After a dizzying few days, we’re finally starting to recover from the chaos of the 2023 trade deadline. The landscape of the league has shifted dramatically over the last week — Justin Verlander is an Astro; Max Scherzer (and Jordan Montgomery) is a Ranger; the Dodgers, Rays and Orioles all found themselves a starting pitcher, the Angels are possibly regretting going all in while the Cubs definitely aren’t — and, like every year, the bullpen picture for several teams (buyers and sellers) has been flipped upside down.
So, as we do every week, we’re here to help sort through the chaos and help you navigate the saves market in your fantasy baseball league. How can you get an advantage down the stretch? Who was on the move, and who’s likely to 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 20
- Carlos Estevez has had a stranglehold on the Angels’ closer role for months now, but with L.A.’s win-now season circling the drain — in no small part thanks to a couple of disastrous outings from Estevez of late — the team could be desperate enough to make a change in the ninth inning. The righty has an ugly 11.05 ERA over his last seven outings, four of which have featured at least one run allowed. Again, the Angels are as all-in as a team can be, and their margin for error in the AL Wild Card race is more or less zero. With Matt Moore and Reynaldo Lopez in the fold, Los Angeles could start giving either guy ninth-inning work if this keeps up.
- Speaking of AL West jobs in jeopardy: Will Smith surprisingly held on to the closer’s role with the Rangers even after Aroldis Chapman came to town, but that could be shaken up soon. The lefty served up a two-run walk-off homer in the 10th inning against the Giants on Sunday, his third blown save of the season. Chapman struck out the side again in that game, running his August numbers to six hits, no runs, two walks, and 15 strikets — in fact, 22 of his last 27 outs have been on strikes. Smith, on the other hand, has recorded 5.2 innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on four hits and two walks while piling up just five strikeouts. Again, he’s four of five in save opportunities, but with Texas’ eyes turned to October, they could make the switch to the clearly more dominant option.
- Alex Lange pitched a meaningless maintenance inning on Sunday, his first action since the previous Monday. The Tigers had three save opportunities this past week and Lange saw none of them, even despite Jason Foley being on the bereavement list for several days. The righty had nine walks in his last 2.1 innings, so that can’t come as much of a surprise, but this seems like it’ll be Foley’s job for the remainder of the season.
- It sounds like Hunter Harvey could return to the Nationals without making a rehab appearance, as the righty threw a bullpen session on Sunday that apparently went well. Kyle Finnegan has been excellent in his stead, with a 12-game scoreless streak including seven saves since July 17, but manager Davey Martinez clearly likes Harvey and should insert him right back into high-leverage work once he’s back. Expect a committee at the very least here, even if Finnegan manages to keep from imploding down the stretch.
- Good luck figuring out what the deal is in St. Louis. JoJo Romero nabbed the team’s last save opportunity on Saturday, but he also allowed four baserunners over 1.2 innings of work. That came after Giovanny Gallegos gave up three hits and a run while recording just one out, so no one seems to want the ninth inning while Ryan Helsley remains out. Despite his rough latest outing, Gallegos has been the more reliable arm of the two — Romero has a 4.05 ERA since Helsley went down — and has the longer track record at the Major League level.