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05/06/08 10:27 AM ET
Roundtable: Play the in-waiting game
Targeting top setup men on clubs with fading closers pays big dividends
Brewers closer Eric Gagne has blown five of his 14 save opportunities and sports a bloated 6.14 ERA. (AP)

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With a number of closers struggling, who's the next fireman to lose his job, and -- more importantly -- which setup men are the best bets to assume their club's ninth-inning role? MLB.com's fantasy gurus offer their take in this week's edition of the Roundtable.

Salomon Torres, Brewers
Guillermo Mota, Brewers

Few closers have had enough save chances to put their jobs in jeopardy, but Eric Gagne has. He leads the Majors with 14 save chances but has blown five of them to top all closers. While bad defense has hampered him at times, Gagne can't blame anyone else for the 10 walks and four homers he's allowed in 14 2/3 innings. Neither Salomon Torres (2.95 ERA in 21 1/3 IP) nor Guillermo Mota (2.40 ERA in 15 IP) is anyone's idea of an exciting backup choice, but both have closed before, and both are worth picking up in deeper leagues.

-- Cory Schwartz, Host, "MLB.com Fantasy 411"

Torres
Dave Riske, Brewers

Brewers GM Doug Melvin either delivered you good news or the kiss of death when he said Gagne's job is safe. I don't buy it. Gagne has blown five saves, which is a ton for early May. And contrary to the belief that Gagne had no competition when Derrick Turnbow was let go, that's not the case. Salomon Torres and David Riske have 51 career saves combined, and Seth McClung and Brian Shouse have a handful as well. Plus, Gagne is serving a one-year contract, so there's no long-term investment. I wish I could tell you who had the better chance of taking the job, but I fear it may become a two-headed monster of Torres and Riske, with Riske likely performing better.

-- Mike Siano, Host, "MLB.com Fantasy 411"

Carlos Marmol, Cubs

Kerry Wood has generally pitched better than his 4.80 ERA would indicate, but he's on the hot seat after blowing three of his last four save opportunities. With the pressure on the Cubs to win this year, it likely won't be long before manager Lou Piniella moves overpowering setup man Carlos Marmol (1.29 ERA, 12.0 K/9) into the closer role.

-- Tim Ott, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy

Anyone can fire a fireman. The hard part is finding a new one. Fortunately, Cubs manager Lou Piniella doesn't have that problem, thanks to the never-ending rise of Marmol. Forget setup men -- most relievers can't touch this 25-year-old flamethrower (1.39 ERA, 124 Ks since 2007), let alone Cubs closer Kerry Wood, whose three blown saves, 4.80 ERA and poor health conjure up memories of so many other fallen closers before him. It may not be tomorrow, this week or this month, but it's just a matter of time before Marmol takes the closer reins and runs with 'em.

-- Alex Cushing, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy

There are three good reasons why Carlos Marmol is poised to snatch the closer's role from Kerry Wood. First, Wood has blown three of seven save opportunities and owns a 4.80 ERA in 15 innings. Second, the injury-plagued Wood has missed a meaty portion of every season since 2003 -- it could happen again. And third, Marmol's numbers are sublime. In 2007, the 25-year-old righty sported a 5-1 record with a 1.43 ERA, fanning 96 batters in a mere 69 1/3 innings. This season, he's added to those credentials with a 1.29 ERA and a 28/5 K/BB ratio in 21 innings as a setup man. Oh, and he's converted both of his save opportunities. The Cubs need a reliable closer, and Marmol is the guy.

-- Milosh Marinovich, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy

Heath Bell, Padres

He's a surefire future first-ballot Hall of Famer, but Trevor Hoffman has struggled big time at the back of San Diego's 'pen this season. The 40-year-old closer has surrendered seven earned runs over 9 2/3 innings for a not-so-pretty 6.52 ERA, and his 1.55 WHIP and .275 BAA tell a practically undeniable story about his dwindling velocity. Setup man Heath Bell's strong early-season stat line -- a 2.55 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and an 11/5 K/BB ratio in 17 2/3 innings -- has added fuel to the fire in PETCO-ville, providing a capable heir apparent to take the reins from the Padres' fallen king.

-- Corey Gottlieb, Reporter, MLB.com Fantasy

I'm going to throw a changeup here and suggest Trevor Hoffman. Sure, he's fared better lately, but the fact remains his once devastating changeup is no longer as effective since his not-so-fastball has dropped to a point where the mph difference is not enough to fool hitters anymore. Out of respect for his career accomplishments, it would not shock me if Hoffman ended up on the DL instead of being demoted, at which point Heath Bell would be poised to come in and assume the stopper duties.

-- Todd Zola, Correspondent

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.