At this point in the season, managers working their way to the postseason have a much quicker hook on their closer. With this arises more committees and more viable relievers for saves and holds, while some established options become less useful (such as Matt Barnes and Lou Trivino). Combine that with the regular ebbs and flows of major league bullpens and that has created a buying opportunity for cheap saves this last month. Here are six relievers I would be picking up for the upcoming week, and potentially the rest of the season.
Sergio Romo (3% rostered)
Andrew Chafin (12% rostered)
Chafin and Romo go together as potential fill-ins for Lou Trivino. Trivino, the regular closer for most of the season, is in the midst of a rough patch. He then dealt with back spasms which left him unavailable until Thursday. Jake Diekman is also not pitching as effectively as earlier in the season, prompting Bob Melvin to call upon Sergio Romo and Andrew Chafin for their past three saves. Melvin’s comments seem as though Trivino’s removal from the closer role is temporary, thus Romo and Chafin likely will have value as co-closers in the short term.
Giovanny Gallegos (46% rostered)
Gallegos barely qualifies as a streamer, but his rostered percentage should be closer to those of other mid-tier closers. The Cardinals shifted away from Alex Reyes as closer with his recent struggles and difficulty throwing strikes. Gallegos regressed from his first-half stats, but his season-long stats are closer worthy (2.97 ERA, 3.07 SIERA) and his walk rate is nearly one-third of Alex Reyes. He offers a stable profile and owns the Cardinals’ last two saves. There is a chance Reyes is reinserted to the closer role before the end of the season, but at least for this upcoming week, Gallegos is the choice for saves in St. Louis.
Carlos Estevez (5% rostered)
Daniel Bard had a stranglehold on the Rockies’ closer job for all season up until this past week. Bard posted a 10.24 ERA in August and continued to struggle badly against left-handed hitters, prompting his removal from the closer role. In his place appears to be Carlos Estevez. Estevez does not have eye-popping skills aside from a 97 MPH fastball. He owns a 3.91 ERA, 3.80 SIERA, and 11.5% swstr%, all close to or below average for a high leverage reliever. Similar to Kyle Finnegan, Estevez has nearly no competition and is likely effective enough to hold the job for this final month. He is a cheap option for saves.
Andrew Kittredge (41% rostered)
The Rays are notorious for spreading save opportunities around multiple pitchers, and this strategy has capped the utility of Rays relievers over the past few seasons. Andrew Kittredge’s dominance appears to be transcending the lack of a concrete role, however. While he is much more rostered than most of the other options listed, Kittredge’s dominant ratios (1.31 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 29.1% strikeout rate) and occasional save to give him a case to be rostered and streamed at an even higher rate.
Adam Ottavino (36% rostered)
Matt Barnes played the part of a dominant reliever to begin the season, claiming his first all-star selection. He struggled in the month of August. In eleven August appearances, Barnes managed to only escape six of them without yielding an earned run. Barnes was removed from the closer role before the end of August and later tested positive for COVID-19. This leaves the door open for Adam Ottavino, Cora’s choice for interim closer while Barnes is not in the role. Ottavino has managed a 3.40 ERA despite a 13% walk rate and 4.59 xFIP and is exhibiting his best velocity since 2015. He should be rostered in all leagues where saves are a priority at least through the end of Barnes’ COVID-19 injured list stint, and Ottavino could still provide value past that point.
Rowan Wick may have been a part of the streamer conversation if he did not blow the save on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. After securing his first save of the season on Tuesday, he was not able to secure a two-run lead on Thursday. Wick picked up four saves in 2020 and replaced Craig Kimbrel as closer prior to suffering an injury. He’s the logical choice as closer based on pedigree but he will have to contend with Codi Heuer for future opportunities. Either could make sense as deep-league dart throws.
Garrett Richards earned the save on Thursday, pitching three scoreless innings to close out a 4-0 victory against the Rays. Richards was moved to a long-relief role in favor of Tanner Houck and Chris Sale joining the rotation, so he should not be a threat for saves going forward.
The Dodgers spread the saves around this week. Blake Treinen earned the save on Monday after Kenley Jansen pitched the prior two days. Kenley came back to earn the save on Tuesday. With each Treinen and Jansen pitching three of the prior four days leading into Wednesday, Dave Roberts turned to Joe Kelly for the save. This sets a clear hierarchy for saves in Los Angeles, and Kelly may have some utility in deep leagues as the third option.
Trevor Stephan picked up the save on Wednesday in the eleventh inning. Emmanuel Clase was used earlier in the game, and his hold on the closer role is strong.
Joe Barlow came off the injured list and immediately locked down a save on Monday. Spencer Patton picked up the save for the Rangers on Tuesday with Barlow presumably unavailable this soon after returning from his blister injury. Barlow was called upon again on Wednesday and did not lock down the save, yielding five runs (two earned) on the back of two walks, one hit, and five errors. This was Barlow’s first blown save and could give Texas some pause when turning to him again, especially after Patton did finish off a save the day before. Despite the disastrous performance, it is difficult to blame Barlow too much given the poor defense.
Jose Alvarado picked up the save on Monday with Ian Kennedy likely unavailable. With the presence of Archie Bradley and Hector Neris, the Phillies could turn to one of three options to serve as the backup closer to Kennedy.
The Orioles have won so rarely, particularly in the second half of the season, that identifying a closer has been a fool’s errand. Cole Sulser has the Orioles’ last three saves but they are spread over July 30th and August 31st. He is Baltimore’s first choice for saves, but it likely won’t be enough to make him worth rostering.