Don't invest heavily in closers on draft day. Don't pay for saves. Closers can be found on the waiver wire throughout the season. That last statement is true, but in all my years playing fantasy baseball, I've never followed the part about not paying for saves because, well, you're not paying for only the saves. You're paying for peace of mind. My general approach has been to draft one elite-level closer in addition to a mid-tier stopper with a high degree of job security. This approach has generally worked out nicely, as I've never really found myself in a situation where I'm forced to dedicate a large portion of my FAAB budget on speculative closer acquisitions, many of which never pan out. Barring an injury, 65-plus saves were in the bank to go along with solid ratios.
However, things are beginning to fall apart this season, as I am indeed a Francisco Rodriguez owner in two leagues, including Mixed Auction Tout Wars. Now look, I didn't expect K-Rod to be dominant this year, as it became especially clear towards the latter part of last season that he was way past his prime. However, I did expect him to pitch well enough to hold onto the closer job with the Tigers bullpen lacking an obvious fallback option. So much for that. We have yet to reach the one-quarter mark of the season and Rodriguez is already out, replaced by Justin Wilson, who has been nearly automatic as Detroit's setup man. Whether or not K-Rod eventually reclaims the closing gig remains to be seen, but the bottom line is that I'm now in the exact situation that I hoped to avoid, in dire need of a second closer and scanning a waiver wire that doesn't even include most of the primary setup guys.
But enough about my own predicament. All of this closer thinking got me thinking about the overall relief pitcher landscape, more specifically relief pitcher FAAB additions. Saves hunting has always been a popular theme when it comes to Tout Wars FAAB pickups, and this year is no different. Of the 137 players purchased so far this season in the Mixed Auction league, 30 (21.9%) are relief pitchers. Some of these relievers were already declared their team's new closer at the time of the purchase while others fell under the speculative pickup category. Some of these moves have worked out while others have not. Here's a sampling.
Justin Wilson ($42) - An alert move by Jeff Zimmerman a couple weeks before the K-Rod demotion, and one that as a Rodriguez owner, I should have made. I guess I just didn't think that things would get bad enough to warrant a ninth inning change in Detroit. But they did.
Bud Norris ($73) - Norris' closing stint was supposed to be brief, only until Cam Bedrosian returned from the DL. But Bedrosian's groin strain will keep him sidelined for longer than originally expected, and Norris has done a fine job as the Angels stopper, converting six of his seven save chances while whiffing well over a batter per inning. Could the Halos decide to keep Norris in the closer role even after Bedrosian comes back? Sure they could.
Santiago Casilla ($184) - Who knows how Oakland's closer situation will play out long-term, but Casilla does lead the team with six saves and he does boast a strong big league track record, including several stints in the closer role. His blown save in Texas on Friday will test his job security, however.
Addison Reed ($0) - Perfect timing, as Reed was added just a few days prior to the Jeurys Familia blood clot news. Reed, a former closer, has been a dominant setup man since the start of last season and carries top-10 stopper upside from here on out.
Joaquin Benoit ($40 and $53) - Interestingly enough, Benoit currently resides on my roster (thankfully my bench). The two-time FAAB buy was the Phillies closer for a few days in April until he blew a save in Washington, and thanks to the struggles of Hector Neris, Benoit seemed to be on the verge of returning to the ninth inning. But that was before Wednesday's outing against the Mariners when he allowed five earned runs, raising his ERA from 2.63 to 5.79.
Jeremy Jeffress ($26) - The purchase of Jeffress on April 10 looked good at the time, as he was considered the slight favorite over Matt Bush to replace Sam Dyson as the Rangers stopper. And he was a fairly safe bet to do well in the role considering his strong 2016 campaign during which he posted a 2.33 ERA and saved 27 games for the Brewers before getting traded to Texas at the deadline. But we're now in mid-May and Jeffress sports a disappointing 4.70 ERA and 1.89 WHIP through 19 games and has yet to record a save while Bush has tallied two of the team's four total saves. Bush is clearly the guy for the time being, but don't rule out Jeffress eventually returning to the ninth inning picture if he can rediscover his 2016 form.
Blake Treinen ($359) - Treinen belongs in his own category simply due to the price tag. On April 3, Jeff Zimmerman forked over more than one-third of his season FAAB budget to add the newly anointed Nationals closer. In exchange, he got three saves, a 6.43 ERA and a 2.29 WHIP across seven innings. Heading into Saturday, the 28-year-old righty has allowed at least one run in ten of his 17 appearances this season. The chances of him returning to the closer role anytime soon are slim to none.
Kind of like the chances of me deviating from my longstanding draft day approach to closers, despite this season's K-Rod experience.