The Twins had a lot more trust in Fernando Rodney heading into this season than fantasy owners did. While Rodney got a $4.5 million deal from the Twins to be their closer last December, fantasy owners typically passed him over until after the first 200 picks were made (220 NFBC ADP, 239 Fantrax ADP). Several opening day closers lost their grip on the role long ago, but Rodney was the Twins’ unquestioned closer all season long.
Until now. The Twins traded Rodney to the Athletics for minor league right-hander Dakota Chalmers on Thursday night, joining an already deep bullpen where Blake Treinen, Jeurys Familia and Lou Trivino have settled into their respective late-inning roles. Holds, much less saves, could be hard to come by for Rodney with his new club.
But now save opportunities have opened up in Minnesota. Their best reliever of late has been Taylor Rogers, but in his report on the Rodney trade, beat writer Mike Berardino excluded Rogers from the short list of closer candidates. He did include Trevor Hildenberger, who has seen plenty of setup work but has struggled for nearly a month and has allowed a combined seven runs over his last three appearances covering 2.2 innings. Trevor May will likely be in the mix as well, and since getting recalled from Triple-A Rochester, he has allowed one run in 3.2 innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. Surprisigly, Berardino also mentioned Matt Magill, who has been less consistent lately after compiling a 1.14 ERA through his first 23.2 innings.
Addison Reed has closing experience, but he has thrown only 2.2 innings since coming off the DL on July 30. It probably doesn’t help his case that he allowed Michael Brantley’s walk-off single in Thursday’s loss to the Indians. And who pitched the top of the ninth inning for the Indians in a tie game? Not Cody Allen, and not Brad Hand, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning. It was Andrew Miller, who got credited with the win.
As for the Twins’ situation, it has the look of a closer committee, especially since May’s workload could be reduced since he is less than 17 months removed from having Tommy John surgery. May is probably the best speculation target for not only the at-least-occasional save, but also for his strikeout potential. I still have to wonder if the left-handed Rogers can somehow work his way into the closer’s role.
Even before Wednesday’s outing against the Padres, Corey Knebel had been on shaky ground. He had allowed eight runs over his last 15 innings, going 0-2 with a blown save, and righties put up an astronomical .502 wOBA against him over this period. Knebel’s slump went from bad to worse when he entered Thursday’s game against the Padres with a 4-2 lead, as he promptly walked the bases loaded and then gave up a single to Travis Jankowski. He was lifted after those four batters without having recorded an out, and eventually, the remainder of Knebel’s baserunners scored on Hunter Renfroe’s grand slam.
Knebel has been relieved of closer duties, though Craig Counsell vowed he will “try to work to get him back to big spots in the game.” Joakim Soria, Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader could all be used in save situations. However, Soria — who gave up Renfroe’s grand slam — departed the game shortly thereafter with a mild groin strain and may not be available for the Brewers’ upcoming games. Particularly in light of Soria’s injury, Jeffress is looking like the best waiver target out of this group.
Wade Davis had another bad game on Thursday night, giving up three runs on a pair of ninth-inning homers, thus taking the loss against the Dodgers. It was Davis’ third multi-run game out of four August appearances. While he had not inspired confidence with a 4.20 ERA through the end of July, Davis has somehow gotten worse, but Bud Black has yet to indicate a change at closer.
It is also not that easy to zero in on a potential successor to Davis. Adam Ottavino has thrived on getting called strikes this season, but he has induced swings on pitches in the strike zone at an 80 percent rate or higher in four of his last nine appearances. Seung Hwan Oh and Scott Oberg had been solid lately, but both allowed a pair of runs on Thursday night. Oberg gave up solo homers to lefties Joc Pederson and Max Muncy, while Oh surrendered a two-run shot to left-handed Cody Bellinger, but the Rockies lacked a viable southpaw option.
While Oh and Oberg have not been especially effective against lefties this year, Ottavino has held both lefties and righties to a wOBA below .250 this season. It is likely just a matter of time before Davis gets demoted from the closer role, and Ottavino looks like he has the best chance to supplant him.
The Dodgers were able to close out their 8-5 victory in the ninth inning, but they did it without Kenley Jansen, who was hospitalized due to an irregular heartbeat earlier on Thursday. Scott Alexander pitched a scoreless frame in Jansen’s absence. With Jansen expected to miss roughly a month, we should look to Alexander to handle the Dodgers’ closer duties for the foreseeable future.
Quick hits: In the aftermath of Aroldis Chapman’s inning of work against the Rangers, Aaron Boone said his closer was not dealing with a physical issue, even though his average fastball velocity was down to 96.8 mph. Also, for the second outing in a row, Chapman failed to get swings on more than 20 percent of his pitches outside of the strike zone…Ken Giles was entrusted to pitch the top of the ninth inning against the Red Sox with a four-run lead. He did allow Mookie Betts‘ solo home run, but it was an otherwise uneventful inning, as the Blue Jays prevailed, 8-5…Sergio Romo bounced back from a tough outing on Wednesday to toss a perfect ninth inning against the Orioles for his 14th save…Hunter Strickland (finger) moved his rehab assignment to Triple-A Sacramento on Thursday. He is expected to return when eligible on Aug 18, though there have been no reports as to whether he will reclaim the closer’s role.
Al Melchior has been writing about Fantasy baseball and sim games since 2000, and his work has appeared at CBSSports.com, BaseballHQ, Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster and FanRagSports. He has also participated in Tout Wars' mixed auction league since 2013. You can follow Al on Twitter @almelchiorbb and find more of his work at almelchior.com.