay Rays
The use of the committee in Tampa has obviously diminished the trade value of former closer Grant Balfour, but he could still have some value to a number of teams. Unfortunately, given his numbers – a 5.52 ERA with 21 walks in just 29.1 innings – the likelihood of him landing anywhere as anything but a set-up man seems pretty small. That doesn’t affect his fantasy value thoughas it’s pretty low right now and the prospect of it improving even if he stays with Tampa is bleak. Juan Oviedo, who has closing experience under the name Leo Nunez, is another option to be dealt, and he actually has a better chance of going somewhere as a potential closer than Balfour does. It’s not that great a chance in the grand scheme of things, but a chance nonetheless. The Rays would like to hold onto Jake McGee and Joel Peralta, so one of them could end up closing out the second half for the Rays.
Who would have thought that the Rangers would end up sellers this year based on their offseason acquisitions? No one, probably, but given the fact that they are 13 games out of first in the AL West and 6.5 games out of a wild card spot, it would take one heck of a surge coupled with one heck of a slump for them to swap places in the standings with the A’s. Joakim Soria has 15 saves on the season with a 1.75 ERA and an outstanding 35:3 K:BB over 25.2 innings and will likely be a major targets for a number of teams. But do the Rangers really get rid of him? Sure, they have Neftali Feliz who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and has looked much better in the last month or so than he did to open the year, but considering Soria’s performance, and potential longevity in the role, it might make sense for the Rangers to hold him. Of course, if they’re made an offer they simply can’t refuse, he could be sent packing. Soria would be someone used to close wherever he ended up. If not, then his talents would be as wasted as his fantasy value would be.