Bullpen Report: December 9, 2016

Happy Friday everyone! There have been quite a few updates since our last check-in so let’s get started…

• As expected, Aroldis Chapman signed with the New York Yankees. Along with some concerns about his off the field conduct, Chapman certianly will boost the Yankees bullpen. We saw this last year with the three-headed monster that also included Andrew Miller. Brian Cashman is still looking for a lefty in the pen and although he won’t find an Andrew Miller, the Chapman, Betances, Tyler Clippard and co. grouping should still be elite. The Yankees will give Luis Severino a fair shot to make it in the rotation but consider myself aligned with the skeptics. He has struggled to find a third pitch, he can’t consistently put hitters away, and navigating a lineup multiple times has been an issue. But damn does he look compelling in the pen! He’s currently far closer to starting games than finishing them but I like Severino in the bullpen for multiple innings, strikeouts and ratio help, if/when he ends up there.

Yankees Updated Grid: Aroldis Chapman // Dellin Betances // Tyler Clippard // Luis Severino (Sleeper)

• Also expected, Mark Melancon signed with the Giants. Eno and Paul Sporer already wrote good words on Melancon so there’s not much to add. Mark Melancon might be a free agent landmine but as far as 2017 is concerned he should still rank among the best non-elite strikeout closers in fantasy baseball. Until he shows us slippage in his stuff, we will assume he will keep putting up results. Not for nothing, since 2013 Melancon has thrown 290 innings and in those innings he has 268 strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA and 0.914 WHIP with a 2.25 FIP. The Yankees hog all the sexy names but Melancon (who was a Yankee, traded for Lance Berkman) just keeps chugging along.

Fantasy owners have been frustrated by the Sergio Romo/Santiago Casilla yo-yo over the past few seasons. Mark Melancon will hopefully add some stability.

Giants Updated Grid: Mark Melancon // Hunter Strickland // Will Smith // Derek Law (Sleeper)

• In yet another expected move, the Cubs found a closer via trade, this time with Wade Davis in a swap for Jorge Soler. If you like Melancon’s numbers, you will just love Wade Davis. Since 2014 Davis has thrown 182.2 innings with 234 strikeouts and a 1.18 ERA, 0.892 WHIP with a 1.86 FIP. Read that again, I’ll wait. Davis of course comes with some risk as he went to the DL a couple of times last year with a cranky elbow/forearm. However, if Davis was healthy in July he would cost an Eloy Jimenez and the Cubs, although they are World Champions, probably don’t want to have to resort to trading a Gleyber Torres type again if they don’t have to.

To help mitigate some of that risk the Cubs also signed grandpa free agent Koji Uehra to a one-year $4.5M deal. The 41 year old Uehara had a “down” year last year with a 3.45/3.51/3.42 ERA/FIP/xFIP pitching line and an insane 28.2% K-BB%. It wouldn’t be wise to rely on Uehara for an entire season or to expect him to often pitch on back-to-back days but when Aroldis Chapman is going for $86 million, less than five million for Uehara is quite the buy. Oh, and the Cubs still have Hector Rondon, Edwards, Pedro Strop and Justin Grimm. Yeah Chicago is prettay, prettay good.

Cubs Updated Grid: Wade Davis // Hector Rondon // Koji Uehara // Carl Edwards Jr.(Sleeper)

• The Red Sox already have their closer in Kimbrel but everyone is paying for relievers these days so they went out and traded for Tyler Thornburg. As usual, smarter people here at FanGraphs have already written about the trade so I will lead you to Jeff Sullivan’s take here before I completely chew your ear off. Thornburg broke out last year big time but it’s also worth noting Steamer projects him to only have a 4.03 FIP, more in line with his career before last year (2.83 FIP/3.28 xFIP). With all of that said, the price for closers is sky high and the Red Sox don’t want to go over the tax so signing someone like Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen isn’t/wasn’t in the cards. Instead, they used some resources to buy in on a possible late inning stud in Thornburg.

The Red Sox rotation is looking studly with the addition of Chris Sale but their bullpen is somewhat of a question mark behind Thornburg. Although Joe Kelly’s work in the rotation might be done he was very compelling in shorter outings, and by shorter outings I mean the bullpen and not a four inning start. In 17.2 innings in relief he had a 2.35 FIP/2.56 xFIP and he saw his strikeout rate jump (30.2%) and walk rate plummet (7.3 %). Those straight 97 mph fastballs work pretty well in one inning stints. Also of note is Carson Smith who is returning from Tommy John surgery and should be up and running in the 2nd half of the year, if not sooner.

Red Sox Updated Grid: Craig Kimbrel // Tyler Thornburg // Joe Kelly // Carson Smith (Sleeper)

•  Rumor Roundup: With the White Sox in full rebuilding mode, it’s unlikely they hold onto David Robertson much longer. He’s been linked with the Nationals even though they were unable to add him into the Adam Eaton deal. Robertson’s control eluded him a bit last year and he’s likely a bigger name than he is results but the Nationals still need some help in the pen. The White Sox would be smart to hold onto Robertson for a good deal given the price for relievers these days, but waiting for the season to start would be foolish. Expect the Nationals (or another team) to snag him at some point this offseason.

The Nationals, along with the Dodgers and Marlins have also been linked to Kenley Jansen who is the last stud reliever remaining in free agency. I’d expect the Dodgers to be the favorites and I can’t for the life of me wonder what the Marlins are doing. It was expected that Chapman would set the bar for Jansen so expect him to sign shortly, and once he signs expect Robertson to go to the team who missed out.

You can say this about any good reliever on a non-great team but with the price of relievers this high, Alex Colome’s name has come up in rumors. My guess is the Rays would let him go for a Gleyber-ian type haul but would more likely try to grind it out for a few months and come July put him on the block when the asking price should be higher.

As we get closer to the start of Spring Training we will update the full grid. In the meantime there is too much movement that could lead you astray. 

When he's not focusing on every team's bullpen situation, Ben can be found blogging at Ben's Baseball Bias and on Twitter @BensBias

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What does Milwaukee’s ‘pen situation look like with Thronburg now out? Knebel at closer, Torres SU?