• *Fangraphs “breaking news” chime* Reports are out that Rangers closer Joakim Soria has been traded to the Detroit Tigers for a package of prospects. Soria has posted fantastic numbers in 2014, thanks in large part to the return of his elite changeup. His 1.84 SIERA is 11th best among all qualified relievers, 7th among closers. While Joe Nathan has constantly been propped up by Brad Ausmus, the Detroit skipper is going to have an interesting decision on his hands. Nathan has the big contract and has not operated in a setup capacity recently. Soria’s contract is more reasonable and he has experience working out of the 7th and 8th innings. Nathan’s 3.40 SIERA isn’t great, but implies that he has been BABIPed (.333) and LOB%ed (64%) a bit more than you’d expect. But Soria is still the better pitcher. Who is the ninth inning guy? My gut tells me Nathan keeps the job for now, but his leash got dramatically shorter.
The situation in Texas is even more unclear. While Neal Cotts has been the better pitcher in 2014 (3.04 SIERA, 27% K%, 10% BB%), the recently recalled Neftali Feliz has the big arm that has seen the ninth inning before (years ago, though). The righty’s velocity has remained down in 2014 as he has struggled to regain his pre-Tommy-John fireball ability, leading to subpar rates. The sliver of hope? While his K% is a paltry 11%, his SwStr% is above-average at 10.7%, portending a forthcoming bump in the whiffs department. Even though Cotts is a lefty, he’s more than a LOOGY. He remains a potential ninth inning guy thanks to relatively good numbers against hitters of either handedness. However, it wouldn’t be altogether surprising to see Ron Washington turn to Feliz, even with a few red flags. Of course, a third possibility could be setup man Shawn Tolleson who has been steady, but not quite as good as Cotts in 2014 (3.44 SIERA, 23% K%). With the Rangers only likely to get another 10-15 save chances over the rest of 2014, there isn’t huge, earth-shattering upside here, but all three players should be scooped up. The dust should settle within a week or two.
• Speaking of trades, another “Joa” reliever is on the hot seat. Joaquin Benoit is a popular trade target among reliever-hungry teams and, while he didn’t go back to the Detroit tonight, there remains a better than average chance that he is moved at the trade deadline. Fantasy owners desperate for saves are probably wondering “wait, who is next?” While Dale Thayer would be a reasonable choice as a San Diego veteran with decent peripherals and who has a little closing experience, Bud Black implied that it might be Kevin Quackenbush that gets a crack at the ninth inning. Aside from having one of the majors’ most awesome last names, the 25-year-old “Quack” owns a 2.78 SIERA and a 27% K% during his rookie 2014 campaign. He’s primarily a fastball-curveball-splitter pitcher, with the latter being his best offering, coming in at 3.6 runs above average per 100 pitches so far this season. Like the Texas situation, the Padres don’t offer the upside of a huge number of potential “SV” opportunities, but I’m stashing Quackenbush until at least August 1st in leagues I need closer help in.
• Quick hits: Jake McGee tossed a perfect ninth inning, striking out the side on 12 pitches. The Rays are still operating a committee, but the lefty leads it. Jonathan Papelbon pitched poorly again tonight, allowing a hit, walking two, and hitting a batter. While he wants out of Philly, he also wants to only go somewhere where he’ll get a closing gig. There aren’t a ton of places he could step in immediately and be the closer (Los Angeles and Detroit have made moves already) so it’ll be interesting to see what happens here. I’m less bullish on Ken Giles than I was a few days ago. Casey Janssen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to polish off the punchless Red Sox. He had a couple hiccups the last few days but the season peripherals still shine. He’s safe. Speaking of the Blue Jays, Sergio Santos is on his way to Triple-A. Droppable in even deep leagues where you were holding out for a miracle.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]
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