Last week we talked about how many of fantasy baseball’s bullpens perpetually evolve throughout the long baseball season. We identified Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Scott McGough and Washington Nationals reliever Hunter Harvey as two new closers who recently emerged as the favorites to record saves and lead their respective bullpens for the near future. This week we’ll take a closer look at the big trade that the Texas Rangers made which they hope will help to bolster their bullpen and try to determine the fantasy impact of the move. We’ll also look at how the Dodgers added depth to their bullpen without even having to lift a finger to do it. We’ll also try to figure out which other teams might be willing to trade away relief pitchers over the next few weeks and identify a few middle relief pitchers who have some fantasy value that you should be aware of.
Unless otherwise noted the statistics quoted in this article are accurate as of Wednesday morning July 5th, 2023.
Fantasy Baseball MLB Bullpen Updates
Whether you agree with the move or not you have to hand it to the Texas Rangers. They identified Aroldis Chapman as a reliever who they felt could help their team and they wasted no time and went out and traded for him. If there’s one area that the first place Rangers needed help in, it’s their bullpen. Cumulatively their relievers have the seventh highest ERA in baseball (4.48), and they are tied for having the fourth most blown saves (15). Will Smith leads the team with 15 saves and is currently the team’s closer. His slider (44 Whiff rate) is his best pitch and overall, opposing hitters have a .179 BAA him. Manager Bruce Bochy claims that Smith will continue to be the Rangers’ closer, and that Chapman will continue to be used in a set up role, similar to the way that the Royals, his former team, utilized him. It wasn’t all that long ago that Chapman was considered one of baseball's top relievers. He saved 30 games for the Yankees as recently as the 2021 season, however multiple injuries, a drop in velocity, an infection related to a tattoo and a missed mandatory workout prior to the Yankees’ 2022 Division Series got him jettisoned from the Bronx. Chapman signed a one-year deal with the Royals, and he’s regained some of his lost velocity this season. He’s pitched well as Scott Barlow’s set up man. Should Smith be unavailable for a prolonged period, with his extensive closer experience Chapman should be able to take over as the team’s closer, but for now he should be considered a reliever who can potentially be a good resource for holds. He has eight on the season. The Rangers do have a few other live arms in their bullpen that they can turn to. Jose Leclerc has some previous closer experience and is working his way back from an ankle injury. We wrote about Josh Sborz last week. He has struck out 49 batters in 36 IP and has recorded nine holds. Sborz was considered Smith’s set up man prior to the Rangers’ trade for Chapman. Rangers’ reliever Brock Burke is also a good resource for holds. He has eight on the season.
The Dodgers added some significant depth to their bullpen once Daniel Hudson (torn ACL) was activated off the IL. Hudson has 32 career saves and has only made two appearances thus far, but both were in the eighth inning. He did record a hold in his second appearance. Evan Phillips will remain the Dodgers’ closer, but manager Dave Roberts hopes that Hudson can join Brusdar Graterol, Caleb Ferguson and Yency Almonte as trusted relievers that he can turn to in late inning high leverage situations.
Potential MLB Trade Deadline Sellers
Left-handed hitters have a .185 BAA him and righties are batting .312 against him.
Harvey has a 1.98 ERA in his last 14 appearances. He’s unlikely to be the closer on his new team.
Carl Edwards Jr. Jr.
He’s currently on the IL but the Nats might be motivated to move him in his walk year.
May has six saves in the past month while pitching for baseball’s worst team. He won’t close in his next gig. Righties are batting .193 against him. May is a free agent at the end of this season.
Lange gives up too many walks to be a closer long term. Right-handed batters are hitting .143 against him.
Cisnero has a 2.18 ERA, one save and nine holds on the season. He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season.
The White Sox are just 7.5 games out in the AL Central but if they decide to sell, they’ve got some bullpen arms that would generate interest including: Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly (free agent), Reynaldo Lopez (free agent), Keynan Middleton (free agent)
This might be a long shot but perhaps the Cards are showcasing Hicks as a closer to generate interest in him on the trade market. He’ll be a free agent at the end of this season.
Middle Relievers Who Should Be On Your Radar
The following are a few relievers who provide good ratios, can be good resources for holds, and occasionally make multiple inning appearances. They might be worth streaming in place of mediocre starting pitchers:
Pivetta’s overall numbers aren’t pretty but has thrown 18.2 IP in his last 11 appearances and he has a 1.93 ERA during that time span. Walks have been a bit of an issue. He’s given up 11 free passes in those 11 appearances, but he’s also struck out 25 batters and opposing hitters are batting just .097 against him.
Cruz is another reliever with ugly overall numbers, however he has pitched well recently. He hasn’t given up a run in his last nine appearances spanning 11 IP. He has a hold, 16 strikeouts and he’s walked just three during that time span.
After registering a 7.96 ERA in his first eight starts of the season, Manaea has really settled into his role as a middle reliever. In 12 relief appearances dating back to May 17th, Manaea has won two games, lost a game and recorded two holds. During that time, he has a 3.45 ERA, and he has struck out 41 batters and walked seven in 31.1 IP.
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