To say that the closing situation in baseball has been a disaster this season would be a grave understatement. Of the 30 teams this year, 18 teams have had to make changes and/or adjustments due to injury or an outright lack of success. Some of the changes have been temporary while others have seen multiple relievers moved in and out of the role causing fantasy owners to spend far too much time playing the waiver wire in search of consistent saves. But what happens once the dust settles and there’s almost no more turnover? What happens when you can’t find saves on the waiver wire and you’re in need? The trade market can be a very unforgiving place to shop.
Now some will say that with three months left in baseball there’s bound to be more change. There are still a few unstable situations out there and jobs can still change hands. However, we’ve seen a certain amount of stabilization recently and not everyone can afford to simply wait for the next implosion or managerial hook. Head to head league owners may not have the same issues as it is easier to tank a single category, but roto league owners are either losing or giving away points at a rapid rate and it becomes a near impossibility to recover. So not to lose too much ground, they are, more or less, forced into trading.
The problem with dealing for saves is two-fold. Number one, you don’t want to pay a premium price for a guy who may, in fact, lose the job in a month’s time. Number two, there are maybe one or two teams in your league with whom you are going to be able to trade. While most teams start off like gangbusters on the wire, they usually end up building their team elsewhere after acquiring their save specialists. But there are always one or two guys who have an unhealthy obsession with add/drops and are on the wire 24/7 picking up each and every reliever that may or may not find his way into a save or two. And unfortunately, those are the guys who set the market and those market prices border on the ridiculous.
One of the biggest issues also is that these owners aren’t trading you Jonathan Papelbon or Craig Kimbrel. Hell, they’re not even trading you Brett Myers anymore. Your choices range from Tom Wilhelmsen to Shawn Camp to Tyler Clippard to maybe, if you’re lucky, Ryan Cook. What kind of a price are you willing to pay for one of those guys? Probably not a lot. But if you want to compete, this is likely where you have to shop. Maybe someone is willing to part with a Jim Johnson or a Joe Nathan, but then how high are you willing to go to acquire one of them. Probably not much higher than for the aforementioned lesser closers who may be available to you.
Punting a category is rarely a recommended strategy, but you have to see what works best for you in your particular league. In my primary league, one in which there is no more waiver wire, I lost two closers early on and have just Rafael Betancourt as my sole saves contributor. An additional nine saves nets me just three points but obviously that’s if the teams in front of me don’t accrue any saves either. I probably won’t lose any more ground as Betancourt’s efforts should keep me ahead of the laggards behind me in the category. However, gaining ground seems like a longshot, at best. I can either stay the course and leave things as is, basically punting the category, or I can trade some offensive firepower and make a run at multiple closers to help my cause. Based on the league, though, it seems like to former is the route to take.
But that’s just my league. You have to do what’s right for you. If you’re in a spot where the addition of another closer is going to help you pick up points…remember, not just in saves, but in ERA and WHIP as well…you might just have to bite the bullet and pony up a little extra to acquire someone. You’re not going to be happy about it at first, but if the results are positive, you’ll find a way to cope. If the move doesn’t go the way you had hoped, well then that’s probably opening up some possible strategy changes for next year. Either way, it looks like it’s going to be a struggle no matter what you decide.
Kind of makes you think about investing in one of those top-tier premium guys next year, huh? Maybe just a little?