Bullpen Report: July 29, 2013

• By now you have heard the news, Jose Veras has been shipped out of Houson to Detroit. Veras was closing games for the Astros but in Detroit he will be relegated to setup duty as Joaquin Benoit will continue to pitch in the ninth, something he’s done quite well going 10/10 on save opportunities. When Benoit needs a break, I’d put Veras second in the pecking order ahead of Drew Smyly. Smyly has been the better pitcher this year and even  fares well against opposite handed hitters with a .281 wOBA against right-handed batters this year. However, Veras comes with the Closer Experience™ label that  Jim Leyland seems to prefer, and this could also allow Smyly to throw multiple innings on occasion.

As far as the Astros side is concerned, Mike Petriello had a great breakdown on what Houston’s bullpen will look like following the trade. I also agree with Mike that Jose Cisnero will take over the ninth in Houston and rather than echo all of his points, I suggest you read his take. Setting up Cisnero should be lefty Wesley Wright who has a pretty solid 3.55 xFIP on the year, but has struggled against right-handed batters his whole career (.369 wOBA against righties in 126.1 IP). Placing whoever is behind Wright might be anyone’s guess at the moment. Previously I might have said Hector Ambriz but he was sent to AAA today with Josh Zeid and Chia-Jen Lo getting the promotion to Houston. Although he just got the call, with names like Travis Blackley, Brett Oberholtzer and Josh Fields my money is on Josh Fields seeing some of the more higher leverage innings that are left. Acquired from Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence trade, Fields is a tall right-hander with some swing and miss stuff (10.92 K/9 in AAA this year), the Astros should be curious to see what he has.

• Also traded this afternoon/evening was Jesse Crain who will be leaving Chicago for Tampa Bay. We don’t yet know who will be going to Chicago in the trade (if anyone at all), or when Jesse Crain will be healthy enough to pitch, but the next pitch he throws will be in a Rays uniform. The Rays don’t need much pitching help as they seemingly get a complete game every start nowadays but Crain will certainly be a boost to their bullpen. In 36.2 innings pitched this year, Crain has 46 strikeouts against just 11 walks, adding up to a fantastic 0.74/1.51/2.96 ERA/FIP/xFIP line. Crain doesn’t come with some of the hoopla or that even a Jose Veras does but one doesn’t have to try too hard to make a compelling case that he is, and has been one of the top relievers in the game. Since 2011, Crain has thrown 150 innings with a 2.10 ERA with a 10.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.  If/when Crain returns, this time to Tampa, the Rays will have acquired a top notch reliever.

• Not to be outdone, the Braves traded for Scott Downs and as Dave Cameron noted, for basically nothing. For Atlanta, Downs will join Luis Avilan as a great lefty, set up option out of the pen and in Anaheim, with Downs gone, look for Kevin Jepsen to see more setting up for Ernesto Frieri. Additionally,  Dane de la Rosa threw in the eighth inning this evening and with a 3.22 xFIP this year, he could receive more time in higher leverage leverage situations. Meanwhile, in that same game, Enersto Frieri blew his third save of the year, serving up home runs to AJ Pierzynski and Geovany Soto. With Downs gone and Robert Coello and Sean Burnett on the DL, Frieri’s job isn’t in imminent danger but it’s worth noting his control problems (5.15 BB/9) prevent him from being one of the more valuable relievers in fantasy.

• Although it would be a cool, potentially sneaky good play, I was never fully convinced that the Rangers were going to move Joe Nathan and it looks like Nathan is expected to stay in Texas. Nathan’s average fastball velocity (9.19  91.9 mph) has dropped over two mph since last year (94.0 mph) but he’s still been quite effective this year with a 1.73/2.42/3.50 ERA/FIP/xFIP  and a 9.50 K/9  while going 32/34 on save opportunities. Tanner Scheppers and Joakim Soria could replace Nathan if he were to leave, but I actually have some reservations with Soria. He has yet to allow a run in 5.2 innings pitched but he also has a career high 4.76 BB/9, a career low 8.7% SwStr% and the velocity is a down from where it was when he last pitched. Of course it’s a very small sample size and these are just the first innings Soria has pitched since his Tommy John surgery but Soria needs to improve in those areas if we (or Texas) is to be too excited about his return.

• Quick Hitters: Chris Perez received the win (3 ,thanks Giambi!) and  Fernando Rodney (26) and Bobby Parnell recorded saves.

Closer Grid:


Closer First Second DL/Minors
Arizona Brad Ziegler J.J. Putz David Hernandez
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jordan Walden Scott Downs
Baltimore Jim Johnson Francisco Rodriguez Tommy Hunter
Boston Koji Uehara Junichi Tazawa Craig Breslow Andrew Bailey
CHI (NL) Kevin Gregg Pedro Strop Blake Parker
CHI (AL) Addison Reed Nate Jones Matt Lindstrom
Cincy Aroldis Chapman J.J. Hoover Sam LeCure Sean Marshall
Cleveland Chris Perez Joe Smith Vinnie Pestano
Colorado Rex Brothers Matt Belisle Mitchell Boggs Rafael Betancourt
Detroit Joaquin Benoit Jose Veras Drew Smyly
Houston Jose Cisnero Wesley Wright Josh Zeid
KC Greg Holland Aaron Crow Kelvin Herrera
LAA Ernesto Frieri Kevin Jepsen Dane de la Rosa Ryan Madson
LAD Kenley Jansen Ronald Belisario Paco Rodriguez
Miami Steve Cishek Mike Dunn Chad Qualls
Milwaukee Jim Henderson John Axford Michael Gonzalez
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 Mark Melancon Justin Wilson Tony Watson Jason Grilli
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 Jesse Crain
Texas Joe Nathan Tanner Scheppers Jason Frasor
Toronto Casey Janssen Steve Delabar Brett Cecil Sergio Santos
Wash. Rafael Soriano Tyler Clippard Craig Stammen Drew Storen

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

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When he's not focusing on every team's bullpen situation, Ben can be found blogging at Ben's Baseball Bias and on Twitter @BensBias

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Wasn’t Fields a Rule 5 pick from the Red Sox after he couldn’t crack the 40 man?