There have been several changes to fantasy baseball’s saves and holds landscape following Tuesday’s MLB’s trade deadline. Some closers were born and other relievers who were involved in trades can no longer be counted upon to consistently contribute to the fantasy baseball saves category. In some respects some of the activity that took place before the deadline created some questions as to how relievers in new places will be used and the initial fluidity in potential usage is reflected on our closer grid. Hopefully the next few days will answer the majority our questions regarding new roles for various relievers but for now, the following is a breakdown of how the recent MLB trade activity has affected the composition of the following bullpens:
(Unless otherwise noted, statistics quoted in this article are accurate as of the morning of August 2nd, 2023)
Fantasy Baseball MLB Bullpen Updates
With their closer Jordan Romano on the IL due to lower back inflammation the Jays picked up a very reliable reliever in Jordan Hicks who had been closing out games for the Cardinals. Up until last week there were reports that Hicks and the Cards were working on a contract extension but apparently the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement. With Cardinals closer Ryan Helsley on the IL since June 12th Hicks took over as the Cardinals closer and in 16 appearances dating back to June 9th, he posted a 3.31 ERA and struck out 19 batters in 16.1 IP. He also saved eight games and recorded a hold in another. He wasn’t perfect. Hicks also sported an 0-3 won/loss record and did blow one save during that time span but along with Erik Swanson and Yimi Garcia, he will be part of a committee that will be used in late inning high leverage situations. Swanson has effectively operated as Romano’s setup man, saving two games and notching 26 holds on the season. Garcia, who has 21 career saves, has three saves and 10 holds this season. It will be interesting to note how the bullpen hierarchy plays out in the coming days, but Romano, who has been dealing with back issues since the All-Star game, will unquestionably be the Jays’ closer once again when he is reinstated off the IL.
Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol is well known for not wanting to anoint a single reliever as his dedicated closer, but he invariably tends to eventually favor one reliever over another when deciding who will close out games for his team. With Hicks being traded, Giovanny Gallegos will almost certainly take over as the team’s closer. It’s a role that he has shared off and on with Ryan Helsley over the past two seasons. Helsley is on the IL with a strained right forearm but is getting closer to returning to action. He threw live batting practice on Wednesday and if no complications are discovered he could be scheduled to start a rehab assignment relatively soon. Gallegos who has a .184 BAA right-handed batters had been thriving as Hicks’ setup man. In his last 12 appearances spanning 13.2 IP he posted a 0.68 ERA, adding a win, six holds, 1 blown save. He also struck out 15 batters and walked just two during that time span. With Chris Stratton also recently traded Andre Pallante and JoJo Romero are next in the Cardinals’ bullpen pecking order should Gallegos be unavailable. Neither has much fantasy value. Pallante has nine holds but has blown five saves. Romero has a save, two blown saves and two holds.
In trading for former Mariners closer Paul Sewald, the Diamondbacks hope to add some depth and stability to their bullpen. Manager Torey Lovullo also doesn’t like naming a designated closer and has used Scott McGough (9 saves), the since traded Andrew Chafin (8 saves), Miguel Castro (7 saves), Kevin Ginkel (3 saves) and Drew Jameson (1 save) to close out games for the Diamondbacks this season. Lovullo is tough to figure out. Several times this season one of Lovullo’s relievers would record consecutive saves and it appeared as though he would be the team’s closer moving forward. However, Lovullo would inevitably switch gears and use a different reliever in future consecutive save situations. Sewald has 52 saves and won 18 games while pitching to a 2.88 ERA over the past three seasons for the Mariners and will presumably be the Diamondbacks’ closer for the remainder of the season. However, with Lovullo’s managerial style Ginkel, McGough and Castro might still be called upon to close out an occasional game.
Many fantasy baseball managers got what they’ve been waiting for as Mariners reliever Andres Munoz appears poised to take over as the team’s closer with Sewald being traded to the Diamondbacks. Munoz’s stuff is electric, powered by a four-seam fastball that regularly hits the upper 90 mph range on the radar gun, mixed in with a sinker and a slider that has a 51.5% Whiff Rate this season. The Mariners dealt from their strength as they have some additional live arms in their bullpen behind Munoz. Justin Topa would presumably be the next man up behind Munoz. He has two saves and 16 holds this season. Topa has a 2.59 overall ERA but has been especially effective lately. He has a 1.17 ERA in his last 18 appearances. Matt Brash is also a good resource for holds out of the Mariners bullpen. He has 14 on the season and a 1.74 ERA with 30 strikeouts across 20.2 IP over his last 22 appearances.
The White Sox got some bad news as it was announced that Liam Hendriks underwent Tommy John surgery on Wednesday and will not pitch in the major leagues until the 2025 season. Between his battle against cancer and his latest injury Hendriks has been faced with many challenges of late and we wish him the best. The Sox made a flurry of moves prior to the MLB trade deadline including trading their placeholder closer, Kendall Graveman, back to the Houston Astros. Graveman, who had eight saves for the Pale Hose this season likely won’t be getting many save opportunities moving forward. In his last go-around with the Astros, he was mainly used in the seventh and eighth innings of games and served as a good resource for holds. As for the White Sox bullpen configuration moving forward, Gregory Santos is the only other Sox reliever to pick up a save (he had two) other than Graveman since July 2nd. He’s been red hot of late, pitching to a 1.93 ERA with those two saves and three holds in his last 14 appearances. Santos has one blown save and 16 strikeouts in 14 IP during that time span. With the White Sox also trading relievers Reynaldo Lopez, Keynan Middleton and Joe Kelly, Aaron Bummer would move into the setup man slot. Bummer has had an uncharacteristically bad season thus far but has five career saves and is familiar with working in late inning high leverage situations. Veteran pitcher Bryan Shaw has also been struggling, but with 15 career saves and a history of pitching in big spots, he could see the occasional save opportunity as well.
The Royals, who entered Wednesday night’s action with 33 wins, have themselves a new closer. With Scott Barlow, who has been slumping lately, being traded to the Padres it’s likely that Carlos Hernandez will take over as the Royals’ closer for the rest of the season. Hernandez has five pitches in his arsenal including a slider that has a .130 BAA and a 39.3% Whiff Rate. Save opportunities may be tough to come by in Kansas City but Hernandez has been on fire of late. In his last 20 appearances he’s pitched to a 1.66 ERA, and he’s collected one save and seven holds. He has 23 strikeouts in 21.2 IP during that time frame. As for Barlow, his days as a closer are done, at least for the rest of this season. With Josh Hader back to being one of the baseball’s premier closers, Barlow’s save opportunities will be few and far between. However, with Hader being a free agent at the end of this season Barlow could find himself back in the mix for save opportunities for the Padres next season if they decide to let Hader walk.
The Marlins hoped to solidify their bullpen by trading for former Mets closer David Robertson, who faced the unenviable task of filling in for Edwin Diaz this season. Robertson did a good job, saving 14 games for the Mets while pitching to a 2.05 ERA. Fantasy managers who rostered Robertson were lucky as he will continue to get save opportunities for the Marlins. A.J. Puk (11.42 ERA in his last 10 appearances) lost the closer’s job earlier in the season. Tanner Scott, who has 23 career saves now likely moves into a setup role behind Robertson. As for the Mets bullpen, manager Buck Showalter told the media that they’d be surprised as to which relievers would be in the mix for save opportunities. Needless to say, the Mets’ bullpen usage is expected to be very fluid moving forward, and one to avoid.
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