A couple weeks have passed since the trade deadline, and yeah, some of the remade bullpens are beginning to round into form. Felix Bautista has taken up the mantle in Baltimore. Jorge Lopez has gotten conventional closer treatment in Minnesota. Rowan Wick has been surprisingly steady for the Cubs.
But questions remain for the Brewers, Phillies and Angels. They're among the 10 teams whose closer scenarios are generating the most interest right now. No. 1 on the list, though, is a team that didn't add or subtract a closer at the deadline. It's one with both an all-time great closer and a guy who was good enough to replace him in the first half.
So what's next for the Yankees?
Note: "Pecking order" refers to rosterability in Fantasy and not necessarily who's first in line for saves (though it's usually one and the same).
I'm not ready to cut Clay Holmes loose in Fantasy given that he was one of the most reliable relievers in the first half and that manager Aaron Boone hasn't been totally clear about his plans for him moving forward. But certainly, the right-hander has put himself on thin ice with three blown saves in his past five appearances.
You'd think if the Yankees were going to make a move, it would be back to one of the all-time great closers, Aroldis Chapman, who has gotten back on track with nine straight scoreless appearances. But the team's most recent save chance actually went to Scott Effross, with Chapman working the eighth. I'd say Effross is a distant third choice in Fantasy still, but it doesn't sound like we'll have a clear answer here anytime soon.
In something of an upset, we still don't know who's favored to replace Josh Hader as closer in Milwaukee now two weeks after he was traded to the Padres. Taylor Rogers, who came over in the deal, has the most closing experience but seems to have taken his struggles with him from San Diego. Devin Williams is clearly the most capable, being one of the dominant relievers in baseball, but he has gotten just one save since the trade compared to Matt Bush's two.
The latest of those chances saw Williams work the ninth inning of a tie game, followed by Bush in the 10th, which would seem to suggest Williams is the preferred option still, but he was nowhere to be found for the first of Bush's save chances despite having gotten the previous day off. Williams remains the heavy favorite in my mind, but I wouldn't put closer shenanigans past manager Craig Counsell.
The preferred choice for Fantasy is that Tanner Houck's bout with back inflammation keeps him on the IL for only a short while and that he's back to being the teams' primary saves source before the end of the month. But amid reports of him visiting multiple back specialists, I get the feeling it's not going down that way, leaving us to guess which of Garrett Whitlock and John Schreiber will get the call on any given day.
So far, they've each got one save since Houck went down, but both continue to work multiple innings most of the time. Longer outings require more rest in between, which makes for less than consistent save chances. Both relievers are good, but I suspect they'll cut into each other's saves tally too much to be of much use to most Fantasy leagues.
We've been down this road before with Paul Sewald, most recently during a stretch in late June and early July when he recorded eight of the Mariners' 10 saves. But then four of the next five went to someone else, which suggested manager Scott Servais was as committed to the committee as ever.
Now, Sewald has once again gotten three of the team's past five saves and has worked the ninth or 10th inning in five straight appearances. For all the committee talk, only one Mariners reliever (Diego Castillo) is within even 10 saves of Sewald's 15. Between Erik Swanson's 1.00 ERA and Andres Munoz's 13.8 K/9, you can understand why Servais wouldn't feel pressure to commit to one guy, but the way he's using Sewald now may be the closest he gets to having a true closer. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good, right?
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has confirmed that Mark Melancon is out of the closer role, but he hasn't confirmed that Ian Kennedy is in it. Still, actions speak louder than words, and every one of Kennedy's appearances so far in August has come in the ninth inning, including four times for a save. Melancon himself has two saves during that time, but in both instances, Kennedy was unavailable. Because Lovullo has called it a committee, Joe Mantiply, a left-hander who was also the Diamondbacks' lone All-Star this year, could also factor, but when considering Kennedy's experience in the role, I'm expecting Lovullo just to lean on him.
More and more, it's looking like Dominguez is the clear favorite for saves in Philadelphia. David Robertson immediately got a save after coming over from the Cubs at the trade deadline, with Dominguez working the eighth, but credit to MLB.com beat writer Todd Zolecki, who maintained even then that Dominguez would likely continue to be used in the ninth. Dominguez has gotten three of the Phillies' four save chances since then, The other one did go to Robertson, but it came in the 10th inning after Dominguez had worked the ninth to send the game to extras, which is typically how you'd see a closer used.
After melting down in a predictable fashion, allowing seven earned runs over a span of five appearances, Hunter Strickland was officially removed from the closer role about a week ago, and Alexis Diaz has gotten the Reds' only save since, working 1 2/3 scoreless innings Sunday. He would seem like the obvious choice to close, both because he has far and away the best numbers in the Reds bullpen and, well, he's Edwin Diaz's brother, but in his previous outing, which came a couple of days after Strickland was already removed from the role, he worked the eighth inning with a two-run deficit. That's generally not how a closer is used. I'm cautiously optimistic now is finally Diaz's time, but it wouldn't be the first time I've said that this year.
Just when it looked like Carl Edwards had overtaken Kyle Finnegan as Tanner Rainey's replacement in Washington, recording consecutive saves four days apart with Finnegan working the seventh inning both times, Finnegan came right back with a save Monday. Was Edwards unavailable? Nope, he pitched the eighth, facing the bottom of the Cubs lineup while Finnegan faced the top. Maybe it's more of a leverage situation, and Finnegan is actually manager Dave Martinez's preferred option, regardless of the inning. Edwards has been a big strikeout pitcher in the past, but not this year, which puts his and Finnegan's overall numbers about on par. Hard to choose a favorite, then.
The Angels didn't have an obvious candidate to replace Raisel Iglesias, who was dealt to the Braves at the trade deadline, so it stood to reason they'd have to resort to the ugliest of closer committees. There does appear to be two clear heads of that committee, though. Ryan Tepera, the right-hander, has registered one save since Iglesias' departure, also working a clean ninth in a game that went to extra innings. Jose Quijada, the left-hander, has recorded two saves, but in between, he's twice been called in to work the eighth.
I prefer Tepera if only for his right-handedness, but Quijada is the better bat-misser of the two. It's possible Jimmy Herget, who himself got a save in an extra-inning game recently, and Jesse Chavez, who came over in the Iglesias deal, could also factor in, but the odds of them making any significant Fantasy contribution is long.
If the Athletics are planning to return Dany Jimenez to the closer role following his six-week bout with a shoulder strain, they've offered no signals of it. Granted, they've lost basically every game since Jimenez was activated, but you can tell even in losses who are being used like a closer and who isn't. Only one of Jimenez's three appearances has come in the ninth inning, and it was with a two-run deficit. During that same time, Zach Jackson has three times worked the ninth, all in games decided by one run, and the one time he worked the eighth, it was also a one-run game. That's more like closer usage.
Having said that, Jackson's walk and fly-ball rates are so bad that I don't trust him to hold up in the role. My hunch is the Athletics are easing Jimenez in, wanting confirmation that he's health and effective before treating him like a closer again.