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Saves and Steals

Trade Deadline Aftermath

by Brad Johnson
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

For our last powwow, we stared down the trade deadline, and wondered if it would be busy, quiet, or something in between. The end result was a frenetic afternoon, but relievers scarcely moved. The big change was Andrew Miller shifting from Boston to Baltimore, which mostly benefits Junichi Tazawa.


One other move with bullpen implications was the A's acquisition of Jon Lester. The trade pushed Jesse Chavez into the pen, where he has the potential to be a force down the stretch. Starters usually see a bump in velocity and strikeout rate upon joining the bullpen.


Not every pitcher's stuff improves in relief. If Chavez does improve, it wouldn't be surprising to see him take over seventh or even eighth inning duties as the club does everything it can to clinch. I expect Chavez to feature prominently in the playoffs. That's obviously not a big deal for fantasy owners, but it could be worth watching as baseball fans.


Some notable baserunners did swap homes. We'll cover those in the closing. One relevant programming note: the present author will probably be driving somewhere between New Mexico and Oklahoma when you read this. Please excuse any failure to include last night's late results.


Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $35,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Wednesday night's MLB games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $5,000. Starts at 7:05pm ET on Wednesday. Here's the FanDuel link.


Tier 1: Elite (5)


Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds

Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox


It can become boring to write about elite pitching. Sure, Kimbrel has a negative note for a second week in a row. This time, he took the loss on Saturday as part of a four out appearance. I could make a big deal out of his “struggles,” but I take no pleasure in creating clamor where none is due. He's still a great pick for the top closer in baseball.


My biggest story in this tier is Chapman's continued dominance. With two clean saves heading into last night, there is pressure to flip the two relief aces. We'll continue to stick with Kimbrel and the larger sample for now.


Holland faced two batters over the minimum and struck out six en route to four saves in the last calendar week. Uehara also had a routine week, although he only recorded one save in three appearances.


Jansen's Mariano Rivera routine got caught for a solo home run and a blown save last Wednesday. He hasn't had a save opportunity since, although he did pitch one uneventful inning.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (4)


David Robertson, New York Yankees

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels


Would you believe there is nothing particularly noteworthy to report in this tier? Doolittle appeared once through Monday. Perkins picked up a save last night and had one other clean appearance. Robertson peeled off three consecutive saves from Saturday through Monday. Street also slammed the door on three, but one game included some bases loaded dramatics. In any case, these guys remain very good and very stable in their jobs.


Tier 3: Rock Steady (6)


Steve Cishek, Miami Marlins

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Fernando Rodney, Seattle Mariners

Joaquin Benoit, San Diego Padres

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers


Here's a tier where we have something to discuss. Cishek looked like a candidate for a new home at the deadline, but the Marlins opted to push for contention and hung onto their only true relief stud. All owners who speculated on fringy Marlins setup men can dump those guys. Barring injury, Bryan Morris, A.J. Ramos and anyone else you targeted remains a long distance from the closer gig.


Benoit blew a save on an unearned run. Rodney allowed one run in a non-save situation. Neither event affects their status as above average closers.


Britton continues his slow, inexorable climb up the rankings. I think we're finally getting close to a steady place for him. Most successful relievers thrive on strikeouts, but a few are like Britton. He features an elite whiff rate, but his strikeout rate is on the low end because he also induces a lot of weak contact. The lack of strikeouts hurts his fantasy value.


The risk with Britton is his reliance on the ball being hit to a defender. If you're familiar with BABIP, then you might be familiar with the exceedingly nerdy phrase “BABIP'd to death.” Basically, he'll have days where he makes all the right pitches and it still goes sideways. That's true of anyone, but the risk is higher when more balls are put in play.


K-Rod recorded a couple one out saves and shut the door last night. It was a weird week. Both one-batter games were out of hand in the ninth inning until other Milwaukee relievers made them save situations. He remains on the edge of this tier due to an ongoing problem with home runs.


Tier 4: The Mid-Tier (6)


Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates

Rafael Soriano, Washington Nationals

Jake McGee, Tampa Bay Rays

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Jonathan Papelbon, Philadelphia Phillies

Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays


Last week I was strongly considering promotions to Melancon and Britton. Melancon took the walk-off loss on Monday after allowing a walk and a hit. There is definitely a strong case to be made that Melancon belongs in Tier 3. At the end of the day, what matters is his fantasy value. We can obsess over little tweaks to this list, but Melancon remains a good pitcher who usually dominates the competition.


Soriano completed two nondescript appearances in non-save situations. His demotion certainly isn't due to home runs. In fact, he features a tiny 1.7 percent HR/FB ratio. Most pitchers settle in around 10 percent. The scary thing about Soriano is that he's a fly ball pitcher. I decided that I need to lean on my training as a saberist and George Martin enthusiast. My house words are “Regression is Coming.” Soriano remains a very good reliever, much as Papelbon remains a useful asset. In both cases, it's hard to expect them to replicate their elite ERA going forward.


McGee seems to be settling in as the Rays closer, with Brad Boxberger the guy who's next in line. McGee hasn't seen a save situation in the past week, but he's pitched the ninth inning in each of his two appearances. Grant Balfour took an extra-innings loss, which should put him that much further from saves.


Another guy who was supposed to go somewhere at the deadline was Papelbon. His no-trade clause probably prevented anything from getting done, since he was only willing to waive it if he was acquired as a closer. He had an easy two appearance week with one save. Ken Giles hasn't completed his meteoric rise from afterthought to closer, but Papelbon could still be dealt sometime this month. I'd continue to stash Giles.


