Fantasy Closer Report: Week 18
Clippard traded to Mets
In what has been inevitable for a while, Tyler Clippard was finally traded, landing with the Mets. As I mentioned last week, the picture behind Clippard in Oakland is less than clear. I speculated that Drew Pomeranz could get some save chances, but it appears the A's will be looking at him as a starter again. I still believe Fernando Rodriguez is the best option. He's been phenomenal this year, striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings while walking fewer than three. At 31 years old, this is a good time for the A's to give him a spotlight and flip him in the offseason. With that being said, Edward Mujica and Eric O'Flaherty could be getting the first crack. If I had to pick someone for immediate saves, I'd choose Mujica. Rodriguez should get the most saves over the rest of the season, though.
As for Clippard, his fantasy value is about to take a hit. Jeurys Familia has been too good to lose his closer job, and it appears Clippard will be brought in for setup duties. He's still a solid reliever in deeper leagues, but he's not in the Dellin Betances/Wade Davis tier. I wouldn't hesitate to drop him in shallower leagues where more upside is available.
New closing men
Jonathan Papelbon finally has a new home. The Nationals have already gotten a fantastic season from their current closer, Drew Storen, but they decided to improve their bullpen further as they vie for the postseason. Papelbon will take over the closer's role while Storen is bumped down to setup man, although it is through no fault of Storen's. Should Papelbon suddenly falter, Storen could certainly get another crack at the ninth-inning duties. That said, Papelbon has been a very reliable stopper for many years, and he should receive more save opportunities now that he is with Washington.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Ken Giles makes his inevitable move into the closer's role, and he's expected to have no problem protecting leads at the end of games.
Watch Rays' ninth-inning situation
Owning relievers from Tampa Bay is always a risk, as they're always candidates to be traded if they're pitching well. This is the case for Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee, who are both getting save chances and have both been rumored to be on the trade market. It remains unclear how likely it is that both players are dealt this week, but it would certainly be a blow to fantasy owners. Boxberger was an All-Star this year and has been very good over the past few years, but he doesn't have the kind of track record to guarantee a closer's job with a new team. McGee would almost certainly be a setup man on a new team. I feel like it's much more likely that McGee is dealt and Boxberger stays, but if you're nervous about the latter receiving a role demotion, you could go out and shop him before it happens. Meanwhile, if the crazy happens and both are traded, Kevin Jepsen is the obvious choice to close, as he's already gotten a few chances this year.
Is Ziegler a trade candidate?
When I went through all the trade candidates last week, I failed to include Brad Ziegler. The column was already running long, and I hadn't heard any rumors about him. Since then, there has at least been speculation around him. The D-backs are out of it this year, Ziegler is a free agent after the season, and he's 35 years old and has performed well since taking over the closer's role from Addison Reed. There are plenty of reasons for it to happen. However, Arizona is reportedly looking for a big haul in return for Ziegler, something it won't get. While he's gotten good results, the peripherals don't look like those of a pitcher teams will pay a high price for. On the off chance that he is traded, however, the D-backs have a few candidates to close games. Daniel Hudson would be my first guess, but David Hernandez and Andrew Chafin are candidates as well.
• Glen Perkins had a rough outing against the Yankees on Saturday for his second blown save of the season. In fact, it was the Twins closer's second blown save in the last couple of weeks. Obviously, it's nothing to be worried about with respect to his role, but there's a chance he could be falling back to earth.
• The Mariners' tough season continues in the bullpen. Carson Smith has been far from perfect, but Fernando Rodney has been worse. No matter how much the Mariners may like the latter, there's no way he should be put back in the ninth inning.
• The Cardinals traded for former Marlins closer Steve Cishek last week. Cishek will be a setup man in St. Louis, but he should be valuable in holds leagues.
A version of this story originally appeared on Baseball Prospectus.