With the All-Star break behind us we fantasy managers will have to try to squeeze as much fantasy value from our relievers as possible as the season starts to wind down. With a lack of sticky stuff, and looming trades potentially turning closers into setup men and elevating setup men into closers it won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. 

Sticky Stuff

You can’t talk about pitching these days without mentioning sticky stuff. On June 21st MLB began cracking down on pitchers who were caught using foreign sticky substances on their baseballs, reasoning that the use of those substances helped pitchers gain unfair advantages over hitters. 

The crackdown seems to have worked. Prior to June 21st big league pitchers had an overall 4.14 ERA and a 23.9 K rate. Since then, the league’s overall ERA has climbed to 4.39 and the league K rate has dropped to 23%.

Big league hitters were batting .239 with a .713 OPS before June 21st, and .246 with a .737 OPS since then.

Some pitchers simply may not be as dominant moving forward without the help of their favorite sticky substances. 

Yankees reliever Aroldis Chapman is a perfect example. His fortunes have taken a major turn for the worse since that fateful June day when baseball started enforcing its sticky stuff policy. 

One June 20th he lowered his season long ERA to 1.98 and he also saved his fourth consecutive game as the Yankees’ closer. Since then, he has a 34.71 ERA, opposing hitters are batting .462 against him, and he’s blown two saves. His closing days have been put on hold for now.

Héctor Neris has had his ups and downs this season, but things got really bad for him after June 21st. Up until June 20th he had a 3.04 ERA, but since then he’s pitched to an ugly 11.04 ERA.

Marlins closer Yimi García had a 2.67 ERA on June 20th, and a 6.45 ERA in seven appearances since that date.

First Half Closers? Second Half Holders…

If you need help in the saves category in the second half of the season start paying attention to trade rumors and work the waiver wire. Start scooping up setup men off of the wire who pitch for teams who can be expected to trade away their closers.

The Cubs may be sellers as baseball’s trade deadline approaches. Their closer, Craig Kimbrel, will be a free agent at the end of the season, and he’s likely to be traded. Andrew Chafin has a good chance at being the Cubs’ next closer. Pick him up off the waiver wire now because you’ll have to invest a ton of FAAB if and when the Cubs announce that he’ll be their next closer.

Other current closers who may be on the move via the trade route include Richard Rodríguez (Pirates) and Ian Kennedy (Rangers). Rodriguez has previously been linked to the Blue Jays. David Bednar and Kyle Crick would likely be the next men up for the Pirates, and Joely Rodríguez and Josh Sborz could get opportunities to close out games for the Rangers should Kennedy get traded. Diamondbacks closer Joakim Soria has gotten hot at the right time. He hasn’t given up a run in his last six appearances and he’s also recorded three saves during that time span. Soria’s a free agent at the end of the season and could be traded away as well.

If you roster a closer who eventually gets traded don’t be too shocked if he’s not the primary closer for his new team. For instance, Kimbrel has been linked to the Astros and the A’s. He probably wouldn’t be the primary closer for either of those teams. The A’s have been using a committee approach this season and Ryan Pressly has been closing out games for the Astros all season long.

Bullpens In Flux

As the trade deadline approaches and relief pitchers start getting traded there will be plenty of teams frantically working to reconfigure their bullpens and we’ll be talking about them in the coming weeks. For now, the one team that can use a stabilizing force in their bullpen is the New York Yankees. Zack Britton, who the Yankees just reinstated from off the IL, may just be that stabilizing force that the Yanks are looking for. He has experience as a closer, having saved 135 games for the Orioles between the 2014 and 2017 seasons. Britton also filled in nicely for Chapman while he was on the IL last season. He saved eight games in nine appearances for the Bronx Bombers while Chapman was sidelined.

If you've been a subscriber here at Fantasy Alarm, you've seen the Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid before. If you're new, it's very simple. We not only list who the closer is for each team, but we then go another two-deep into the bullpen to let you know who would be next in line to accrue saves should there be an injury or a change, as well as which relievers you may want to target if your league scores for holds. This isn't about how the teams' depth charts always reads, so keep that in mind. Sometimes the heir-apparent is an obvious one, but in many cases it is not. We look for things like skill set, contact rates, pitch-command, pitch-mix, how many lefties are in the bullpen, who has worked as a closer before and who has the experience in high-leverage situation among other things.

GREEN will be those with strong talent, abundant opportunities and a high-level of job security. The tier below will be in YELLOW followed by ORANGE and lastly RED to indicate who may have the job right now but could lose it with one bad hiccup. 

UPDATED: 7.16.2021