Fantasy Baseball MLB

Closer Carousel: How will the trade deadline impact closers?

Frank Ammirante| June 7th, 2019

Chasing saves is one of the most aggressive pursuits in fantasy baseball. With more teams opting to use their closers in high-leverage situations as opposed to traditional, ninth-inning usage, a common strategy has been to avoid paying for saves. This has made it important to attack the waiver wire or overbid opponents for newly-appointed closers. But what about closers thriving for rebuilding teams, at risk to be moved at the trade deadline for a package of prospects? Fantasy owners must decide whether their closers might become setup relievers when traded to a new team with a deeper bullpen, or if they will receive more save opportunities closing for a contender. Let’s examine the closers that are likely to be moved and assess the benefits for their fantasy value, categorizing each of them as “upgrade” or “downgrade.”

Ken Giles  RP- Toronto Blue Jays

Ken Giles has rejuvenated his career for the rebuilding Blue Jays, with a 1.08 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 7.1 BB%, and career-high 42.4 K%. Simply put: he has been one of the elite closers in baseball this season. Toronto will be sellers at the deadline and Giles is a virtual lock to be moved. Given his dominance this year, it’s likely that he will continue closing for his new team. He’s only racked up 11 saves since wins have been hard to come by in Toronto, so any new destination is a major upgrade to his fantasy value.

VERDICT: UPGRADE

Shane Greene  RP – Detroit Tigers

Shane Greene is currently second in MLB with 19 saves. He also sports a 1.08 ERA, but he’s been unlucky, as evidenced by his 3.65 xFIP and .183 BABIP. Greene has always been a rollercoaster ride in the 9th, so it’s likely that we’ll see some regression here. He does not have the typical dominant stuff, so he would be better suited in a setup role for a contending team. It was surprising to see the Tigers keep him last year, but it looks like they made the right move, since he’s having a better year in 2019. Greene will likely be traded to a contender and lose his closing job.

VERDICT: DOWNGRADE

Will Smith  RP – San Francisco Giants

Will Smith is having a great year for the Giants, with a 2.38 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 39.0 K%, and 4.9 BB%. He has only recently become a closer, with only 28 career saves, but it has been a smooth transition for the 29-year old lefty. Smith is a difficult case because even though he has been dominant, it is possible that he becomes a setup reliever in a trade due to his inexperience in the 9th. While his numbers are strong, I think that it is more likely that he works the 7th or 8th inning for his new team.

VERDICT: DOWNGRADE

Alex Colome   RP – Chicago White Sox

Alex Colome has secured the closer role in Chicago after losing it in Tampa Bay last season. Colome has posted a 2.28 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 25.9 K%, and 7.1 BB% with 12 saves. The White Sox are in the thick of the wild-card race right now, but there’s a very low chance that they get in over the Red Sox or even the Indians. Therefore, they would be wise to trade Colome for some more prospects. He has 108 career saves, so contending teams might value his experience, even though he is less skilled than a guy like Will Smith. I’d say that he continues closing for his new team.

VERDICT: UPGRADE

While the trade deadline is still over a month away, fantasy owners need to be proactive to stay ahead of their opponents. I’d bet that all four of these closers are traded. I would suggest trying to trade for Ken Giles or Alex Colome, while dumping closers like Shane Greene or Will Smith. It’s also important to monitor the bullpen usage of these teams to determine who their replacement will be, so you are ready to pounce when the time comes.

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