For closers such as Heath Bell, Brandon League and Leo Nunez the trade deadline was all smoke and very little fire. Several teams in need of relief help kicked the tires on the closers, but when the clock struck 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, all three were right where they started.
Many of the men who set up these closers, however, were not.
The Rangers acquired two of these setup men when they traded for Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. Adams (1.13 ERA, 9.19 K/9) and Uehara (1.72 ERA, 11.87 K/9) could spell trouble for current Rangers closer Neftali Feliz. The 2010 AL Rookie of the Year has struggled in '11 (6.28 K/9, 4.66 B/9, five blown saves), and if his struggles persist, one of the newly-acquired relievers could get a chance at the ninth inning. Given his experience in the AL, I think Uehara would get the first shot. He's likely owned in most AL-only leagues, but Feliz owners in all formats should scoop him up as insurance.
In San Diego, Luke Gregerson (3.11 ERA, 6.93 K/9) becomes the heir apparent to Bell. Bell (2.43 ERA, 30 saves) won't be demoted from his ninth-inning role anytime soon, but he's expected to seek his fortunes elsewhere in the offseason. An oblique injury seems to have sapped some of Gregerson's dominance this year (he posted a 10.23 K/9 in 2010, 11.16 K/9 in '09), but if Bell departs, he should have the closer role all to himself in '12. He's worth a speculative add in all keeper leagues.
League is staying in Seattle, but his setup man, David Pauley, was shipped to Detroit in the Doug Fister deal. Pauley (2.15 ERA, 5.63 K/9) started the year off strong but has slowed down considerably since, posting a 5.06 ERA in July. He has no value in Detroit. For those in search of a handcuff for League, search no further than Jamey Wright (4.00 ERA, 5.80 K/9) and hope League doesn't get hurt.
The big winner post-deadline -- besides bold owners who refused to sell low on Nunez and Bell -- is Fernando Salas. The Cardinals were linked to every relief pitcher on the market, but in the end they added only Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepcynski, neither of whom are a threat to Salas. The Cardinals closer has been solid all year (2.52 ERA, 9.00 K/9, 19 saves) and should receive the lion's share of saves going forward.
How did the rest of the major league bullpens fare this week? Let's take a look around the league:
Heath BellMariano RiveraCraig KimbrelJoel HanrahanBrian Wilson
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle refuses to use Hanrahan in non-save situations, and it hurt the Pirates last week as they lost three games in extra innings while Hanrahan watched from the bullpen. From a fantasy perspective, it means the Pirates' closer will rarely vulture a victory (he's currently sporting an 0-1 record).
John AxfordJonathan PapelbonDrew StorenAndrew BaileyJose ValverdeBrandon LeagueCarlos MarmolRyan MadsonJ.J. PutzJoakim SoriaHuston Street
How good has Axford been this season? The Brewers' closer notched his 28th consecutive save opportunity Sunday, which is a club record. Any fear of him splitting time with K-Rod is officially dead. ... Soria blew a career worst sixth save on Saturday, but it was the Royals' closer's first blown save since May 30. His hold on the Kansas City job is strong. ... Since being activated from the DL on July 26, Putz is a perfect four for four in save opportunities. If he can stay healthy, he's poised for a strong second half.
Jordan WaldenLeo NunezNeftali FelizFrancisco CorderoChris PerezKyle FarnsworthFernando SalasSergio SantosJavy Guerra
Farnsworth survived the non-waiver deadline, but he's a candidate to be moved in August. If he's shipped out of town, Joel Peralta would likely take over. Right now, Peralta isn't worth an add in most leagues. ... With Kenley Jansen on the DL, Guerra has the Dodgers' job all to himself. The rookie has been great (1.85 ERA, 6.66 K/9, eight saves), and it's just a shame the Dodgers aren't winning more often (48-59).
Kevin GreggJoe NathaJon RauchMark MelanconJason Isringhausen
Melancon saved back-to-back games last week for the Astros, marking the first time this season that Houston has recorded consecutive saves. The Houston reliever has been stellar in his first season as stopper (2.98 ERA, 10 saves, 7.36 K/9), but the opportunities look as though they will be few and far between.
Backups who will ensure you're banking saves even if your closer goes down: