The MLB trade deadline was a whirlwind of activity as this season’s expanded playoff format has more teams “in it to win it” than ever before. That whirlwind has subsequently altered the landscape for fantasy baseball in a number of ways.
Some situations received more clarity as position players and starting pitchers changed addresses, but the bullpen upheaval has made it more difficult than ever to pinpoint where you should be searching for saves, on both the trade market and the waiver wire.
The Padres, the team that was easily the most active at the deadline, are the prime example of a bullpen that is leaving fantasy owners scratching their heads. Once a bastion of stability for saves and holds, the Padres have endured enough injuries and made enough changes that any one of their relievers could be considered a candidate for save chances.
With Kirby Yates likely out for the season with an elbow injury and primary setup man Emilio Pagan out with biceps inflammation, the Padres had been using lefty Drew Pomeranz to close out games.
He has been nothing short of outstanding, but with a preference to use him in other high-leverage situations, the team went out and grabbed Trevor Rosenthal, who had been surprising everyone in Kansas City. Many assumed Rosenthal would take over, but it would appear that Pomeranz remains in the mix, and the two are likely to work the ninth as a lefty/righty platoon.
The Phillies were another team active in the bullpen changes at the deadline. With incumbent closer Hector Neris struggling, the team traded for Red Sox closer Brandon Workman and immediately added him to the mix for saves.
But since that deal, Neris has suddenly regained his form, tossed 4 ²/₃ scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks, and now manager Joe Girardi says the duo could split opportunities. As if that weren’t complicating it enough for fantasy owners, the Phillies also added a Girardi-favorite in David Phelps, who could also find himself added to the mix.
There were a number of players added to the saves mix around the league which means, if you need a boost in the category, you have options. Felix Pena is sharing the job with Ty Buttrey for the Angels, Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos has a partner in Ryan Helsley, newly acquired Mychal Givens could get work alongside Daniel Bard in Colorado, Archie Bradley is now sharing the load with Raisel Iglesias in Cincinnati, and Matt Barnes finds himself picking up for Workman in Boston.
Given the state of the game — injuries and the potential for more COVID outbreaks — many teams are using a committee approach for saves. Maybe there are still a few, reliable elite closers in the game, but you no longer have to seek them out. If you can piece together a few of these committees, you should be able to make a push up the standings for the remainder of the season.
Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at Fantasy-Alarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy baseball advice.