As the All-Star break approaches, fantasy baseball managers need to be mindful of the impending trade deadline. The expanded MLB playoffs add a different wrinkle to the list of buyers and sellers, so understanding which teams are which is important, especially if you are rostering closers from teams expected to be active.
The volatility of the position is something everyone has to endure, but once July 31 arrives, it will get even crazier, as closers become set-up men and players you never would have considered rostering suddenly become more valuable.
The sellers are easy to identify as you scrape the bottom of the standings, so checking in on the bullpens for the Orioles, Tigers, Pirates, Rockies, Nationals, Royals and Athletics should be your first stop. Current closers, such as Gregory Soto, Daniel Bard, Jorge Lopez, and David Bednar, are likely to be dealt at or near the deadline.
This means, unless they land on the Red Sox or maybe the Twins, they will likely end up in a set-up role of some sort. As negotiations heat up, you should scour through these teams’ bullpens and start targeting players such as Wil Crowe, Michael Fulmer, Dillon Tate and Carlos Estevez on your waiver wire. Even the Diamondbacks could deal Mark Melancon and Ian Kennedy, which would put Joe Mantiply in contention for saves. The names are far from sexy and the numbers are mediocre, at best, but saves are saves, and if your league counts them, you need to stay proactive.
For teams that appear to be buyers at the trade deadline, it gets a little trickier. The Phillies weren’t planning on having lefty Brad Hand closing games, so he could be someone whose closing job is in jeopardy. The same goes for Minnesota’s Jhoan Duran. Manager Rocco Baldelli likes using Duran in other high-leverage situations, so his run as the Twins’ closer could be cut short.
And let’s not forget about the Mariners, a team that has already gone through a half-dozen closers this season alone. Should they make a move for someone like Tanner Rainey or one of the Barlows (Scott or Joe), Paul Sewald could shift back into a set-up role again.
Relievers are among the most-traded players when it comes to the MLB deadline. You need to be diligent with your research and understand the pecking order for saves for all 32 teams. If you can make a couple of early moves to protect yourself before the great upheaval, you’ll be doing yourself and your fantasy team a tremendous service.
Howard Bender is the head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy baseball advice.