With the trade deadline a little over a week away, it feels like the calm before the storm for bullpens around the league. While depth charts remain relatively settled right now, soon enough, relievers will be changing teams faster than we can keep track — and creating plenty of save opportunities in their wake.
So how can you get a head start in your fantasy league? Who could be on the move, and who could replace them? Which closing situations look like they could be in flux? We’ll go through all that and more along with a full depth chart of every bullpen in the league.
Relief pitcher notes: Week 17
- Hunter Harvey was placed on the IL with an elbow injury last week, and even if claims that it’s “no big deal” turn out to be true, Finnegan is poised to once again be the closer in D.C. — and this time for good. The righty got off to a disastrous start in 2023, but he’s been quietly very effective for a while now, pitching to a 1.59 ERA since May 13 with 21 scoreless appearances in 24 chances. The Nats won’t produce a ton of save opportunities, but they’ve been at least reasonably competitive, and Finnegan could be in this job for the rest of the year if the rebuilding Nationals still deal Harvey at the trade deadline. Either way, he’s a must-add in the short-term.
- Despite two blown saves and six runs allowed in a span of 3.2 innings (four appearances), Miami Marlins manager Skip Schumaker nonetheless stuck by A.J. Puk, saying that the lefty would remain the team’s closer. After his last couple of outings, though, all bets might be off: Puk was used in the eighth inning of a tie game in Miami’s eventual loss to the Colorado Rockies on Saturday, then blew another save before being pulled on Sunday. Schumaker has yet to commit to any change of plans in the ninth, but with how well set-up man Tanner Scott has been throwing of late (since May 12, he has a 1.52 ERA and 14 holds with 49 strikeouts in just 29.2 innings) it feels like just a matter of time before he gets his shot.
- Speaking of bullpens in flux: good luck figuring out what’s going on with the Arizona Diamondbacks right now. It seemed like Scott McGough had nailed down the closer’s job, but McGough has been a disaster recently — with eight runs allowed and four straight appearances with at least one run allowed this month — as has fellow righty Miguel Castro. The team seems reluctant to lock Andrew Chafin into the ninth inning given that he’s their best lefty, and so now the wheel of ninth-inning destiny has landed on a new face: Kevin Ginkel. The five-year veteran converted two consecutive save chances against the Atlanta Braves last week — his first two of the year — and at this point manager Torey Lovullo seems like he might just ride whatever hand happens to be hot at the moment.
- This time next week, there’s no telling what bullpen depth charts might look like as sellers look to flip their top relievers to contenders for future value. So let’s take a look at some of those sellers and try to identify who might be leaving — and who might be next in the closer’s chair if they do indeed get dealt. First up: White Sox flamethrower Gregory Santos.
Chicago is almost certain to be one of the season’s biggest sellers, and just about all of their bullpen veterans — from Kendall Graveman to Joe Kelly to Keynan Middleton — will be on the block. When the dust settles, Santos stands a very good chance to emerge as the new closer on the South Side: the hard-throwing righty has found himself in plenty of high-leverage spots of late, with a 2.08 ERA, a save and three holds in eight appearances so far this month.
- Next up is Pittsburgh Pirates righty Colin Holderman, who’s served ably as David Bednar’s set-up man for much of this season. It’s unclear whether the team will actually look to move Bednar — he does still have several more years of team control — but rebuilding teams shouldn’t get precious about relievers who could be moved for more valuable pieces, and the wise thing would be to send the hard-throwing righty to a contender at some point in the next week or so. Should that happen, Holderman would almost certainly be the next man up, as the 27-year-old has rebounded nicely from a rocky June.
- No one seems to have any idea what the San Diego Padres might do as they hover between selling and contention, but no matter how the team performs over the next week, flipping Josh Hader could make sense — the lefty has been his typical dominant self and should fetch a significant return, but he’s also a rental, and moving him could allow San Diego to acquire future value while still remaining competitive in 2023. If the Padres do go ahead and move their closer, righty Nick Martinez would be the most likely candidate to handle ninth-inning duties — San Diego has tried a ton of bridges to Hader in the seventh and eighth innings, and Martinez has been the most reliable of the bunch so far.