Saves and Steals

Miller Returns

Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Hello Andrew Miller, goodbye Hector Rondon. In short, that is the closer fallout of the early trade deadline deals. With the princely sum paid for Aroldis Chapman, I can guarantee more quality relievers will be on the move. Keep an eye on the Nationals, White Sox, Royals, Phillies, and Red Sox. In my opinion, those are the five teams mostly likely to trade or acquire a closer. Per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, the Nationals have intensified their efforts to find somebody after last night's walkoff loss.


In today's column, I'll put more emphasis on trade opportunities than most weeks.


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Tier 1: Elite (5)


Aroldis Chapman, Chicago Cubs

Andrew Miller, New York Yankees

Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles

Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals


Chapman has yet to pitch for the Cubs. Owners of Rondon recall his infrequent save opportunities. Chapman may be similarly frustrating to own. Sadly for those same Rondon owners, they'll no longer receive saves with the shiny 1.95 ERA, 11.68 K/9, and 1.22 BB/9. Chapman's actually been extremely comparable with a 2.01 ERA, 12.64 K/9, and 2.30 BB/9.


It's not often a pitcher goes from off-the-list to second best closer. In the case of Miller, there's a trustworthy track record of success in the ninth inning. He's already saved two games since Chapman was dealt westward. On the season, he's posted a 1.39 ERA with 15.29 K/9 and 1.39 BB/9. Yes, Miller has outperformed Chapman to date, and I strongly considered moving him into the top spot today.


Britton will have to settle for third best. He saved three more games as part of a perfect five appearance week. Three of the outings lasted just one batter, including two of the saves.


Jansen gave up a run via solo home run last Friday. Overall, he had a solid week, with three saves and six strikeouts in four innings. Too bad about that one long ball. The Dodgers are reportedly looking for relief help. With Chapman off the market, I suspect they'll settle for somebody to work in front of Jansen.


The Royals' asking price for Wade Davis is reportedly higher than that of Miller. The Royals may want to sell now before his declining performance catches up with him. Davis' velocity is down a full mph this season. His strikeout and walk rates are worse too. He's unlikely to maintain his 1.10 ERA which is the only thing keeping him in this tier.


Tier 2: Nearly Elite (3)


Roberto Osuna, Toronto Blue Jays

Jeurys Familia, New York Mets

Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates


Osuna pitched well, earning two saves in three scoreless appearances. The Blue Jays acquired struggling setup man Joaquin Benoit in exchange for Drew Storen early this morning. Osuna himself is safe, but keep an eye out for further bullpen reinforcements.


I receive a few disgruntled messages every week about my placement of Familia. He has a four save lead on the league, so obviously he's the best closer. Right? My focus for this column is on pitcher talent. Save opportunities tend to be distributed almost uniformly. It's why I didn't penalize Chapman for joining the Cubs.


Right now, I can't make a case for Familia being a better reliever than Osuna or the Tier 1 guys. Don't get me wrong, he's quite good. In the not-so distant past, a 2.47 ERA, 8.94 K/9, 3.42 BB/9, and no home runs allowed would have put him in conversation for top reliever in the league. He picked up three more saves this week while allowing one run.


Melancon tossed three perfect innings – all of which were converted for saves. The righty is arguably outperforming Familia with a 1.51 ERA, 8.21 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, and 30 saves. Some pundits think the Pirates should cash in on Melancon now given the royal haul for Chapman. I just can't see how they could contend without him. They're only about three games back of the second Wild Card.


Tier 3: Good Veterans (6)


Alex Colome, Tampa Bay Rays

A.J. Ramos, Miami Marlins

David Robertson, Chicago White Sox

Sam Dyson, Texas Rangers

Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians

Francisco Rodriguez, Detroit Tigers


Colome has been used infrequently since returning from the disabled list – mostly because the Rays are collapsing. He only pitched twice this week. The first outing was a clean save. On Saturday, he allowed three runs on two home runs in an ugly loss. His season numbers are still shiny. The Rays are not above cashing in closers for future assets.


Speaking of three run disasters, Ramos' only appearance was a mess. He coughed up three runs to the Phillies in just two-thirds of an inning. It was a non-save situation. The Marlins would love to replace Ramos, but they don't have the prospect bullets to do it.


And while we're on the topic of allowing three runs, Robertson was stung for a trio on Sunday. All three were solo home runs. He was awarded a blown save vulture win. His other three appearances were fine. He allowed just one base runner across 3.1 innings with five strikeouts, a win, and a save.


Dyson skated through four shaky appearances. He was dinged for only one run despite allowing nine base runners in 3.2 innings. Keone Kela is back in action and throwing bullets. The Rangers also have the talent to add a closer, but they also have bigger needs.


The Indians are among the teams rumored to be looking for bullpen reinforcements. They're supposedly more focused on pitchers to work ahead of Allen. In one appearance, he allowed two unearned runs in a blown save loss.


Continuing the trend for this tier, K-Rod began the week with a three-run (one earned) blown save loss. He rebounded with three saves in 3.1 innings.


Tier 4: The Mid Tier (4)


Seung-Hwan Oh, St. Louis Cardinals

Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

Will Harris, Houston Astros

Brandon Maurer, San Diego Padres


Remember the run Jansen gave up last Friday. It would have lost the game if not for a solo homer allowed by Oh. It took the Cardinals until the 16th inning to win the game. Oh rebounded from the blown save with a couple clean outings.


Casilla tossed three innings over two appearances. He was credited with a win and a save. Casilla was touched up for a run yesterday. Although fantasy owners tend to avoid him, his 3.35 ERA is the worst it's been since 2009. A 3.35 ERA isn't all that bad...


