When last we met, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard had just lost their jobs via trade. Jonathan Papelbon received a modest upgrade in value when he joined the Nationals. There was still two days left before the trade deadline. Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel were still on the trade block.
The Reds and Padres decided to keep their stud relievers. However, the Tigers opted to part with Joakim Soria, destabilizing an already shaky bullpen. He's now setting up Mark Melancon in Pittsburgh. Temporary Braves closer Jim Johnson was sent to the Dodgers where he'll work ahead of Kenley Jansen. Other clubs like the Blue Jays (Mark Lowe), Twins (Kevin Jepsen), and Cubs (Tommy Hunter) opted to acquire depth rather than a ninth inning guy.
A few rabbits also joined new teams, headlined by Ben Revere. The fleet outfielder will join a dynamic Blue Jays lineup. It looks like he'll bat at the bottom of the order, but they designated Danny Valencia to ensure Revere has an every day role. Carlos Gomez's season just got more exciting. He joined the Astros. It's a power-centric team. Don't expect many stolen bases.
The Dodgers pulled off an odd three-team trade. One of the pieces headed their way is utility man Jose Peraza. The speedy prospect is a near lock to join the club as a September pinch runner. He could continue to fill that role into the postseason if they like his defense.
Tier 1: Elite (4)
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds
Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Andrew Miller, New York Yankees
Craig Kimbrel, San Diego Padres
Three saves, six strikeouts, and three innings for Chapman. He did allow a run in a nail biter on Saturday. The Pirates loaded the bases but failed to squeeze across the one run needed to force extra innings. It's extremely unlikely that Chapman will be traded in August. The Phillies have first claim at the moment, and I can't imagine they'd pass him up.
Jansen is in the midst of a cold stretch, but I'm not yet ready to move him down the board. Despite allowing a run in each of his last three appearances, he did not blow a save. He locked down two saves. With 15.86 K/9 and 1.35 BB/9, he remains incredibly elite.
Dellin Betances and Miller combined for a blown save on Thursday. First Betances allowed the base runner then Miller let him score. The blown save goes to Betances, the loss belongs to Miller. They're still both elite relievers.
Kimbrel worked three days in a row from Thursday to Saturday. He had two saves sandwiched around a blown save via solo home run. After a terrible start to the year, he now has a 2.76 ERA with 12.33 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9. He's no longer a contender for top reliever, but he's still excellent.
Tier 2: The Upside Crowd (6)
David Robertson, Chicago White Sox
Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles
Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Jeurys Familia, New York Mets
Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals
Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians
Robertson has allowed a run in three straight appearances. The most recent damage resulted in a loss. His stuff seems fine, he just ran into a little trouble with walks. Britton closed out his two save opportunities. He also allowed a solo home run in his lone non-save situation.
Melancon has a win, a save, and a hold in the last week. The hold makes for an interesting story. Melancon came in for the ninth of a 3-0 game on Sunday and promptly gave up a double to Jay Bruce. After getting one out via ground ball, he hit a batter. In came Soria. The deadline acquisition slammed the door with two quick outs. The usage looks alarming for Melancon owners, but fear not. The hit batter triggered an automatic ejection because both benches were warned earlier in the game.
Rosenthal earned a win and a save in two appearances. The Cardinals are doing what they can to keep him sharp for the postseason. The extra rest means save opportunities for Kevin Siegrist and Steve Cishek.
Allen notched two saves and a loss. He allowed only one run on Sunday, but it was all the A's needed for the victory. He's still an excellent source of strikeouts if his owner is getting edgy.
Tier 3: The Mid-Tier (9)
Ken Giles, Philadelphia Phillies
Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals
Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels
Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers
Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox
Luke Gregerson, Houston AstrosA.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins
Since the Papelbon trade, Giles has converted three saves with five strikeouts and four base runners allowed. Papelbon is two for two in save opportunities, but he's allowed two runs (one earned). The Nationals' newly installed fireman is likely to save more games than Giles over the rest of the season. However, Giles is probably a better source for strikeouts and ratios.
Perkins has suffered through some hiccups lately. I'm not quite ready to move him down the rankings yet, but we're getting close. He's allowed at least one run in four of his last six appearances. His last three outings have included four home runs. If something is wrong, it's not showing up in his PITCHf/x data. Deadline acquisition Jepsen may be next in line. Or perhaps it's Trevor May.
This mortal version of Holland is off-putting. At this point, there is no doubt that Wade Davis is better than him. So too are Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson. Will the Royals find an excuse to oust Holland before October? We'll see. He had a fine week with two saves in two appearances. He walked two more batters, raising his season rate to 5.23 BB/9.
Rodriguez looked like a lock for a July trade. He may still be dealt in August. On the season, he's quietly posted an excellent 1.42 ERA with 10.18 K/9 and 2.13 BB/9. He snagged a save in his lone opportunity last week.
The Astros reportedly worked hard to acquire Chapman or Kimbrel at the deadline. Their failure is good news for Gregerson owners. The only reliever on the August market who could push him aside is Francisco Rodriguez. I have to imagine they would have acquired him as part of the Carlos Gomez trade if they had wanted him. Gregerson earned a win and a save last week.
Ramos has suffered two straight meltdowns, but his role in the Marlins bullpen may be more secure than a week ago. That's because Carter Capps is out with a minor elbow injury. He's expected to resume throwing in a few days. Ramos allowed four runs on Friday then picked up a blown save vulture win on Sunday. All told, he coughed up six runs on three hits and three walks. He also struck out seven in 3.1 innings. No need to panic just yet.