Tier 5: Questions (5)


Jenrry Mejia, New York Mets

Addison Reed, Arizona Diamondbacks

Chad Qualls, Houston Astros

Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs

Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants


After taking the loss on Monday, Mejia's ERA as a reliever sits at 2.12. It's past time to start edging him up the rankings. If you can't tell, I try to be conservative with changes to the rankings. To be a useful tool, there has to be some sort of predictability to them. In any case, that's my way of saying it might take some time before I find the place where Mejia belongs (see Britton). Once he's there, he should stay put.


Remember Reed's home run problems? He allowed another deep shot last Wednesday, although he still picked up a two out save. He's since had two nice appearances. It seems like home runs are just going to remain a problem. The Diamondbacks are in no rush to make a change, especially with Brad Ziegler turning in an awful week.


Qualls got back on track on Friday, but not before taking another loss the day before. This time, a solo home run did the damage. I think you have to expect some home runs with Qualls, but he shouldn't devolve into a Kevin Gregg-quality poison asset. Josh Fields and Tony Sipp remain next in line.


Rondon has done nothing (recently) to lose his job, but he'll be looking over his shoulder with Kyuji Fujikawa on the cusp of a return. It's not like Fujikawa is an established closer, but he was expected to take the job prior to injury.


Casilla's settled into the Giants closer role by conjuring ground ball after ground ball. Strikeouts aren't a part of his profile, so he'll stay around this portion of the rankings. He's definitely well ahead of Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt on the depth chart, so the roller coaster ride is over for now.


Tier 6: Roller Coasters (4)


Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers

LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado Rockies

Joe Nathan, Detroit Tigers

Jacob Petricka, Chicago White Sox


Feliz took his first blown save on Monday. It's not a surprise, he has terrible peripherals. He's spinning nothing but fly balls. Unlike a Soriano or Doolittle, his strikeout rate is nonexistent (9.3 percent). He's walked the same number as he's struck out, which never works at the major league level. The only positive sign is a decent 8.9 percent swinging strike rate. That usually coincides with a strikeout rate around 16 percent. The Rangers can afford to be patient, but can fantasy owners?


Nathan picked up one save in the last week, and Soria took a loss. Consider Nathan safely ensconced after a long season on the edge. Another clean week (with more than one appearance) and we'll talk about moving him up a tier.


Petricka blew a save on Sunday via an inherited runner. He also picked up two saves while allowing one run. Last week I produced a list of 30 non-closers I'd roster over Petricka. I could have gone another 10 or 20 names. However, if you really need saves, you have to take them where you can find them. This late in the season, the roto scoreboard will dictate your actions.






Matt Lindstrom (ankle), Chicago White Sox

Jesse Crain (calf, biceps), Houston Astros

Bobby Parnell (elbow), New York Mets

Jim Henderson (shoulder), Milwaukee Brewers

Kyuji Fujikawa (TJS), Chicago Cubs

Zach Putnam (shoulder), Chicago White Sox


Lindstrom has been making rehab starts with mixed results. I see no reason why the White Sox would rush him back, although they also have nothing to lose by letting him finish his rehab at the major league level.


Fujikawa has rejoined the Cubs for their series in Denver. He was not activated prior to yesterday's game, but the move should happen soon. He'll join the silent battle for the Cubs closer job. One advantage to using the elder pitcher is that it would keep Rondon's price down in arbitration.


Henderson is also nearing a return, but he's not quite there yet. Crain is still inching towards a rehab assignment. Putnam began an assignment for his shoulder injury yesterday.


The Deposed


Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers

Jose Veras, Chicago Cubs

Josh Fields, Houston Astros

John Axford, Cleveland Indians

Jim Johnson, Oakland Athletics

Jason Grilli, Anaheim Angels

Ernesto Frieri, Pittsburgh Pirates

Sergio Romo, San Francisco Giants

Grant Balfour, Tampa Bay Rays

Ronald Belisario, Chicago White Sox

Joe Smith, Los Angeles Angels

Joakim Soria, Detroit Tigers


Fields might be nearing an opportunity to make something happen. The ball is in Qualls' court.



The Steals Department


Sam Fuld found his way back to Oakland. He'll help stabilize an outfield that traded away Yoenis Cespedes and is dealing with a banged-up Coco Crisp. Craig Gentry is also on the disabled list, so Fuld should see frequent action.


Austin Jackson saw a bump in value at the deadline. With the Tigers, he usually hit down in the order and competed with Rajai Davis for playing time. The Mariners have made him an everyday leadoff man. The only thing preventing this from being a major coup for fantasy owners is the Seattle lineup. It's considerably tamer than the Detroit unit.


Nick Franklin moved to Tampa Bay as part of the three-team David Price trade. He's a near lock for a September call-up. If the Rays are out of it, we're liable to see a lot of Franklin and possibly a steal or two.


Emilio Bonifacio escaped Chicago, but his owners probably aren't thrilled about it. He's now a super utility man for the Braves, a team that doesn't really need to start Bonifacio. I assume he'll mostly chop time with B.J. Upton and Tommy La Stella, which should open plenty of starts atop the order. You'll have to pay attention to lineups, because he's liable to sit with little warning.


Gerardo Parra, Chris Denorfia and Asdrubal Cabrera also changed teams. They all steal the occasional base. Parra gets some reps atop the order, while Cabrera should remain an everyday asset. We'll see how Denorfia is used down the stretch.

Brad Johnson

You can read more from Brad Johnson on Rotoworld, FanGraphs, and RotoFanatic. Find him on Patreon and Twitter @BaseballATeam.