With the varying bits of news circulating over the wire regarding the closers for a number of teams recently, it got me thinking if this year is worse than last.
If you recall, there were no less than a dozen situations last season that should have had fans and fantasy owners alike questioning stability.
Last year, I wrote:
This year, we have at least five, if not closer to eight, teams that will be in some sort of split situation at the outset. Oakland (Joey Devine/Brad Ziegler), the Cubs (Kevin Gregg/Carlos Marmol), Tampa (Troy Percival/Dan Wheeler/Grant Balfour), St. Louis (Chris Perez/Ryan Franklin), Colorado (Manny Corpas/Huston Street), Detroit (Joel Zumaya/Fernando Rodney), Baltimore (George Sherrill/Chris Ray), and San Diego (Heath Bell/undetermined) are all in fluid situations.
Even this list isn't complete. You could argue Arizona, Atlanta, and even the Mets may have debates over the course of the season as to who should end games.
The season broke down with some changes across many teams. Oakland used at least three closers before settling on Andrew Bailey. The Marlins had problems finding a steady hand, as did the Rays. Colorado used both Corpas and Street to varying degrees. Washington sent their closer packing in a trade, and Atlanta struggled with injuries in the back of their pen.
The Cubs used Gregg and Marmol, Toronto never settled on anyone specifically, and Texas split time with C.J. Wilson and Frank Francisco. An ineffective bullpen in Philadelphia gave even Ryan Madson a shot.
Should we continue?
Let's sum it all up nicely here: There were 38 players that recorded at least 10 saves. Largely, we ended up with nearly one-third of all teams having issues.
This season may not be that much different. If you look at each division, you can find battles in all of them that may give fantasy owners headaches. The numbers in parentheses are my estimate as to how many will change this season.
AL East (1)
Toronto is the big one here. The Jays have Scott Downs, Kevin Gregg, and Jason Frasor that could be called upon. Expect Gregg to get the first shot, but Downs is certainly not far behind. Tampa solidified theirs with Rafael Soriano, but he is injury prone. Baltimore is good with Mike Gonzalez, and New York and Boston will not change. Only Toronto may change, but it may change more than once.
AL Central (2)
The loss of Joe Nathan likely thrusts Jon Rauch in to start the season, but there are few that are truly thrilled with that. Watch this one closely. The Indians always seem ready to look for a change and are not sold on Kerry Wood.
The White Sox may start with Bobby Jenks, but Matt Thornton is certainly going to push him. Any falter will cause a switch here. The Tigers should be okay with Jose Valverde if healthy, and Joakim Soria is good in Kansas City.
AL West (1)
There will again be issues in Texas. While Francisco is likely the leader in the clubhouse, there are going to be many pushing for Neftali Feliz to get his crack at the job. Even the Angels have backfilled Brian Fuentes with Fernando Rodney. Fuentes was good in terms of overall numbers but shaky in execution. There are many in Seattle that feel David Aardsma will lose his job at one point or another. Oakland should be set.
NL East (2)
While I'm not necessarily expecting Atlanta to change from Billy Wagner, the possibility is there. Both Pete Moylan and Kris Medlen can close, and Takashi Saito could do the job in a pinch. The situation in Philadelphia WILL change at least once, as will Florida.
Washington is steady to start the season with Matt Capps, but Drew Storen will be ready to take the saddle if there is any sort of hiccup. The Mets have K-Rod, but everything about the Mets can change. We should classify him as steady for now.
NL Central (1)
The Astros went from a potential steady hand with Jose Valverde to open competition between Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom. Even if one wins, the other will be given opportunities.
Ryan Franklin in St. Louis and Trevor Hoffman in Milwaukee should be good to go. Octavio Dotel, if healthy, is certainly set in stone in Pittsburgh. Francisco Cordero is likely good to go, but keep an eye on Dan Herrera. Marmol will hold the job in Chicago, at least for now.
NL West (0)
Probably the steadiest of all divisions in baseball. The Diamondbacks will be set with Chad Qualls, and the Dodgers will be good with Jonathan Broxton. As long as Heath Bell is with the Padres, he will close. I won't count that as a change simply because it's an unknown. In Colorado, it is health more than anything. Huston Street will not be ready for Opening Day, but he won't be too far behind. Brian Wilson is the rock in San Francisco.
All in all, that is seven spots that are unsteady to start the season. It would be a safe bet that we see at least that many change hands, as the past is our best indication of the future.
Is it worse than 2009? Not really. But it certainly is not better. When it comes to drafting closers, remember the fluidity of the position. As my friend Michael Sylvie pointed out, only Milton Bradley's life coach has a less secure job in sports.
Collin Hager is a featured columnist on Bleacher Report and contributes two articles each week to FantasyPros911.com. He writes the fantasy baseball blog The Elmhurst Pub Roundtable. You can follow him on Twitter @CWHager.