Not long after the final out of the All-Star Game was recorded, work broke that the Mets had traded closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers for two players to be named later. Obviously this deal has major fantasy impact, so let’s break it down.
“Francisco has been one of the best relievers in the game for many years,” said Brewers GM Doug Melvin in the press release. “He is a high-quality arm who will be a tremendous asset to our bullpen as we prepare for the final months of the regular season and playoffs.”
That language (“best relievers,” not “best closers”) leads me to believe that the Brewers will continue to use John Axford in save situations. He’s outperformed K-Rod this year (2.26 FIP vs. 2.98 FIP) but doesn’t have the same kind of track record, however there’s the issue of Rodriguez’s vesting option. If he finishes 21 more games this year, it’ll lock in a $17.5M salary for next season. There’s a better chance of Trevor Hoffman coming out of retirement to be the seventh inning guy than there is of Milwaukee letting that sucker kick in.
Axford owners, you’re safe. His role doesn’t figure to change. Yeah, K-Rod might steal a save here or there (they have the wiggle room to let him finish 10-15 games), but nothing crazy. Rodriguez owners are pretty much out of luck, you’ve got a great option for holds but just took a big hit in the saves department.
There are two obvious candidates to inherit the ninth inning in Flushing. Jason Isringhausen has been doing a bang-up job as K-Rod’s primary setup man this season, though his 4.67 FIP and 4.81 xFIP do a better job of telling the real story than his 3.14 ERA. Izzy isn’t missing many bats (6.4% whiffs) and is giving up a ton of fly balls (just 30.5% grounders), so CitiField is saving him some headache. He has the Proven Closer tag and is seven saves away from 300, things that could impact his role even if they really shouldn’t.
The other option is hard-throwing Bobby Parnell, who has seen quite a bit of high-leverage work of late. He’s pitched to 1.56 ERA with 19 strikeouts and just four walks in 17.1 IP since coming off the disabled list at the end of May, and his stuff is clearly superior to Izzy’s. Parnell has just one career save (back in 2009), so if he does get the job, he might be on a very short leash. The team would probably be better off letting him handle the sticky situations in the seventh/eighth while Isringhausen starts the ninth fresh with no one on base anyway.
The dark horse is rookie Pedro Beato, but he seems like an extreme long shot. His 3.38 ERA matches his 3.38 FIP, but he’s seen more sixth and seventh inning work than anything else this year. Perhaps down the road, but Beato’s time is not now. I suspect that Isringhausen will get the call for the time being, but keep in mind that he’s on the trade block as well and could have a new address in three weeks. He’s the short-term option, but Parnell is the clear long-term solution here.
Aside: Heath Bell just got that more valuable on the real life trade market, so if you’re concerned that he’ll get moved to a club with an established closer, I’d look to sell him in fantasy now.