Fantasy Baseball Closer Report: Change Coming in LA, Chicago and More

Eric StashinSenior Writer IMay 7, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 29:  Starting pitcher Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the spring training game at Camelback Ranch on March 29, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

In the past three or four days teams have made numerous changes to their closers.  Which are long-term decisions and which should be ignored by fantasy owners?  Let’s take a closer look:

Chicago White Sox

It was a surprising decision by the White Sox late last week when it was revealed that they were pulling Chris Sale from the rotation and inserting him into the closer’s role.  The move came due to elbow issues for Sale, as Scott Merkin of reported:

“The 23-year-old with top-of-the-rotation stuff had his first foray as a starter cut short on Friday, when manager Robin Ventura announced that an organizational decision was made to move the southpaw back into the bullpen.

Sale was experiencing soreness in his arm, but as Sale admitted Saturday, he thought it was just normal soreness from his move to a starter.”

Sale had looked impressive in the rotation, posting a 2.81 ERA and 1.00 WHIP over 32.0 innings.  Unfortunately, he won’t be returning there this season.  Owners of Hector Santiago can cut bait immediately.  Even if Sale struggles, the team would likely turn to Matt Thornton or Addison Reed as a potential replacement, as it appeared both were already under consideration for the role.

However, I wouldn’t count on Sale failing.  Remember, he was dominant in 2010 and 2011 working out of the bullpen posting ERAs of 1.95 and 2.79.

Chicago Cubs

The fact that Carlos Marmol was removed from the closer’s role really should not be a surprise to anyone.  He’s always struggled with his control, though this year it has been even worse (12 BB in 8.2 IP). 

Yes, he has an electric fastball, but if he can’t control it what does it matter?  He could eventually return to the closer’s role, but this is one situation where I wouldn’t consider it a given.

While the Cubs have said that they will go with a timeshare in the ninth between James Russell and Rafael Dolis, why would you use Russell in the seventh if that was the case?  Maybe the lineup they were facing wasn’t loaded with lefties, but it still makes little sense. 

Since the decision was revealed, Russell has consistently been used earlier in the game, with Dolis being saved for later use.

Of course, Dolis has the potential to struggle with his control just as much as Marmol did.  Over his minor league career he posted a 4.50 BB/9, and he’s been even worse in the Majors. 

He also has failed to generate many swings and misses, with just 4 K over 16.1 IP.  Yes, the job appears to be his for the time being, but chances are he’s not going to be the long-term solution.

In deeper formats he’s worth using in the short-term, just don’t look towards him as a long-term answer for saves.  Chances are, if anyone besides Marmol earns the job, it’s going to be Kerry Wood.

Florida Marlins

Heath Bell has been removed from the closer’s role.  That shouldn’t come as a surprise.  It also shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Marlins aren’t looking at it as a long-term demotion.  Clark Spencer of The Miami Herald published the following:

“We’re going to move him down, maybe for a few days, to get him back on track,” said Guillen, explaining that he intends to use Bell in non-save situations until he shows he’s ready to reclaim his old job. “It’s not like I’m removing him from his job. We’re going to come up with something positive for him to resolve the problem.”

While Steve Cishek appears to be the likely replacement for Bell (don’t go by this weekend, as Cishek threw 3.0 innings on Friday and was likely unavailable, leading to Edward Mujica getting a save), he is clearly to be viewed as nothing more than a short-term option to try and vulture a save or two. 

With a three-year, $27 million contract, the Marlins have ample reasons to try and get Bell’s issues sorted out.

San Diego Padres

Huston Street is injured.  Does this really come as a major surprise to anyone?  This time he suffered a strained lat and no one is quite sure when he’s going to be ready to come off the DL, though it’ll likely be longer than the minimum 15 days.

That said, there doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut replacement for Street.  Instead, a committee could be in their future.  According to Sarah Trotto of

“The Padres will use several pitchers to close games. Black mentioned Andrew Cashner, Dale Thayer and Luke Gregerson. The Hard-throwing Cashner is 2-1 with a 2.08 ERA. Thayer has a 0.00 ERA in three innings. Gregerson has a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings.”

With no clear answer and the Padres likely piecing it together, only those desperate for saves should be targeting these relievers. 

However, Cashner’s blowup yesterday (as we discussed in the Around the Majors column) should lead to Gregerson getting the first opportunity to close.  If I was grabbing one of these guys now, he’d be my choice.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Could the Dodgers be the next team  prepared to make a change at the end of games? 

Javy Guerra has been struggling lately, with earned runs allowed in four of his past five appearances and three blown saves on the season.  Exactly how much longer can the Dodgers stick by their closer?

The answer is not much longer, especially when you have Kenley Jansen waiting in the wings.  Jansen has been electric, with a 2.70 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 27 K over 16.2 innings, as expected and would be the obvious choice to take over the role.  If he’s still available in your league for whatever reason, don’t hesitate to stash him immediately.

Los Angeles Angels

Jordan Walden recently lost his job as closer, but could he be ticketed right back for the role?  With both Scott Downs and LaTroy Hawkins going down via injury on Sunday, how many more options do the Angels have?

Jason Isringhausen does have the experience, and he also has posted a solid 3.12 ERA.  Of course, he’s done it a bit with smoke and mirrors, as he’s posted a 1.73 WHIP courtesy of 8 BB in 8.2 IP.

If the team really doesn’t want to thrust Walden back into the role, my guess would be the newly acquired Ernesto Frieri, assuming Downs and Hawkins are forced to the DL.  Frieri has been lights out this season, with 22 K over 13.2 innings to go with a 1.98 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. 

Those looking to steal a few saves in deeper formats, he’s well worth the speculative add.

Make sure to check out these other great articles from Rotoprofessor:


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