July 30, 2008

The save. It's one of the least valuable statistics in real baseball. Look at the careers of Todd Jones and Joe Borowski and you'll see a lot of saves next to some ugly ERA and WHIP statistics. However, in fantasy baseball, it's like oil -- valuable and hard to find. You have a market supply of only 30 closers in baseball, with a demand for more.

Unlike oil, the sources for saves will change over the course of the season as guys get hurt and traded. It's like opening up ANWR for drilling and shutting down Iran. Speculators in the oil market bet on the future value of oil going up or down. Fantasy owners can do a little speculating of their own, as the major league trade deadline draws near. Relievers will change teams, losing their closer status and creating save opportunities for others.

A recent example is can be found in Washington. When the Nationals traded Jon Rauch to Arizona, he went from being 100 percent owned to about 60 percent, and falling. Rauch's replacement as closer in Washington is Joel Hanrahan. His fantasy ownership went from zero to 90 in 60 seconds. Once he gets his first save, it will go to 100 percent.

Another example of the closer churn is Pittsburgh's John Grabow. He became the Pirates' closer by default. Damaso Marte had been closing but he was sent to the Yankees in the Xavier Nady deal. Grabow is expected to get most of the save opportunities until Matt Capps returns from the disabled list in early September. Grabow has had the job less than a week and is still looking for save numero uno. Grabow will have a very short lease; Tyler Yates will get a chance if Grabow falters. Grabow himself has been rumored in trade talks. That also could abruptly end his days as a closer.

For the price of a free agent or waiver pickup you could strike oil. If the trade deadline passes, and your reliever is still a setup man, then just cut him. All you would lose is a roster spot for a couple of days. Let's look at some of the closers and the setup men that would be impacted by potential deals.

Manuel Corpas, RP, Rockies: Colorado could trade Brian Fuentes to a contender. If that happens Fuentes becomes a setup man, his fantasy value tanks and Corpas' skyrockets. Corpas saved 19 last season, sharing the job with Fuentes. This season he got off to a horrible start, but he has pitched well lately. Corpas has a 1.74 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP in the month of July. He is available in about half of all leagues. If one of those leagues is yours, pick him up immediately.

Alan Embree, RP, Athletics: The A's are sellers as the trade deadline approaches. That makes closer Huston Street expendable. Embree closed for Oakland last season when Street was on the disabled list. He recorded 17 saves in 21 chances. The 38-year old Embree has been inconsistent this season, with an ERA north of five. It's not automatic that he would get the job if Street is dealt.

Santiago Casilla, RP, Athletics: If a Street trade happens Casilla will be in the mix for save opportunities with Embree. The 28-year-old Casilla was untouchable at the start of the season. It was May 10 when his ERA finally climbed above zero. Casilla missed about a month on the disabled list and has not been the same since he returned. He was 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA when he got hurt. In the 12 games since he returned he has given up 8 runs and 17 hits in 10.1 innings.

Jim Johnson, RP, Orioles:George Sherrill has been quite a find for the Orioles and for his fantasy owners. He has 30 saves for a losing team. Too bad the 31-year-old closer could be dealt before the deadline. The 25-year-old Johnson is the most likely beneficiary of a Sherrill trade. Johnson has a stellar 1.88 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 18 holds. He is available in most leagues. Grab him.

Chad Bradford, RP, Orioles: A Sherrill trade could give Bradford some save chances if manager Dave Trembley wants to go with the veteran. Bradley is a good pitcher for fantasy leagues that use middle relievers. He is 3-0, with a 2.56 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP and 16 holds. His prospects as a closer are limited, though. Bradford is that he is a situational pitcher that rarely faces left-handed hitters. Lefties hit .318 against Bradford.

Jamie Walker, RP, Orioles: Walker is another veteran option for Trembley if he has to replace Sherrill. Walker had seven saves last season. The problem with Walker is that he is fresh off the disabled list, so the Orioles probably don't want to extend his tender elbow.

Brian Fuentes, RP, Rockies: Will he stay or will he go? Do the Rockies think they are in the race or not?

Huston Street, RP, Athletics: A trade destroys what's left of his fantasy value.

George Sherrill, RP, Orioles: If you drafted him, you can't complain. Who expected Sherrill to have 30 saves for the season?

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