Tier 4: Questions (4)
Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays
Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers
Santiago Casilla, San Francisco GiantsRoberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays
For once, Jake McGee didn't split the spotlight with Boxberger. The Rays closer finished two games in two opportunities. Meanwhile, McGee blew a save in the eighth inning on Friday. Boxberger remains the regular closer, but McGee could still finish a handful of games over the rest of the season.
Tolleson continues to post decent numbers as the Rangers closer, although some in the industry see him as a setup man at best. This season, he has 9.50 K/9 with 1.86 BB/9 and a 2.98 ERA. The main issue is that his walk rate will probably be closer to 3.00 BB/9 going forward. As a result, his ERA will balloon to the mid-3s. Keone Kela looks like the closer of the future in Texas, but he's not quite at that level yet. He was optioned last week to get some mid-season rest.
Casilla blew the save on Monday via a two-run home run. His job isn't in danger, but he is one of the weaker closers in the league. Sergio Romo and Hunter Strickland could both see saves if Casilla struggles.
Osuna was busy over the last week. He appeared four times and saved three. He did give up one solo home run, but it didn't affect the outcome of the game. The Blue Jays were rumored to be in on closing options. Instead, they elected to acquire Troy Tulowitzki and David Price. Mark Lowe and LaTroy Hawkins add some depth to the bullpen if Ozuna falters.
Tier 5: Roller Coasters (7)
Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves Alex Wilson, Detroit Tigers
Brad Ziegler, Arizona DiamondbacksTommy Kahnle, Rafael Betancourt, and Justin Miller, Colorado Rockies
For weeks I've been saying that Rondon is the best reliever in the Cubs bullpen. And for weeks it hasn't mattered. Finally, Joe Maddon returned to his old closer. He saved four games while allowing two runs (one earned). Motte and Soriano continue to lurk on the periphery, but they're inferior pitchers at this point.
The Braves traded away Jim Johnson, replacing him with Vizcaino. The 24-year-old has a 0.77 ERA with 8.49 K/9 and 3.86 BB/9 in 11.2 innings. He fires a 97 mph fastball. The profile reads like a closer. He's had trouble with command in the past, and he's not always induced many whiffs. We'll have to wait for more information.
Despite a nontraditional profile for the ninth inning, Wilson is expected to close most days for the rest of the season. Keeper league owners shouldn't get ahead of themselves. I can all but guarantee the Tigers will replace Wilson over the offseason. For now, he's a nice source of cheap saves. He has a 1.76 ERA with 5.27 K/9 and 1.28 BB/9. Blaine Hardy could also see saves against tough left-handed bats.
Ziegler offers the same skill set as Wilson with a more gimmicky approach. A career best .178 BABIP has helped him to his 1.17 ERA. Regression will bring him back towards a 3.35 ERA. Daniel Hudson remains a useful handcuff.
Smith is struggling. He's allowed runs in four of his last five outings. At one point, he had three straight losses. The Mariners might be on the edge of contention if not for the bullpen woes. Smith and Rodney combine for nine losses. Speaking of Rodney, he's been the better pitcher over the last couple weeks. Look for him to regain his job if Smith botches another one.
The A's offered no save opportunities to their relievers this week. Mujica is still thought to be the front runner for saves. He took a loss on Friday. Rodriguez remains the superior pitcher, but the A's are managing arbitration awards at this point.
Axford is out. Somebody else is in. It could be Kahnle, Betancourt, Miller, or an unnamed alternative. Kahnle is thought to be the front runner due to solid results and a high ground ball rate. He has 10.87 K/9, 5.61 BB/9, and a 2.81 ERA over 25.2 innings. All of these guys will hurt your ratios.
Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers
Adam Ottavino, Colorado Rockies
Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics
Jason Grilli, Atlanta Braves
Doolittle is nearing a rehab stint. The Athletics have no reason to rush him back to high leverage innings. In fact, it seems like a mistake to do so. I'm still doubtful that he'll return to closing this season. He could be worth a DL stash if you have an open spot.
Tough breaks for Soria and Johnson. It's not even certain that they're next in line if Melancon or Jansen hit the disabled list. Axford allowed eight runs over a 10 day stretch (five appearances). He was subsequently removed from the closer's job on July 30. Since then, the Rockies haven't had a save opportunity. Given the lousy alternatives to Axford, it wouldn't shock me if he retrieved his old job.
The Steals Department
The steals leaders are all the guys you would expect. Billy Hamilton is at the top with 51 steals. Dee Gordon has 34 despite missing part of the season with an injury. Charlie Blackmon and Jose Altuve share third place with 29 swipes. Ben Revere has 24, and A.J. Pollock has 23. Those are the players you'll want to target if you're looking to make a major trade. Perhaps a Gerrit Cole for Blackmon swap.
If you have the bench space to handle a platoon player, Will Venable mixes power and speed. He's a low average hitter which hurts his ceiling. He'll usually bat leadoff for the Padres. The total package is a solid three category producer. He's available in 99 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Rusney Castillo is back in the majors, and he's doing what we originally expected from him. Since he was recalled on July 27, he's hitting .385/.407/.577 with two stolen bases. He was considered a 15 to 20 steal guy entering the season. Expect about six to eight more steals if he plays regularly.
Michael Bourn has been a non-factor on the bases for most of the season, but he stole three bags in four attempts over the last week. He also swiped three bases on July 28. It's good to see him attempting to steal. Hopefully it's a sign that he's feeling healthier. He usually bats eighth for the Indians, but a hot streak could pop him back atop the lineup.