Bullpen Report: July 17, 2013

With baseball taking their annual mid-summer break, I thought maybe it was worth trying to read the tea leaves with some bullpens that might see some potential shakeups as we head towards the MLB and many fantasy league trade deadlines. Some guys might be sell-highs, some might be waiver wire stashes, but the key here is to target guys of interest before the real chatter starts to pick up around baseball in the next week or so.

Milwaukee Brewers: Perhaps one of the messiest closing situations of the first half. Francisco Rodriguez feels like he’s been around forever, but (somehow) he is only 31 (that’s only one year older than Brandon League for those keeping score at home). He’s enjoying a renaissance of sorts, too. His 1.19 ERA is certainly not sustainable (the man has a 99.1% LOB%!), his K% is up about 5% this year and his BB% has even dropped a tick from 10.2% to 9%. His velocity hasn’t moved much, and his SwStr%, while a bit up on 2012, is still well below his career average, so some K% regression might be coming. That said, no one can deny he hasn’t done an admirable job out of the Brewers pen.

The above are reasons why Rodriguez has managed to hold the job even with Jim Henderson (great peripherals) and John Axford (slightly less great peripherals, but the closer(TM) tag) behind him in the bullpen. With the Brewers looking sunk in the National League Central, moving relief pieces for other building blocks seems like a likely strategy. If they follow through, I’d argue that K-Rod seems like the most likely person to go. Remember, Axford and Henderson are under team control until the end of 2016 and 2017 respectively, both at what should be reasonable rates. Rodriguez, on the other hand, is the oldest of the three and remains on a one-year deal (a minor league pact with multi-million dollar incentives he’s hitting while in the big leagues). I’d be peddling him hard coming out of the break in fantasy leagues. If he gets moved, there’s a shot he goes to the Tigers or D-Backs and works his way into the closing discussion, but it’s just as likely he ends up in Texas or Atlanta setting up Joe Nathan or Craig Kimbrel.

Seattle Mariners: Last year, this was a fair amount of smoke around the Mariners possibly moving Tom Wilhelmsen. This year? Not so much. The Bartender’s 2013 has not been without drama so far; he was temporarily pulled from the closer role a few weeks ago. He’s seemingly regained it now, but for a team going nowhere fast, could he and his team-friendly contract (arbitration eligible through 2016) be on the way out? It may not the most likely bullpen shakeup among basement teams, but it certainly could happen.

So who is in line behind Wilhelmsen if he were to get moved? The Mariners have two “closers of the future” in Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor but the first is in AAA after posting a 6.37 ERA in the bigs this year and the second is still working his way back after a multi-month injury absense. In Capps’ defense, he was crushed by a .388 BABIP and 20% HR/FB%; his SIERA is a much less terrible 3.04. He’s still the guy I’d own in this pen in dynasty formats. But for the immediate future, it seems likely that Oliver Perez or Yoervis Medina would get a shot at the ninth. Medina is not a lefty (that’s a plus), but has a career 12.5% BB% (ZiPS says around 13% for the rest of the season) and he has a 4.46/2.69 xFIP lefty/right opponent split. Perez has better swing-and-miss stuff and has smaller splits. If the M’s don’t want to hand Capps this reins this year, he might be the team’s best option in the ninth if they needed a fresh face.

Boston Red Sox: With Andrew Bailey stringing together a few scoreless innings, a lot of people have been asking “when does he get the closer role back from Koji Uehara?” The short answer? Probably not soon. Bailey’s velocity remains down and his fastball was not effective in the weeks leading up to the break. Meanwhile, Uehara has been one of the closers in both fantasy and real life over the last month, and his sparkling 1.70 ERA is actually higher than his equally sparkling 1.58 SIERA.

About the only potential wrench here seems to be Uehara’s workload. Remember, the reason why Uehara wasn’t anointed the closer when Bailey went down with injury earlier in the season was John Farrell’s desire to manage his workload. Uehara’s 42.1 innings are the most he has thrown before an all-star break since his move full-time to the bullpen at the end of 2008. He is 38, so there’s a possibility the workload catches up to him. It seems likely that the Sox will try to give him a break or two to prevent this, which should open up the door for Bailey and Junichi Tazawa to pick up some scab saves, even if they never break full-time into the role. That said, don’t sell Uehara for anything less than equal value; he has historically put up some of the best peripherals in baseball. As long as he’s closing, he’ll make fantasy owners (very) happy.

Closer Grid:

Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Brad Ziegler J.J. Putz David Hernandez
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden Luis Avilan
Baltimore Jim Johnson Tommy Hunter Darren O’Day
Boston Koji Uehara Andrew Bailey Junichi Tazawa
CHI (NL) Kevin Gregg Blake Parker James Russell
CHI (AL) Addison Reed Nate Jones Matt Lindstrom Jesse Crain
Cincy Aroldis Chapman J.J. Hoover Sam LeCure Sean Marshall
Cleveland Chris Perez Joe Smith Vinnie Pestano
Colorado Rafael Betancourt Rex Brothers Wilton Lopez
Detroit Joaquin Benoit Drew Smyly Al Alburquerque
Houston Jose Veras Wesley Wright Jose Cisnero
KC Greg Holland Aaron Crow Tim Collins Kelvin Herrera
LAA Ernesto Frieri Scott Downs Robert Coello Ryan Madson
LAD Kenley Jansen Ronald Belisario Brandon League
Miami Steve Cishek Mike Dunn Chad Qualls
Milwaukee Francisco Rodriguez Jim Henderson John Axford
Minnesota Glen Perkins Jared Burton Casey Fien
NY (NL) Bobby Parnell LaTroy Hawkins David Aardsma Frank Francisco
NY (AL) Mariano Rivera David Robertson Joba Chamberlain
Oakland Grant Balfour Ryan Cook Sean Doolittle
Philly Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Justin De Fratus Mike Adams
Pittsburgh Jason Grilli Mark Melancon Tony Watson
St. Louis Edward Mujica Trevor Rosenthal Fernando Salas Jason Motte
SD Huston Street Luke Gregerson Dale Thayer
SF Sergio Romo Jeremy Affeldt Santiago Casilla
Seattle Tom Wilhelmsen Oliver Perez Yoervis Medina Carter Capps
TB Fernando Rodney Joel Peralta Jake McGee
Texas Joe Nathan Tanner Scheppers Jason Frasor
Toronto Casey Janssen Steve Delabar Brett Cecil Sergio Santos
Wash. Rafael Soriano Drew Storen Tyler Clippard

[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]

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There are few things Colin loves more in life than a pitcher with a single-digit BB%. Find him on Twitter @soxczar.

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Seems like the Astros will probably trade Veras, right? Any thoughts on that pen?


yeah, beyond Wright and Cisnero, wondering about Rule V pick Josh Fields.