Closer Report: Yanks fill in for Miller
Andrew Miller hits the disabled list
The best one-two punch in any bullpen in baseball has been broken up for the next few weeks by a forearm injury that sent Andrew Miller to the 15-day DL last week. Miller has lived up to the big contract he signed during the past offseason through the first third of the first year. He's converted all 17 of his save chances while pitching to a 1.03 ERA and striking out nearly 15 batters per nine innings.
Unlike most injuries, this one won't be sending any fantasy owners to the waiver wire. The closer-in-waiting for New York should already be owned in all leagues, as he's one of the best setup men in baseball. Dellin Betances' value will surely increase over the next few weeks, and he could possibly split closer duties with Miller for the rest of the year as long as he doesn't struggle during this trial run. For those in holds leagues, guys like Justin Wilson and Chasen Shreve could provide some short-term value until Miller returns.
Rafael Soriano joins the Cubs' bullpen
It appears Hector Rondon is indeed out as closer for now. Duties have been mostly split between Pedro Strop and Jason Motte, with Rondon looking like a possibility to reemerge with a few more strong outings. Shortly after last week's column was posted, Soriano was added to the mix. He'll need a few appearances in the Minors before being deemed ready, but he should be up with the big club in a couple of weeks.
Although it's a futile exercise to predict what Cubs manager Joe Maddon will do with this group of late-inning relievers, the smart guess is on Soriano serving more as a setup man unless (or until, depending how you feel about them) Strop, Motte, and Rondon all prove they don't deserve the role. Strop is still my pick to own in this group, but in deeper leagues where saves are difficult to find on the wire, Soriano could pay off later in the year if he's still available.
Rays' bullpen not much clearer
For the first couple of weeks after Jake McGee returned from the disabled list, Brad Boxberger held on to the closer job. Now, it appears that McGee has earned the right to some save chances of his own. This past week, Tampa Bay relievers converted four saves, with McGee notching three of them and Kevin Jepsen grabbing the other. Although Boxberger's full-season numbers still look good, he's going through a rough stretch. He's allowed runs in four of his last eight outings with two losses and two more blown saves. I still believe he'll receive the bulk of the chances moving forward, but McGee is starting to look more valuable than he did a week or two ago. Jepsen also could be a strong addition in cheaper leagues, as he'll receive a few chances of his own. The Rays are winning with a weak offense, so there should be enough save opportunities for everyone to provide some value, although each of their individual valuations take a hit with the committee approach.
Trade winds swirling
With the Trade Deadline just six weeks away, the rumor mill has started to churn. As always, relievers are at the center of many of these rumors. Jonathan Papelbon has already been linked to the Blue Jays and the Cubs, and it appears a trade is imminent. Despite a perceived lack of stuff from the veteran, he has done nothing but produce over his career, and he should be able to take over the closer spot if he lands on either of those rosters. Ken Giles will surely take over the ninth inning in Philadelphia if/when Papelbon is dealt. Giles is likely owned already, but now would be the time to try to acquire him in a trade before the asking price increases.
Meanwhile, the Nationals are reportedly interested in Aroldis Chapman. With the Reds having a rough year, Chapman is one of their most valuable trade chips and it wouldn't be at all surprising to see him moved. If he does indeed head to Washington, it would be a blow to Drew Storen owners. Storen has pitched well this year, but there is no way he would survive a Chapman acquisition. In Cincinnati, J.J. Hoover is likely the next man in line for saves in the event of a Chapman move. Although his peripherals haven't looked good this year, the results have certainly been there. If he doesn't need too much time on the disabled list, Tony Cingrani could be a dark horse candidate as well.
• It's been a long wait for Brett Cecil owners, but the Blue Jays' closer finally notched his first save since May 4 on Friday, and he followed it up with another on Saturday.
• It's been a few weeks since we had a Mark Melancon update, but the Pirates' closer is still looking good after a rough start to the year. The strikeouts still aren't there, but he's converted every save chance since April 21 and has only allowed one earned run in that same span.
A version of this story originally appeared on Baseball Prospectus.