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Week That Was

Week That Was: Closer Breaks

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

It was a rough week for proprietors of the ninth inning and men in leadership roles around baseball.


We’ll start in the ninth inning, where Rafael Soriano and Koji Uehara are currently enjoying vacations. Both men struggled mightily in recent days, leading their respective clubs to make the same decision and give them a few days off. That’s a passive aggressive way of telling somebody they’ve been demoted.


Nationals manager Matt Williams yanked Soriano from the closer’s role after the veteran blew three saves in 10 appearances, a stretch in which he was pummeled for a 9.00 ERA and 2.11 WHIP. Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen will front the committee for now, and we’ll have to wait until next week to find out if Williams intends to return Soriano to the ninth inning. Clippard and Storen both need to be owned across formats in the interim.


So does Edward Mujica. Uehara, who gave up a pair of crippling homers in Thursday’s loss against the Yankees, has served up 10 earned runs on 14 hits, four home runs and one walk across 5 2/3 innings in his last six outings. John Farrell is contemplating shutting down his formerly dominant closer. If you’re desperate for saves as the season comes to a close, there are worse ways to use a back-roster spot than allotting one to Mujica on speculation.


  • We don’t often cover the management side of MLB when discussing fantasy baseball, which is a shame, because we pretend we’re general managers in all fantasy games, and you can also mimic the decisions of a manager in more nuanced formats like Reality Fantasy Baseball or Scoresheet. If you’re dedicated to the fantasy baseball craft—and, as a person reading a fantasy baseball column in September, congratulations, you qualify—you can learn from the mistakes of those who are paid to do this for real.


Ron Washington resigned as Rangers’ manager on Friday for “personal reasons.” You would have snapped too after watching one employee after another succumb to season-ending injuries. The 62-year-old apparently informed GM Jon Daniels of his decision on Friday morning, and then slipped away without talking to the media. Washington texted USA Today to proclaim he would return to the game after taking time off. Because he wasn’t around to explain himself, Daniels had to clarify for the media that Washington’s resignation had nothing to do with drugs. Tim Bogar has taken over managerial duties.


The Diamondbacks dismissed GM Kevin Towers on the same day Washington stepped away. Arizona has offered to demote him to another position in the organization, and Towers is reportedly considering it. I’m not sure what to make of that bit. The offer can’t be anything more than alms—this 2014 Snakes outfit was horribly conceived, and even if they hadn’t been, Towers has been punting value (what we in the biz call “selling low”) in trades for a few years now in the name of “grit” and “grind” nonsense that doesn’t translate into wins, and/or changing strategies mid-stream, such as his decision to jettison the club’s low-contact/high-power sluggers a few years back only to make a massive offer (Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton) to acquire Mark Trumbo, one transaction that managed to embody each and every way in which this wayward soul had lost direction—and Towers’ interest in “evaluating the opportunity” would only make sense if he feels he needs a few extra months to figure out a way to smear Chris Owings and manipulate the new GM into trading him for dimes on the dollar. Towers had a good run in San Diego back in the day, and the Padres are apparently interested in reuniting. I hope those crazy kids make it. Nothing, dear reader, is more fun to write about than bad trades. Nothing. I think Shakespeare said that once.


Buckle up, speed round!


  • Melky Cabrera snapped his right pinky finger (officially a fracture with an avulsion of extensor tendon) while hurtling back to first base to beat a Christian Vazquez snap throw in Friday’s game. The injury ends his season, and surgery has been scheduled for next week. An unfortunate end to a superb bounceback campaign. Cabrera slashed .301/.351/.458 with 35 doubles, 16 homers, 73 RBI and 81 runs. Coincidently or not, he’ll be a free agent this winter and looking for a big payday. The maligned Colby Rasmus finds himself back in the everyday lineup due to Cabrera’s misfortune.


  • The Phillies "will look to trade" Domonic Brown this winter "for a similar change-of-scenery-type player,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Friday. It would have been more surprising if Ruben Amaro committed to Brown in 2015. The Phils never seemed sold on Brown, delaying his indoctrination into everyday at-bats far longer than most organizations would have, and then watching in what must have been abject surprise as Brown mashed his way onto last season’s All-Star team. He’s having trouble making contact, getting on base, and driving the ball this year—yeah, it’s been a disaster—but Brown just turned 27 last week and retains superb offensive ability. Assuming he gets traded, I will be targeting Brown in fantasy drafts in the spring. Hash tag: Free Domonic Brown.


  • Starlin Castro is done for the year after suffering a high left ankle sprain. Chicago shifted Javier Baez to shortstop—where he could remain indefinitely if Theo Epstein flips Castro for pitching this winter (GM Jed Hoyer says Castro is still the SS of the future, but I’ll believe that if Castro is trotting onto the Wrigley Field grass in April 2015)—and inserted Logan Watkins into the lineup at second base. Watkins is no world-beater—even if he’s been pretending to be one recently—but should absolutely be owned in all NL-only formats while he’s starting.


  • Anthony Rizzo would have been placed on the disabled list with a lower back strain by now if rosters hadn’t expanded. In all likelihood, he’s done for the season. If this is it, the 25-year-old first-time All-Star slashed a robust .278/.375/.514 with 30 homers and 71 RBI over 568 plate appearances. He won’t be cheap in spring drafts.


  • Derek Holland, throwing a tad harder than he had the past two seasons, restricted the Royals on Tuesday to one run on six hits over seven innings in his first major league start in over 11 months. He gets the Mariners on Sunday.


  • The Rockies shut down demigod pitching prospect Jon Gray due to right shoulder fatigue.


  • The D’Backs activated A.J. Pollock (hand) and Chris Owings (shoulder) from the disabled list after rosters expanded. Pollock is back in center and has been batting sixth. Aaron Hill was shifted to third base to accommodate everyday at-bats for both Didi Gregorius and Owings, though none of the three is a guarantee to play on any given night with Jake Lamb also in need of evaluation.


  • Michael Wacha surrendered one run on three hits and one walk while being allowed to throw 50 pitches over three innings in his return from the disabled list Thursday against the Brewers. He’s got a two-start week coming up. Mark your calendar, reader!


  • Homer Bailey underwent surgery Friday to repair a torn tendon in his forearm. Coming off a stunning season in which he set new personal bests in ERA (3.49), K/BB (3.69) and innings pitched (209), Bailey finished this campaign 9-5 with a 3.71 ERA and a 2.76 K/BB. He pitched a bit better than that. After a flukily bad start (3-3 with a 5.44 ERA on May 17), Bailey went 6-2 with a 2.77 ERA in his last 14 games. He’s owed $102 million through 2019, but Cincinnati shouldn’t regret the investment as long as Bailey’s elbow problems don’t persist (or his shoulder problems of yesteryear return). On second thought...


  • Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke said Thursday that Carlos Gomez’s wrist is improving enough that the team hopes he can play through it. It was previously assumed he’d need a two-week chilax before returning. Gomez had a successful hack session in the cages Saturday, which is the good news. The bad is that he still doesn’t have a timetable to return. Gerardo Parra will continue to accrue additional at-bats as long as Gomez is out.


  • Jorge De La Rosa got a two-year, $25 million extension from the Rockies. He’s a perennially underrated fantasy hurler and should be again next spring.


Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is NBC Sports Edge’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!