Though shortened by the All-Star Game, last week didn't lack for bullpen news.
On Wednesday, the Mets traded their closer, Francisco Rodriguez (3.02 ERA, 23 saves, 1.39 WHIP), to the Brewers for cash and two players to be named later. K-Rod, due to a considerable option which vested when he surpassed 55 games finished, was expected to slide into the setup role in Milwaukee in front of current Brewers closer John Axford (2.84 ERA, 25 saves, 1.38 WHIP). Days after the trade was finished however, Rodriguez waived said option, thus throwing the whole situation into turmoil.
So where do we stand now? Since the trade was finalized, Axford has notched two saves and cemented himself as the man in Milwaukee. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he expects both relievers to close, and while I expect K-Rod will pick up the random save here and there, Axford's job looks safe for now. The mustachioed closer has devastating stuff (11.37 K/9) and a knack for the ninth inning. Until he falters, Rodriguez's value is limited to NL-only leagues.
In New York, the waters are murkier. Mets manager Terry Collins indicated he was leaning toward Jason Isringhausen (3.03 ERA, 6.98 K/9) last weekend. Izzy has a wealth of experience in the ninth (293 career saves), but much of it came more than five years ago. Even with his experience, Isringhausen doesn't have the job locked up. Also in play for saves are Bobby Parnell (2.81 ERA, 11.22 K/9) and Pedro Beato (3.32 ERA, 1.06 WHIP), two young hurlers in the Mets' long-term plans. With the Mets playing for next year, Parnell has the biggest upside. He's a must-own in keeper leagues. For those in one-year leagues in desperate need of saves, take a flyer on Isringhausen.
The Twins also changed closers, demoting Matt Capps (4.76 ERA, 4.76 K/9, seven blown saves) from the ninth inning in favor of Joe Nathan (5.11 ERA, 8.03 K/9, five saves). Don't let Nathan's stats fool you. The Twins' closer has given up only one earned run since June, and he's finally looking healthy following offseason Tommy John surgery. Nathan is still owned in only 80.7 percent of leagues. If he's available in yours, add him.
How did the rest of the major league bullpens fare this week? Let's take a look around the league:
Teams are lining up for Bell (2.54 ERA, 26 saves). Reportedly, the Rangers and Phillies are interested, and Bell has a shot to close in both places. If he's shipped out of San Diego, Mike Adams (1.26 ERA, 8.8 K/9) would step up immediately. The Padres setup man is also the subject of rumors, though, and those in deep NL-only leagues might want to take a flier on Luke Gregerson (2.76 ERA, 6.1 K/9) just in case.
To say Marmol has been struggling lately is an understatement. The Cubs' closer has given up eight earned runs in his last three innings. His job is safe, but he's going to get a couple days off to clear his head. Those in desperate need of saves should add Sean Marshall (2.70 ERA, 9.35 K/9, two saves) in the meantime. ... The Phillies activated Madson from the DL on July 15, and since then he's been toiling in middle relief to shake off the rust. Expect him to return to the ninth this week. Those of you in daily leagues should get him in your lineup if you haven't already.
There's speculation that the Fish could deal Nunez (3.35 ERA, 26 saves). If they do, expect Steve Cishek (2.42 ERA, 9.27 K/9, one save) to receive the lion's share of saves. Cishek took over when Nunez was sidelined earlier this season, and he's got better control than lefty Mike Dunn. ... Gregg (4.00 ERA, 15 saves) will be suspended for three games for his role in the Orioles-Red Sox brawl before the All-Star break. Gregg hasn't been that good this season anyway, and this might be a great opportunity for Koji Uehara (1.84 ERA, 11.86 K/9) to show he belongs in the ninth. Add him in AL-only leagues if you're desperate for saves.
Guerra (2.29 ERA, 6.41 K/9) is definitely the man for saves in L.A. Those in mixed-leagues can feel safe adding the closer, who's owned in only 35.6 percent of leagues. ... Rauch (4.23 ERA, seven saves) will close in Toronto -- for now. The Blue Jays want Frank Francisco to close, however, so it's only a matter of time before they play musical chairs in Toronto once again.
Backups who will ensure you're banking saves even if your closer goes down: