Selling High on Bad Closers

Neftali Feliz and LaTroy Hawkins both picked up their first saves of the season last night. Per ESPN’s live draft results, Feliz was drafted as the 25th reliever off the board on average and just inside the top 200 overall. Hawkins was drafted 38th among relievers and went at pick 226 overall. These are a couple of the names you wound up with if you chose not to pay for saves.

Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I assume the plan if you own guys like Feliz and Hawkins is to ride them out as long as they hold on to the closer’s job and squeeze as many saves out of them as you can. I ascribe to the “don’t pay for saves” philosophy and scrounge around late in drafts and on the waiver wire to acquire my saves. Typically when I get a guy who has the ninth inning job, I ride it out until he loses the job. But it occurs to me, as it may have occurred to you, that maybe it’s better to cash in that asset after a string of un-blown saves.

The problem with closers like Feliz and Hawkins isn’t just that they’re at high risk of losing their job and becoming useless to fantasy owners. It’s also that they really hurt you in the other roto categories. Let’s put the auction calculator to use one more time and look at the 30 closers projected to provide the most fantasy value via the save and compare it to their roto contributions as a whole (this obviously hasn’t been updated since the Kimbrel trade).

Player Name mW mSV mERA mWHIP mSO Dollars
Greg Holland ($4.00) $6.50 $3.20 $2.20 ($3.30) $13.20
Mark Melancon ($4.10) $6.50 $2.70 $1.30 ($4.50) $10.50
Zach Britton ($4.20) $6.50 $0.80 ($1.50) ($4.80) $5.40
Aroldis Chapman ($3.60) $6.40 $6.80 $6.00 ($1.00) $23.20
David Robertson ($4.20) $6.40 $1.60 $1.10 ($3.30) $10.20
Joaquin Benoit ($4.30) $6.30 $2.00 $1.40 ($3.60) $10.40
Trevor Rosenthal ($4.10) $6.30 $2.10 $0.80 ($3.40) $10.20
Craig Kimbrel ($4.00) $6.20 $4.80 $3.90 ($2.30) $17.30
Fernando Rodney ($4.20) $6.20 $0.80 ($0.40) ($4.20) $6.70
Koji Uehara ($3.80) $6.10 $3.20 $3.50 ($3.80) $13.70
Glen Perkins ($4.20) $6.10 $1.50 $1.00 ($4.10) $8.90
Steve Cishek ($4.30) $6.10 $1.50 $0.30 ($4.00) $8.40
Huston Street ($4.40) $6.10 ($1.10) ($0.90) ($4.90) $3.40
Neftali Feliz ($4.40) $6.10 ($1.80) ($2.80) ($4.80) $1.00
Cody Allen ($4.20) $6.00 $1.20 $0.50 ($3.50) $8.70
Drew Storen ($4.30) $5.90 $0.10 ($0.40) ($4.70) $5.20
Addison Reed ($4.40) $5.80 $0.50 $0.80 ($4.20) $7.20
Hector Rondon ($4.30) $5.60 $0.50 ($0.30) ($4.20) $5.80
Jonathan Papelbon ($4.60) $5.60 ($0.30) $0.00 ($4.60) $4.70
Santiago Casilla ($4.50) $5.50 ($0.10) ($1.90) ($4.90) $2.70
Joe Nathan ($4.40) $4.70 ($1.30) ($1.90) ($4.70) $1.00
LaTroy Hawkins ($4.40) $4.70 ($2.30) ($3.00) ($5.50) ($1.90)
Brett Cecil ($4.10) $4.30 $1.40 $0.20 ($3.70) $6.70
Jake McGee ($4.00) $4.00 $3.70 $2.90 ($3.30) $11.80
Dellin Betances ($4.10) $3.80 $2.30 $1.30 ($3.00) $8.90
Kenley Jansen ($4.40) $3.60 $3.60 $3.60 ($3.70) $11.30
Francisco Rodriguez ($4.40) $3.50 ($0.50) ($0.80) ($4.20) $2.20
Jenrry Mejia ($4.50) $3.40 $0.20 ($0.80) ($4.30) $2.60
Rafael Soriano ($4.40) $3.10 ($1.20) ($1.50) ($4.80) ($0.30)
Luke Gregerson ($4.40) $3.00 ($0.70) ($0.80) ($4.80) $0.90

I’ve highlighted the names of the closers whose total value may not be worth the saves you’re getting. Hawkins is the most extreme example as his total roto contributions are projected to be negative despite a healthy contribution in the saves category.

In my experience, people looking to acquire saves will pay a a decent price to trade for a closer. If you own Hawkins and he strings together a couple of weeks without an implosion, see if you can acquire a useful piece elsewhere on your roster in exchange for Hawkins. You’ll be adding a player whose total contributions will be positive, and you’ll be getting rid of Hawkins while he still has value as perceived by others instead of unceremoniously dropping him to the waiver wire when he inevitably loses the closing gig.

In a few weeks time, I’d be willing to sell quite a few closers if they avoid disaster. Guys I’d deal include Hawkins, Feliz, Joe Nathan, Santiago Casilla, Francisco Rodriguez, Jenrry Mejia, Luke Gregerson, Jonathan Papelbon, Hector Rondon and Huston Street. For a good enough return, I’d also strongly consider dealing Drew Storen, Addison Reed and Zach Britton.

Again, maybe this is an obvious strategy, but it’s not something I’ve utilized before. It seems somewhat counterintuitive to emphasize acquiring saves on the cheap and then shipping them out the door once you acquire them. But if you’re a regular to this game of chasing saves, then you just keep doing what you do once you sell high on a bad closer. Go back to the wire and speculate on the relievers likely to pick up the job at some point. If you can, focus on those that can contribute positively in other categories while not providing saves.

Going back to the auction calculator, here are the names of the relievers projected to contribute positively on the whole despite not getting (m)any saves and who are reasonably close to a closing gig. They are listed along with their ESPN ownership percentages: Wade Davis (31%), Joel Peralta (0.9%), Ken Giles (65.5%), Sergio Romo (12.9%), Tony Watson (3.8%), Jordan Walden (0.5%), and Will Smith (0.2%).

We hoped you liked reading Selling High on Bad Closers by Brett Talley!

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I saw you lumped Hector Rondon in with a number of suspect closers. While I understand you’re casting a wide net and being fairly liberal with who you’re including, I think Rondon isn’t getting enough love. Is he a top-flight closer? No. But he had a genuinely very good 2014, striking out a batter an inning with an ERA, FIP, xFIP, SIERA all sub-3.00. No reason to think he won’t hold that job and perform well again this year I think.


Agree and as he is my sole closer in one league (I know – working on it), hoping for more of the same and that he stays healthy.