Pen Pals: 2nd Half Bullpen Report

By: Ian Hughes

The trade deadline is looming, and plenty of late inning jobs will be changing hands as veteran relievers are flipped on the market for prospects. Some will land in better situations, and some will be relegated to setup duty for another closer. When the spots open up, we find saves in places we weren’t looking, and with a little foresight we can up the chances that we will be the ones to capitalize on a job vacancy. The following is a report on the state of each team’s end of game options, and the likelihood of a change. We also provide the injury options for team’s that aren’t expected to move their closers prior to the trade deadline. For a look at the current closer situations, check out our closer chart.

Newly minted D-Backs closer Brad Ziegler

Arizona Diamondbacks: As chaotic as it gets right now, Heath Bell failed to hold on to the job while J.J. Putz was working his way back from injury. They briefly went with a committee approach with Brad Ziegler and David Hernandez each picking up saves since the committee’s announcement. Since then, Ziegler has emerged and gained the title of closer, but the D’backs will look to add a closer at the deadline, as Ziegler lack’s the K rate a closer usually needs to succeed. Should the D’backs miss out on a closer at the deadline look for Putz, who is under contract for next season, to regain the closer role at some point.

Atlanta Braves: Craig Kimbrel is one of the game’s premier closers and has only allowed 1 earned run since he allowed 2 back on May 7th, converting 16 saves in the process. The Braves will not be in the market for a closer, but may add a veteran arm to replace the innings lost by season ending injuries to left-handed pitchers Jonny Venters & Eric O’Flaherty. If Kimbrel were to go down to an injury the Braves would turn to Jordan Walden.

Baltimore Orioles: While Jim Johnson has 6 blown saves on the season, after blowing only 3 all of last season, he will continue to close games out for the Orioles, who always find themselves in close games.  If Johnson is forced to miss any time, the Orioles will turn to Tommy Hunter to close games out. Hunter already has 2 saves on the season, and  11 holds.

Boston Red Sox: The bullpen was supposed to be a strong point for the 2013 Red Sox, a healthy Andrew Bailey, a trade for Joel Hanrahan, and a trade for Koji Uehara. But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, as Hanrahan went down for the season after struggling out the gates. Bailey lost the job after blowing 5 saves, and Junichi Tazawa relinquished the position as well after failing to record a save and blowing 3. The Red Sox acquired left handed specialist Matt Thornton, but may not be finished adding pieces to finish games out, as Uehara has blown 2 saves, while saving 7 since taking over. If anything were to happen to Koji Uehara, prior to a trade, look for Boston to give Thornton a chance now that Bailey is out for the year.

Chicago Cubs: Current closer, Kevin Gregg, is on the market and should be moved prior to the deadline, and the Cubs likely won’t be bringing a closing option in at this point, and will likely turn to in house options Pedro Strop or Blake Parker to finish games in the second half, with the left handed James Russell remaining in a matchup role. Strop’s 2012 was solid, a 2.44 ERA in 70 appearances, but his 2013 with the Orioles was anything but as he posted a 7.25 ERA in 29 appearances before being traded. Since the trade, Stop has appeared in 7 games and hasn’t allowed a run, with 7 K’s in 6 innings. Parker, a 2006 16th round pick of the Cubbies, has a 2.45 ERA in 18.1 innings with them this season. If I am picking a closing option for the second half I think the Cubs roll with Strop, after giving up Scott Feldman to acquire him.

Chicago White Sox: With the White Sox going nowhere fast they shipped left-hander Matt Thornton to the Red Sox for OF Brandon Jacobs. Closer Addison Reed, and veteran reliever Jesse Crain (currently on DL), could also be on the way out of Chi-city. Crain almost certainly will be dealt in the second half, and Reed, though less likely, could also have a new home if an offer knocks Kenny Williams’ and Rick Hahn’s, um, sox off. Should Reed be dealt, or go down with an injury, and assuming Jesse Crain is traded, the Pale Hoses will turn to Matt Lindstrom, assuming he too isn’t dealt!

Cincinnati Reds: Aroldis Chapman will continue to close out games for what has been an excellent bullpen in 2013, and will welcome back Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton from the DL in the coming weeks. Should Chapman be forced to miss time due to injury a healthy Broxton would fill in for him, but there is no shortage of arms capable of getting the job done in the pen.

