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Evaluating closer situations

By Thomas J. Harrigan, Fantasy Sports Writer

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is something about the closer role that makes it unique from every other situation in fantasy sports.

Essentially, the role is more valuable than the player tied to it. And there's really nothing like that in any other sport.

Winning an NFL starting job doesn't automatically create fantasy value, which is why the last Cleveland Browns wide receiver you had on your roster was Braylon Edwards. While an NBA player joining the starting lineup can occasionally alter his value, more often than not there's a reason he was on the bench to begin with. And minor league baseball promotions often bring up players who have been coveted by everyone in your league since spring training.

Only a closing change can make a worthless player valuable 100-percent of the time. Take Francisco Cordero, for instance, who has been added in 10,878 Yahoo leagues over the past two days after he ascended to the closer role in Houston.

Sure, Cordero has 329 career saves, but he failed as Toronto's fill-in closer and was acquired by the last-place Houston Astros last week. Brett Myers subsequent trade to the White Sox left the ninth inning open for Cordero, and fantasy owners suddenly had to scramble to pick up a player who owns a 5.60 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP in 35 1/3 innings this season.

The thought is that Cordero may be able to turn things around because he's spent the last six seasons in the NL Central, but really, the mad dash to grab the right-hander would have been the same whether he pitched in the NL Central or the Japanese Central League his entire career.

To help you in your insatiable quest for saves, here are some other closing situations that either have changed recently or have the potential to turn over in the next few weeks.

Milwaukee Brewers - John Axford was demoted last week after blowing his sixth save of the season, and Francisco Rodriguez has brought the high-wire act he perfected with the Angels to the ninth inning in Milwaukee. Rodriguez has been shaky this season, posting a 3.71 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, and he has put six men on base in his first two outings as closer before converting the save each time.

Prediction: Axford (2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K since his demotion) gets the job back when Brewers manager Ron Roenicke realizes his heartburn is worse when K- Rod is on the hill.

Miami Marlins - After signing a three-year deal in the offseason, it seemed Heath Bell could light himself on fire on the mound and he still wouldn't lose his job. However, after spending most of the first half engulfed in flames, Bell was mercifully extinguished by Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen over the All- Star break. Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn have converted one save opportunity each since the break, while Bell has thrown four straight scoreless innings in that span.

Prediction: Guillen gives the job back to the well-paid Bell, whether he likes it or not.

San Diego Padres - Huston Street is having his best pro season, going 16-for-16 in save opportunities and recording a 0.95 ERA and 0.64 WHIP in 30 appearances. With San Diego out of the race, they may choose to deal the closer for prospects, but the Padres also may extend him like they did Carlos Quentin.

Prediction: San Diego extends Street's contract when no contender is willing to pay the steep asking price to acquire his services. Sorry, Luke Gregerson and Dale Thayer.

Chicago White Sox - Rookie Addison Reed has blown three of 18 save chances while registering a 4.24 ERA. With Brett Myers in the fold, Reed is on the hot seat.

Prediction: Chicago manager Robin Ventura is more comfortable with a veteran in the closer role down the stretch, so Myers gets the spot.

Cleveland Indians - Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal has reported that the San Francisco Giants have interest in Indians' closer Chris Perez (Perez is due for salary arbitration in the offseason).

Prediction: Cleveland is 4.5 games out of the AL Central and four games out of the wild card, so look for the team to buy or stay put at the trade deadline. If Perez is traded to San Francisco, I expect him to keep the closer role with Santiago Casilla moving to middle relief, but it's a long shot that he ends up in the Bay Area.

Boston Red Sox - Alfredo Aceves (20 saves, 3.88 ERA) has pulled it together after a terrible April, but Andrew Bailey is set to return from a thumb injury by early August.

Prediction: Boston acquired Bailey for a reason: to finish ball games. The success of Josh Reddick in Oakland puts more pressure on Boston to get value out of Bailey this season, so look for him to move into the ninth inning in August.

Washington Nationals - With Drew Storen on the shelf with an elbow injury, Washington has used several arms in the closer role this season, including Brad Lidge, Henry Rodriguez and Sean Burnett, but only Tyler Clippard has excelled in the role. However, Clippard has allowed seven runs in his last four innings, re-opening the door for Storen, who debuted last week.

Prediction: If the Nationals past behavior is any guide, they didn't want to make their eighth-inning master the closer but were forced to when their other options melted down. With that in mind, expect Storen to move into the ninth inning while Clippard returns to his comfort zone.

Colorado Rockies - The 37-year-old Betancourt has never been in sole possession of the closer role until this season. He's saved 16 games for a lousy Rockies team, but his reasonable contract ($4.25 million next year with mutual option the year after that) means he could fetch a decent prospect on the trade market.

Prediction: Betancourt is dealt to a contender before the trade deadline and assumes a set-up role. Matt Belisle becomes the ninth-inning man in Colorado.

Kansas City Royals - The Royals must have had their lucky rabbit's foot on hand when they signed Jonathan Broxton, because the team has gotten more out of the beefy reliever than anyone could have hoped. The right-hander has saved 22 games in 26 chances while posting a 2.34 ERA. The Mets and Giants have been rumored to covet Broxton.

Prediction: With a plethora of young, hard-throwing arms (Aaron Crow, Tim Collins and Greg Holland) in the fold, look for Kansas City to cash in on their good fortune by moving Broxton. Broxton will undoubtedly become New York's closer if he's dealt to the Mets, and the Giants seem anxious to move Casilla out of the ninth inning so expect him to get save chances in San Francisco as well.

07/23 16:53:42 ET


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