Round and round she goes; where she stops, nobody knows. This closer carousel that keeps spinning around this season is starting to become downright unbearable. They say never to pay a premium for saves on draft day because they’ll be abundant on your waiver wire, but this is ridiculous. Now it’s getting to the point where you shouldn’t be spending so much of your FAAB dollars either because the shelf-life of a closer in 2012 is about a week. Here’s a look at who’s getting the baton passed to them now…
Rafael Soriano, NYY |RP| Ownership: ESPN – 27.2% Yahoo – 46.0%
In the short time that David Robertson was the closer for the Yankees, he was fairly ineffective overall. Even during his first save opportunity, he seemed out of his element in a way, something that was obvious to most fantasy owners given Soriano’s current ownership percentages. But obviously, in some leagues there’s still an opportunity to grab him as manager Joe Girardi made the official announcement on Tuesday that Robertson would be heading to the DL and Soriano would assume the closer’s role, an assumption that was actually made two years ago when the Yankees first signed the former Rays’ closer.
Our own Jeff Zimmerman did a piece not too long ago where he cited Soriano’s increased walk rate (which has actually improved in the week and a half that has gone by) and decline in velocity, and while these facts are true, fantasy owners need to go where the action is. Soriano has been reasonably effective this season with a 2.57 ERA and an FIP that still sits under 3.00, and while his first save attempt looked a little on the shaky side, he rebounded nicely and closed the door on the Orioles just a few nights later. He may not be the same lights-out stopper that pitched for the Rays in 2010, but he is the strongest candidate in the Yankees bullpen right and has the experience to help him overcome a few technical difficulties we might see after 12 innings of set-up duty.
Joaquin Benoit, DET |RP| Ownership: ESPN – 0.8% Yahoo – 13.0%
This is another pick-up that’s more speculative right now as, at the time this is being written, all we know is that Jose Valverde was removed from the Tuesday’s game with lower back stiffness. Just how serious the injury is, we’re not entirely sure, but given the closer situation this year, it’s better to be proactive than reactive, especially if you’re in need of saves and have a little bit of bench room to spare.
If Valverde is lost for any length of time, the two primary choices that Detroit has as a replacement closer are Benoit and Octavio Dotel. Both have solid numbers right now with Benoit owning the edge in ERA and FIP, K/9, and LOB% while Dotel owns the better WHIP, BB/9 and subsequently the better K/BB ratio. Benoit has also yet to give up a home run, a quality you very much like to see in a closer. At this time, both would make for suitable replacements and, in all likelihood, if Valverde is not lost for too long, Jim Leyland will probably use both. But when push comes to shove and Valverde loses any significant time, whether it’s right now or in a month from now, Benoit has proven to be the more effective pitcher over the last three years and will, most likely, become the man in Motown. If you’re a Valverde owner, you better grab the handcuff now while you still can. Even if the injury is minor, you don’t want to have to fight for him if you don’t have to.