As we enter the All-Star weekend let’s take a look back on how the weekend unfolded across the league’s bullpens and what might be on the horizon with trade rumors starting to swirl…
• After missing time dealing with personal matters Jose Alvarado returned to the Rays pen and struggle and now he’s on the IL with a strained oblique. The time frame for Alvarado’s return could be a week or so after the break, or a month + long stint. With Alvarado out of the picture for the moment, Emilio Pagan’s value certainly increases. Pagan received the save opportunity yesterday against the Yanks and pitched a perfect frame with two strikeouts for his 5th save. Pagan was a little shaky in his previous outings and this is still a committee but Pagan’s the best guy to own with Alvarado and Diego Castillo on the IL. In the committee remains Chaz Roe but we have replaced Alvarado with Colin Poche who pitched the last out of the 8th inning yesterday and has been pretty incredible this year. In the 16 innings he’s pitched thus far, Poche has a unexciting 3.38 ERA but has 24 strikeouts against just one walk with an outstanding 22.4% SwStr%. Poche has generated a ton of whiffs in his minor league career with solid walk rates so he should continue to be effective in the Rays pen, even seeing a save or two in the committee. Diego Castillo should return at some point after the break as well but there is no guarantee that he or Alvarado jumps ahead in the pecking order as the Rays will roll with their most effective options
• Greg Holland’s grip on the 9th was getting extra loose last week but he helped alleviate some concern, throwing a scoreless 9th for his 13th save on Saturday. On Sunday Holland again received the call and recorded his 14th save, although he allowed a solo shot to Trevor Story in the process. This weekend doesn’t put Holland’s struggles completely in the rear view mirror but he will enter the second half as the closer on a decent team. If you need saves you have to hold onto Holland but if another owner really needs them, I would use the clean weekend to trade him as a change could come quick if he struggles out of the gate after the break.
• Blake Treinen is off of the IL as we all know, but he remains a set up option for the A’s as Liam Hendriks holds onto the closer’s job. Last night that continued with Hendriks getting his 5th save, pitching around a hit with a strikeout against the Mariners. Hendriks made the All-Star team as a replacement this year but will he be closing for the A’s after the break? Nobody is doubting Hendriks’ ability to close, the only question is if and when Treinen finds his groove. I would be lying if I said I had an actual idea on Treinen putting it back together and I am leaning towards buying Hendriks shares. Treinen had the magical year last year but he’s been bad, inconsistent, and kind of hurt this entire year. Henriks is getting the job done and even in Treinen returns he will have to show improvement in non-save situations first, so you should get a handful of saves out of Hendriks in the meantime. I might regret making this call but relievers are fickle and I would bet on the hot hand.
• The Twins have been in command of their division all year and we have mentioned the likelihood of them making additions to the bullpen and that might be starting soon. None of the names that La Velle E. Neal III mentions are surprising but the Twins have checked in on Kirby Yates and Ken Giles. Taylor Rogers has done an admirable job as closer, even throwing 2.1 perfect innings with 5 strikeouts for the save on Saturday, but if Giles or Yates entered the fray, Rogers would likely be demoted to a set up role. No trade is imminent but Giles and Yates will surely have their names thrown around over the next few weeks.
The Twins were also linked with interest in Will Smith earlier this year which would of course help their bullpen and also add confusion to who would be getting saves. As you can see, how the saves fall is completely dependent on which team a closer goes to. If the Red Sox acquire a reliever they would likely leapfrog everyone as the favored candidate for saves, but if the Yankees acquired one they might only see the 6th inning. It’s a little a bit easier to guesstimate on who will gain save opportunities for the selling team but even that is not necessarily obvious in every case. For the Padres, if Yates is moved Stammen is the obvious replacement so I would be buying shares in him. If and when Will Smith is moved the Giants could turn to Tony Watson or Sam Dyson but it’s possible that one or both of those could be traded as well. Ken Giles has been one of the most dominant relievers this year and could help a team in any role but neither Daniel Hudson or Joe Biagini is an obvious one-man replacement, although both should be monitored in all AL Only leagues. Aaron Bummer might be a lefty but he stands to see saves if Alex Colome is dealt.
The trade deadline closer carousel is just starting and we will be sure to keep you informed of all rumors and possible fall-outs as they happen.
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