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The Closer Carousel

It’s only week one and already managers  are messing with fantasy owners heads. Multiple teams have lost their closer to injury or made an unexpected change that had owners scratching their heads and running to the waiver wire.

On Wednesday there were SIX blown saves as Jim Johnson, Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins, Jose Veras and Jason Grilli all surrendered the lead and LaTroy Hawkins came very close to being the seventh. This makes it more significant to grab a closer while you can.

Those of you in head-to-head leagues that only start two relief pitchers may have been able to survive the blow, but those in roto leagues where saves are so vital must take a flier on these suddenly valuable arms.

Lets take a look at the top five options:

1. Francisco Rodriguez

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was when Rodriguez ran out of the pen for the ninth and not Jim Henderson. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has a history of mixing and matching closers, as he did last year when he removed John Axford from the job after one week. Henderson’s velocity and his sliders movement have appeared to be down this spring and the Brewers want to give him time to return to form. KRod has 305 career saves to his name so it is no wonder they turned to him, and while his K/9 rate dropped to 9.5 last season in his 25 games with the Brewers he still recorded 10 saves and a 1.09 ERA. He wasn’t as effective with the Orioles, but the Brewers know he has a successful track record with them. He has been handed the closer job for the time being but given his track record and Henderson’s struggles, it is very likely he runs away with this job.

FAAB Bid: $6

Those of you truly desperate for saves can inflate this number a little, as you can with all these pitchers. KRod has had a ton of success as a closer and it doesn’t hurt that he will give you a strike out per inning.

2. Jose Valverde

Bobby Parnell blew the save on Opening Day for the Mets, but the worst was yet to come. He has a partially torn ligament in his elbow and may require Tommy John surgery that would end his season. Best case scenario is he rest for two weeks, goes through a throwing program for a month and returns in 6-8 weeks from now. Valverde has been named the closer in his absence and will have the longest leash of any of these pitchers even if it is by default because the Mets possess no arms ready to replace him. He does have 286 career saves to his name and at one time was one of the more dominant closers in the game. However, while recording 35 saves in 2012  his ERA jumped to 3.78 and only got worse in 2013 going up to 5.59. He only recorded nine saves last season before being released by the Tigers. Papa Grandehas looked rejuvenated this spring with the Mets but his history to implode on the mound could make owners a little worrisome.

FAAB: $6

The best case scenario is you grab the Mets closer for the rest of the season, the worst case is you grab the Mets closer for the next two month. Either way this will be a smart investment.

3. Matt Lindstrom

Manager Robin Ventura announced Lindstrom as the teams closer “for now” on Opening Day. This was a surprise to many who expected Nate Jones the favorite to win the job. Lindstrom’s experience likely played a large roll in that decision, as well as the fact that Jones is still arbitration eligible and picking up saves will drive up his cost. However, Ventura has been known to pull the plug on closers, as he did relatively quickly with Hector Santiago in 2012, so if Lindstrom struggles Jones will step in. But it was Jones who struggled on Wednesday allowing two runs on two hits and a walk all while not recording an out.

FAAB: $4

The expectation is that the hard throwing Jones will take this job over, but for the time being reap the rewards of landing the White Sox closer for cheap.

4. Sergio Santos

Santos was named the interim closer after Casey Janssen was placed on the DL with a lower back strain. Santos history as a closer, recording 30 saves with the White Sox in 2011 and a strong 2013 lead to him being named this. Last season with the Blue Jays he posted a 1.75 ERA and 9.8 K/9, which should transition into closing well. However, after picking up a very shaky save on Tuesday in which he allowed a run on two hits, a walk and three strike outs, he received the quick hook on Wednesday. He came in for a one out save and was pulled for Brett Cecil after allowing a walk. Who knows what the Jays will do going forward… they might not even know.

FAAB: $2

It is not totally clear what the Blue Jays will do until Janssen returns. However, once he does the job will be his so owners should not overpay for Santos.

5. Rex Brothers

He may be the last name mentioned, but he is the most intriguing on the list. Owners should buy him low and stash him till he wins the job. As mentioned above, Hawkins looked extremely shaky on Wednesday, giving up a run on two hits and a walk. Giancarlo Stanton just missed what would have been a walk-off home run, yanking it just foul. Hawkins himself has said he is just keeping the seat warm and that the ninth is “Brothers inning.” Brothers was successful last season, converting on 19 of 21 save opportunities, with a 1.74 ERA and 1.292 WHIP. His only issue continues to be command as he allowed 36 walks in 67.1 IP last season, but you will live with that when he is striking out well over a batter per inning (career 11.1 K/9).

FAAB: $3

Owners may be able to land Brothers for cheaper, which would prove to be a great investment. The closer job will be his sooner rather then later and he can provide owners with ERA, strike outs as well as saves. Stash him!

RP to Scout: Josh Fields, Joaquin Benoit, J.J. Putz, Sean Doolittle, Darren O’Day.

The relief pitchers could be given a chance if their teams closers continue to struggle. Fields is likely added already in your league, but if not go scoop him as he is the most likely to receive the job of the names on the scout list. Spend $4.

Disclaimer: Prices projected for a $100 FAAB budget. 

Some owners opt to grab relievers early such as Craig Kimbrell or Greg Holland and end up paying a heft price for saves. Those of you that waited can get good production off the waiver wire, but now is the time to strike.

Make sure to follow FoD co-founder Michael Florio on twitter @MichaelFFlorio for more fantasy updates. 

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