Searching for Saves: Looking For Under-the-Radar Options In Detroit, Chicago & More

Are you an owner who is desperate for saves?  Let’s take a look around the league at some of the bullpens in flux, trying to find where the next under-the-radar option could emerge (all statistics are through Monday, April 15):

Detroit Tigers
Current Closer – Joaquin Benoit

Benoit hasn’t done anything wrong, though he hasn’t had too many opportunities either.  He is currently sporting a 3.00 ERA in 6.0 innings, though he has yet to see a save chance and has struggled with his control (5 BB).  It’s not hard to imagine the team ultimately deciding that he could be best served as a setup man once again.

Alternatives – Al Alburquerque, Phil Coke, Darin Downs, Jose Valverde
Alburquerque has allowed 5 H and 4 BB over 4.0 innings, so it’s hard to imagine him getting a crack at the job.  Coke has already gotten a look and failed.  Valverde is preparing in the minor leagues, but do the Tigers really want to go back down that road?  That leaves Downs, who has been impressive this season (2.35 ERA, 0.78 WHIP) and, with the presence of Coke, being a left-hander shouldn’t hurt him.  He has done a lot of work as a starter in the minor leagues so we can’t fully look at his numbers.  However, in 58 appearances (6 starts) at Triple-A he sported a 10.03 K/9 vs. a 2.83 BB/9.  He’s going to soon start garnering more and more attention, so those desperate for saves may want to stash him before it’s too late.

Chicago Cubs
Current Closer – Unknown

With Carlos Marmol removed from the role, Kyuji Fujikawa on the DL and Shawn Camp blowing his first opportunity (and struggling again yesterday), the Cubs closers role is in complete disarray.  Of course, the best ERA of that group also belongs to Marmol (7.94) and WHIP to Fujikawa (2.08), so it’s not like there was much value there anyways.

Alternative – James Russell
In 4.0 innings he has allowed 1 H and 0 BB, striking out 6.  If we believe in him or not, we have to think that he’s going to be next in line to get an opportunity.  If you are desperate for saves, grab him now.

St. Louis Cardinals
Current Closer – Mitchell Boggs

Jason Motte can’t return soon enough, though we all know there’s a chance that he’s lost for the season.  Boggs simply hasn’t been very good, with a 9.82 ERA, 2.05 WHIP and 7 BB over 7.1 IP (he’s 2 for 4 in save chances).  We can’t look at his minor league track record for his control, since he had worked mainly as a starter, but in the past two seasons in the Majors he has posted BB/9 of 3.12 and 2.58.  We would think he would right the ship, the question is if he can do it before the Cardinals opt to go in another direction.

Alternatives – Trevor Rosenthal, Edward Mujica
Rosenthal has had his own problems (4.50 ERA), but he has 10 K vs. 1 BB over 8.0 innings.  Despite his inflated ERA, he is likely going to get the first crack at the job once the Cardinals move on.  Mujica could be the next option, but the veteran has just 17 save opportunities in his career.  I wouldn’t expect the Cardinals to go in that direction.

Milwaukee Brewers
Current Closer – Jim Henderson

He’s done nothing to lose the job, with a perfect 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 7 K and 0 BB over his 5.0 innings of work.  However, since he was brought into a game over the weekend with the team behind there is going to be some speculation.  That said, there is no reason to think that he isn’t going to get the bulk of the opportunities until he proves unworthy (which is very possible).

Alternatives – John Axford, Mike Gonzalez, Blake Badenhop
The only reason Badenhop is included is because he did pick up a save over the weekend.  However, none of these players offer much competition to Henderson at this point as they all have been hit hard (WHIPs of 2.00 or higher) and scored upon frequently (ERAs of 6.75 or higher).

What are your thoughts of these situations?  Where do you see potential under-the-radar value?  Who do you think will be the next closer to lose his job?


  1. Chris Mal says:

    What about Hector Rondon? He’s still largely unknown, is coming off 2 lost years, and it’s a extremely small sample size…but the guy has been quite good so far. Which is more than they can say for anyone else in the Cubs pen. He was a good prospect a few years ago…and here he is, getting people out in the majors as a Rule V pick. Stranger things have happened. Soria was once a Rule V pick too, and went on to have a string of successful years as a closer.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      Don’t disagree and the Cubs situation is a disaster. I just think Russell gets the first shot, that’s all.

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