Indians Closer Chris Perez

Cleveland Indians: Though a bit squirrely at times, Perez has been effective in the 9th inning for Indians, and will continue to close games in 2013. Beyond Perez things get shaky, as Vinnie Pestano has lost the rights to the 8th inning. If Perez should visit the DL, the Indians could turn to Pestano if he regains form in lower leverage situations, or more likely turn to Cody Allen to finish games. Allen has end game stuff and has racked up 52 strikeouts in just 39.2 innings pitched on the season.

Colorado Rockies: The Rockies lost closer Rafael Betancourt to the DL. Stepping in is  Rex Brothers,  who has been highly effective, and filled in well for Betancourt earlier this season. Betancourt is eligible to return from the DL on July 30th, and could still be dealt prior to the non-waiver trade deadline (July 31st). If and or when Betancourt is dealt Brothers would step back into the closer role.

Detroit Tigers: Papa Grande’s second run as the closer ended and reminded Tigers fans why the first one ended when it did. Joaquin Benoit has been closing since, and has looked good doing it. The Tigers will indeed be active at the trade deadline, and could opt to bring in a proven closer to replace Benoit, or add pieces to bridge the gap to him. I think Benoit holds onto the job for the remainder of the season, but preseason favorite Bruce Rondon could factor in if Benoit hits a rough patch or hits the DL at any point.

Houston Astros: Jose Veras will almost definitely be dealt at the deadline, and likely become a setup guy on a contender. If/when he is dealt, I like Jose Cisnero to slide into the closer role for the ‘Stros, but left-handed Wesley Wright could also factor in. A dark horse candidate here would be Hector Ambriz, who is expected to be recalled following the break.

Kansas City Royals: The Royals will be quiet at the deadline, neither adding, nor subtracting pieces. The only addition could be the recall of flamethrower Kelvin Herrera. Greg Holland will continue to close games out, and if Herrera solved his issues he could be a nice 8th inning bridge for what has been a pretty solid bullpen in 2013.

Angels Closer Ernesto Frieri

Los Angeles Angels: Ernesto Frieri will continue to close games out for the disappointing Angels who are 5 games under .500 at the break. The Angels will welcome back Ryan Madson, and Sean Burnett at some point in the second half and neither will factory into saves, barring injury to Frieri. Should an injury occur, a healthy Madson would ideally slide into the closers role, otherwise veteran Scott Downs or Kevin Jepsen could fill in, should the Angels opt to keep the lefthanded Downs in a setup role.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Took long enough, but the Dodgers eventually realized that Kenley Jansen was their best 9th inning option. Should Jansen be forced to miss time, look for Paco Rodriguez to slide into the 9th inning role, ahead of Brandon League who has struggled mightily in 2013. Another option the Dodgers have to finish game is Ronald Belisario.

Miami Marlins: With Steve Cishek not hitting arbitration until next season he likely won’t be dealt, and should hold onto the closer role for 2013. Should Cishek be dealt Mike Dunn would become the closer. Regardless of who is in the position, the Marlins likely won’t provide many opportunities.

Minnesota Twins: Though Perkins has been a good closer on an otherwise bad team, I don’t see the native Minnesotan being dealt to a contender prior to the deadline. Should Perkins be dealt, or deal with an injury, Jared Burton would move into the role.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers will be looking to deal at the deadline, trying to find new homes for Francisco Rodriguez, and John Axford. The Brew Crew will use Jim Henderson in the closers role full time when K-Rod is dealt. Though a bit of a longshot, after his struggles earlier this year, John Axford could also factor into saves if he stays in Milwaukee and Jim Henderson is injured or ineffective. Should Axford & Rodriguez both find homes, and Henderson succumb to injury, Mike Gonzalez would likely get the nod.

New York Mets: Closer Bobby Parnell’s name has been floated around in a few rumors, and they should cash in on him, but, as he enters arbitration for the first time next season, I doubt he is moved, and he will continue to close games for the Mets. Should Parnell be moved, or injured, look for Latroy Hawkins or David Aardsma to fill in for him. Frank Francisco could also factor in when healthy.