After adding 4.1 more scoreless innings, it's time to acknowledge Maurer's hot streak. The hard throwing righty has a 0.53 ERA, 8.47 K/9, and 0.53 BB/9 since June 15 (his last 17 innings). He allowed only nine hits over the stretch. He's looking the part – much more than Ryan Buchter.


Tier 5: Questions (6)


Jonathan Papelbon, Washington Nationals

Steve Cishek, Seattle Mariners

Jeremy Jeffress, Milwaukee Brewers

Jeanmar Gomez, Philadelphia Phillies

Tyler Clippard, Daniel Hudson, Arizona Diamondbacks

Brad Ziegler, Boston Red Sox


Papelbon was cruising right through July 23. At that point, he had pitched seven times since returning from the disabled list, allowing only four runners in the process. All good things must end. So too with Papelbon's hot streak. He's lost his last two appearances while allowing seven runs (six earned) in two-thirds of an inning. The Nationals are cast a wide net to replace him. Shawn Kelley is a candidate if trade talks fail.


At three games above .500, the Mariners are straddling the line of contender or seller. If they opt to look towards the future, they may want to cash in on a solid rebound season from Cishek. He has a 2.80 ERA with 11.60 K/9 and 3.20 BB/9 in 45 innings. He tossed four scoreless innings across three appearances this week.


The Brewers are rumored to be shopping all of their relievers' top relievers – namely Jeffress, Will Smith, and Tyler Thornburg. The asking prices are reported to be steep. Any traded Brewer is unlikely to close for his new ballclub, but it could create a new closer opportunity in Milwaukee. Consider stashing Smith and Thornburg.


Philadelphia may choose to sell Gomez while the selling's good. His 2.70 ERA is much better than his peripherals support. With only 5.59 K/9 and 2.12 BB/9, he belongs in a middle relief role. Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos are future closer candidates in Philly.


Clippard nearly blew a tune up outing. He probably ruined his trade value in the process. It was Clippard's second straight outing with three runs allowed. Luckily, he was protecting a four run lead.


Ziegler pitched three clean innings, recording one save in his lone opportunity. Craig Kimbrel is rumored to be ahead of schedule, and the Sox are also looking for further bullpen reinforcements.


Tier 6: Roller Coasters (6)


Huston Street, Los Angeles Angels

Carlos Estevez, Colorado Rockies

Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota Twins

Ryan Madson, Oakland Athletics

Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds

Jim Johnson, Atlanta Braves


Estevez tallied three saves in a four appearance week. The other outing was a non-save situation in which he allowed a run in two-thirds of an inning. At this point, the Rockies appear to be committed to him.


Kintzler has pitched well since taking over as the Twins closer. Well enough to be considered a tradeable asset. He notched another three saves this week.


Madson was saddled with the blown save loss on Monday thanks to a two-run Adrian Beltre home run. Madson was fine in his other two outings. With Madson unavailable last night, John Axford pitched the ninth inning. Ryan Dull is also a candidate for saves.


Only use Cingrani and Johnson if you're beyond desperate. Neither bullpen has a particularly appealing option waiting in the wings. Between the two teams, Mauricio Cabrera is the best stash. He's not a finished product. Raisel Iglesias would be a good closer, but the Reds are avoiding that particular dilemma.






Brad Boxberger, Tampa Bay Rays (side/oblique)

Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins (shoulder – out for season)

Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox (left knee injury)

Arodys Vizcaino, Atlanta Braves (right oblique)

Koji Uehara, Boston Red Sox (sore shoulder)


Kimbrel is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab. I smell a tactic. If teams are convinced the Red Sox aren't desperate for relievers, they may ask for a little less in trade talks.


The Deposed


Ken Giles, Houston Astros

Drew Storen, Toronto Blue Jays

Jason Grilli, Toronto Blue Jays

Sean Doolittle, Oakland Athletics

J.J. Hoover, Cincinnati Reds

Andrew Miller, New York Yankees

Shawn Tolleson, Texas Rangers

Kevin Jepsen, Free Agent (Twins)

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis Cardinals

Jake McGee, Colorado Rockies

Fernando Rodney, Miami Marlins

Hector Rondon, Chicago Cubs


Woe be to Rondon whose numbers put him in the conversation for top reliever in the league. Instead, he'll set up for another top reliever candidate.




The Steals Department


Melvin Upton has a new home. The former star has an outside shot at a 30-30 season. It's why, despite wretched numbers, fantasy and real MLB owners have taken a flier on him every year since 2012. I'm not as excited as some about his move to the American League. He'll facing tougher pitching – especially relievers. The Jays also don't need him on an everyday basis which means fewer opportunities for production. He'll also think twice about running into outs on the bases. On the plus side, the power friendly parks of the AL East are a welcome upgrade to Petco Park.


With Upton gone from San Diego, Travis Jankowski has no impediment on everyday action. Previously, he would sit once every third or fourth game. The left-handed leadoff man doesn't bring much to the table besides speed and a good role in the lineup. He's batting .237/.358/.324 with a fluky walk rate and 16 steals in 167 plate appearances. Going forward, expect about one steal every four games. He's best used as a streamer on Mondays and Thursdays.


Cesar Hernandez is in the midst of a series against the Atlanta Braves. As we recently covered, the Braves are particularly bad with holding base runners. Hernandez has reclaimed the leadoff job in Philadelphia. Even though he's not a big producer, his fantasy utility and role could be of use as a bench player in deep leagues.



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