Closer Report: Royally loaded

The Kansas City Royals were swept in Pittsburgh over the weekend, dropping their season record to 24-34, leaving them 8.0 games back in their division. At some point, that team will need to simply toss its trade chips on the table and let the 2012 season play out the way every recent season has for KC — except that one magical Randa-Berroa-Ibanez year, whenever that was.

When the Royals begin to deal, Jonathan Broxton's name is going to pop up quite a lot. He signed a one-year make-good deal with Kansas City during the offseason, and it's been a spectacular success for both player and team thus far. Over 23 appearances, Broxton has earned 14 saves while delivering a 1.59 ERA, he's demonstrated that he can pitch on back-to-back days, and his velocity is up from last season.
However, it wouldn't quite be accurate to say that Broxton has returned to the ridiculous level he'd reached in 2009, when he posted a 0.96 WHIP, struck out 13.5 batters per nine innings, and his average fastball was clocked at 97.8 miles per hour. This season, he's racked up just 14 Ks in 22.2 innings and his swinging-strike percentage is the lowest of his career. His velocity has certainly been respectable (95.1 mph average fastball), but it remains a couple ticks off his peak.
So, as good as Broxton has been this year, it seems wise for both the Royals and fantasy owners to cash out, if possible. Kansas City's bullpen is actually loaded with lights-out pitchers right now, including lefties Tim Collins (13.3 K/9) and Jose Mijares (1.09 WHIP), plus right-handers Aaron Crow (.198 BAA) and Kelvin Herrera (98.9 mph fastball). This team could basically spin the wheel to choose its next closer, and the arrow would point to a respectable choice.
But if you can make just one speculative add at the moment, my preferred pickup would be Greg Holland, a 26-year-old righty who battled for (and lost) the closer's role during spring training. Holland was a mess in early April (2.68 WHIP) before hitting the disabled list with a rib injury. Since returning to the Royals in May, he's been spectacular. He's allowed just four hits and one run over 12.2 innings, striking out 16 batters. Holland has pitched the eighth in Broxton's three most recent save chances, so he appears to be the next man up in KC's bullpen hierarchy.
You might recall that Holland took over ninth inning responsibilities in the final weeks last season, so it's not like he's without closing experience. He's currently available in over 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues, worth an add if you're shaking the couch cushions looking for saves in a deep format.
Job Security Index
30. Chicago Cubs — Shawn Camp, James Russel, Casey Coleman, Manuel Corpas ... anyone but Carlos Marmol
29. Seattle — Tom Wilhelmsen, Brandon League
28. Oakland — Ryan Cook, Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes
27. Toronto — Casey Janssen, Darren Oliver
26. New York Mets — Frank Francisco, Bobby Parnell
25. Chicago White Sox — Addison Reed, Matt Thornton
24. Los Angeles Angels — Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs
23. Minnesota — Matt Capps, Glen Perkins
22. Boston — Alfredo Aceves, Vicente Padilla, Mark Melancon
21. Arizona — J.J. Putz, David Hernandez
20. Kansas City — Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins
19. New York Yankees — Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan, Cory Wade
18. Tampa Bay — Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta
17. Houston — Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez
16. Miami — Heath Bell, Steve Cishek
15. Detroit — Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit
14. San Francisco — Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo
13. Washington — Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett
12. San Diego — Huston Street, Dale Thayer, Luke Gregerson
11. Los Angeles Dodgers — Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario
10. Baltimore — Jim Johnson, Pedro Strop
9. Pittsburgh — Joel Hanrahan, Jason Grilli, Juan Cruz
8. Cleveland — Chris Perez, Vinnie Pestano
7. St. Louis — Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez
6. Cincinnati — Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo
5. Texas — Joe Nathan, Mike Adams
4. Colorado — Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle
3. Milwaukee — John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Kameron Loe
2. Atlanta — Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters
1. Philadelphia — Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo

Just when it seemed the Mariners were ready to reinstate Brandon League as their closer, this happened: 1.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 Ks. As Geoff Baker just wrote, Seattle had better be sure League is ready to handle closing responsibilities before the team makes another switch. No need to rush this thing. Preserving and/or enhancing League's trade value should be the priority.
Brian Fuentes has allowed seven earned runs over his last four appearances, blowing two saves, so ... well, you can guess what comes next. First a committee, then probably a new closer. Ryan Cook got a shot to save Tuesday's game, and although allowed a hit and a walk, he did the job in holding the Rockies scoreless. Cook has been terrific all year (0.69 ERA, 0.85 WHIP), and he needs to be more widely owned. He's still available in 73 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Grant Balfour's name has entered the discussion again as well, but Cook is the priority add.
The Red Sox seem to be stretching out Franklin Morales for potential starting duty down the road — he's pitched 7.2 innings over his last two appearances — and they're transitioning Daniel Bard back to a relief role at Pawtucket. Meanwhile, Mark Melancon finally made his way back to the major league roster after a successful tune-up in the minors. Related: Boston should probably kick the tires on Broxton.
The Cubs' bullpen has been laughably bad lately, with nearly everyone giving up runs and hits by the bushel. Just check the recent work by Russell, Camp, Marmol and Coleman. It's ugly. I added Manuel Corpas in an NL-only league recently, because he's the only Chicago reliever who hasn't been whacked like a birthday pinata over the past week. Corpas isn't for everyone, of course — certainly not for mixed leaguers, not yet.

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