Yankees Closer Mariano Rivera

New York Yankees: The great Mariano Rivera will not be dealt, nor will he lose his job at any point in this, his final season. Speculating beyond 2013, set up guy David Robertson, will likely open the 2014 season as the closer, and makes for a nice add in keeper leagues. Robertson would also close if Mariano were to miss time with injury. For more on Mariano’s value moving forward check out Russell Shaffer’s (@RussellShaffer) Thursday Thoughts column.

Oakland Athletics: All Star, Grant Balfour has the job locked down in Oakland, and barring injury will continue to close games for the A’s. Should anything happen to the Aussie, the A’s will turn to Ryan Cook to finish games.

Philadelphia Phillies: Jonathan Papelbon is likely on the market, and should be on the move, as he will net a few prospects for a team that is likely selling at the deadline. Should Paps get moved, Antonio Bastardo would slide into the 9th inning, with Mike Adams out for the year.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Shark Tank is a very stable situation, Jason Grilli will close, and Mark Melancon will get the ball to him in the 8th. Should Grilli be forced to miss time, Melancon would fill in for him. BREAKING NEWS: Grilli left tonight’s game with a pitching arm injury, Melancon will fill in if Grilli is forced to miss anytime, and it appears that he will as he left the field immediately after releasing the pitch.

San Diego Padres: Current closer Huston Street, is under contract for 7 million dollars next season and has a club option for 7 million for 2015, but could still be moved as the Padres enter into sell mode. Should Street be trade, injured, or remain ineffective Luke Gregerson would fill in for him, and Dale Thayer if anything were to happen to Gregerson.

San Francisco Giants: Sergio Romo likely isn’t heading anywhere, and will continue to close for the Giants as they fall out of contention in the NL West. Should Romo be injured, or in the event of a trade, look for Santiago Casilla to fill in for Romo.

Seattle Mariners: Tom Wilhelmsen had a bit of a rough patch during the first half, and even pitched in lower leverage situations to get through it, but has since reclaimed his title. Wilhelmsen has a very club friendly contract right now, so likely won’t be dealt, but with the Mariners not competing, don’t rule it out completely. Should Wilhelmsen be dealt, visit the DL, or lost control of his job, look for Yoervis Medina to take over as closer, as I feel Oliver Perez is definitely going to be traded.

St. Louis Cardinals: Edward Mujica stabilized what was a shaky situation to start the year, as Mitchell Boggs failed to capitalize on the opportunity to fill in for the injured Jason Motte.  Mujica will stay in the closers role, and if anything were to happen to Chief, Trevor Rosenthal would fill in for him. It is possible that prospect Carlos Martinez could join the Cardinal’s bullpen, and if he does is a dark horse candidate to replace Mujica if he were to hit the DL.


Rays Closer Fernando Rodney

Tampa Rays: Fernando Rodney is far from the most dominant closer, hell he is far from the most dominant reliever on his own team, but Joe Maddon and Rays have stuck with him and his 5 blown saves in 2013. Should Rodney hit the DL or they change their minds, they will likely stay in house to close games by turning to either Joel Peralta or Jake McGee. Alex Torres is a longshot candidate, but has pitched very well this season and could factor in if Maddon feels Peralta and McGee are too comfortable in their current roles.

Texas Rangers: The Rangers bullpen is unlikely to make any deadline changes, and Joe Nathan will continue to see save chance. Should Nathan be forced to miss any time the Rangers could turn to Tanner Scheppers, or go with the experienced Joakim Soria, who is just returning from injury and has 3 innings to date in 2013. The more appearances Soria gets the closer he gets to being next in line for saves in Texas.

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jay’s pen has been one of the best in baseball this season, and Casey Janssen will continue to get the save ops unless he is injured or battles some ineffectiveness down the stretch. Should either of these occur All Star Steve Delabar would likely fill in for him, although a healthy Sergio Santos could also come into play.

Washington Nationals: Barring injury Rafael Soriano will continue to close for the Nationals. Although Drew Storen has received save chances when Soriano was unavailable, look for Tyler Clippard to become the closer should Soriano be required to hit the DL. Soriano’s strikeout numbers have been pretty bad this past month, and could be a concern should he start to struggle at any point.