Closer Report: 13th edition, 2015
Hector Rondon back as closer?
Joe Maddon continues his pattern of not locking down a consistent closer in his bullpen. It's a good strategy on the real-life baseball side of things, of course, but it's frustrating for fantasy owners. The Cubs only earned themselves one save opportunity over the last week, and it went to Rondon, though it should be mentioned that it was an extra-inning game in which both Pedro Strop and Jason Motte had already appeared. With that being said, Rondon appears to have earned his way back into the conversation. Last week, I suggested Strop is the man to own in this bullpen, and while he still won't hurt you, I'd probably just try to avoid all of these guys for the time being. The three I mentioned above have all pitched well, and they will likely split the save opportunities until one clearly separates himself. On top of that, Neil Ramirez will be coming back soon, and the newly signed Rafael Soriano will be up in the Majors before too long as well. That's a lot of names who have a chance of saving games, meaning each individual will provide minimal value in roto.
The Blue Jays' closer situation has been confusing for fantasy owners all season, with Brett Cecil getting taken out of the role after just a couple of weeks, being put back in the role a few weeks later, and then going more than a month without a single save. Although he's held the closer title for most of the season, he hasn't produced much value. Now, after his latest tough outing on Sunday, his leash is up again. He's up to a 5.96 ERA on the season and has given up runs in five of his last six outings, including his last three. The favorite to take over would be Roberto Osuna. Though he's just 20 years old, he's been very impressive this season with a 2.12 ERA, a 2.26 FIP and over a strikeout per inning. He blew his first save chance of 2015, but that was way back in April, and he converted Monday night. If the Jays decide they don't want to risk the high-leverage job with someone so young (it's already hurt them when they gave Miguel Castro the job), the equally impressive Steve Delabar could be given the chance as well. Whoever they choose likely won't keep the job for too long, however, as the Blue Jays have been connected to most available relievers and will likely acquire a new closer before the Trade Deadline.
Koji Uehara struggling
The Red Sox haven't been winning enough to give Uehara many save chances lately, but he hasn't inspired much confidence when he has been able to pitch. He was dominant through his late 30s, but there have been some signs of age from the now-40-year-old, especially lately. He's allowed multiple runs in three of his eight outings this month, and just hasn't looked like the same elite pitcher he once was. The good news for owners is his peripherals are still quite good, and Boston doesn't appear to be overly motivated to make a move in the ninth inning. Considering he signed a two-year deal before the offseason, and the team's likely position outside the playoff race, it can live with some rough outings once in a while. Furthermore, there aren't many other options in that bullpen who would be appealing alternatives. Junichi Tazawa is likely the only one, but he's content in the setup role and has thrived there. He also represents one of their most realistic trade chips if the Sox decide to sell. Uehara owners may be nervous about his status right now, and it could be a good time to pounce on a buy-low opportunity.
• More trade rumors! The Brewers are almost certainly going to sell this July, and Francisco Rodriguez is an obvious candidate. He's been outstanding this season, and would continue to close games if he's dealt somewhere like Toronto. Assuming some trade does happen at some point, Will Smith appears the next man in line for Milwaukee.
• Trevor Rosenthal missed most of the last week with arm issues, and Kevin Siegrist took his place in the ninth. While it looked like Rosenthal may need a stint on the disabled list, he came back over the weekend. Arm issues can always crop back up, but for now, it looks like the closer situation in St. Louis is stable.
• Cody Allen has had an up-and-down season, and Indians manager Terry Francona surprised some people by using his closer in the sixth inning on Thursday. However, it was just Francona using his best reliever in an important spot, and you shouldn't anticipate a change coming soon in Cleveland.
• After Jake McGee took back most of the save chances in Tampa Bay a couple weeks ago, Brad Boxberger was the man this past week, converting all three of the Rays' opportunities. It's still a less-than-ideal situation from the fantasy side of things, but Boxberger remains my preference in that group.
A version of this story originally appeared on Baseball Prospectus.