Great-ful Deadline looming for Rauch, Frasor, Lidge?

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Can
Brad Lidge count on save opportunities come Aug. 1?

 

Forget
about Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee — with the way the Phillies are shopping for
relievers, you have to wonder whether their attempts to acquire another starter
mask their real goal: landing another closer.

 

After
all, they’ve already put so much time and PR work into Pedro Martinez. And why
part ways with top pitching prospects Kyle Drabek and/or Carlos Carrasco only
to watch Halladay walk in another year and a half?

 

With
Cole Hamels rounding into form and Joe Blanton finding his National League niche,
the greater concern is Lidge. The guy who
converted all 41 save opportunities last season to go with a sparkling ERA
of 1.95 finds himself lost without a compass in 2009. Not since April has his
ERA fallen below 6.00. The Phillies already tried sending him to the DL with a
knee injury, but they’re running out of options.

 

Enter
Diamondbacks closer Chad Qualls, whom the Phillies have been scouting for some
time now, according to various reports. With a quality setup man already locked
up in Ryan Madson, adding Qualls would allow Lidge to rest, clear his head and
recover in time for the postseason.

 

The
Phillies aren’t the only team eying Qualls, and Qualls isn’t the only closer
drumming up interest.

 

The
market is filled with teams looking to shore up their bullpen. I’m speaking of
the Rays, Twins, Angels, Rangers, Marlins, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers and Rockies. Of
course, almost all of those clubs already have established closers. 

 

This
is the time of year when new firemen rise and old ones fall — not the other
way around. The best way to get your hands on cheap saves is to focus almost
entirely on potential closer vacancies. While real-life GMs are busy trying to
land the best available relievers, savvy fantasy GMs are busy pursuing their
replacements.     

 

Ask
yourself this: Who’s next in line for saves? Who’s ready to take over for the
Diamondbacks, Astros, Braves, Reds, Pirates, White Sox, Orioles, Indians and
Blue Jays?

 

The
past couple of Trade Deadlines have opened doors for Joel Hanrahan, Kyle
Farnsworth, John Grabow, Octavio Dotel, C.J. Wilson
and Dan Wheeler.

 

Who’s
next?

 

Regardless
of where Qualls ends up, knowing that Rauch is the odds-on favorite to replace
him makes a difference. Rauch excelled as Washington’s closer last year, and with
a 2.18 ERA since the start of June, he’s capable of doing the same if Arizona
parts ways with Qualls.

 

Blue
Jays setup man Jason Frasor also proved capable of handling closer duties,
filling in admirably for Scott Downs amid an injury spell weeks ago. There’s no
reason to expect anything different if Downs relocates.

 

Pittsburgh
has a few familiar firemen of its own in Grabow and Hanrahan should the market
heat up for Matt Capps. Grabow is probably first in line, but don’t be too
quick to dismiss Hanrahan, who overcame a rough stretch with Washington to
deliver a 3.38 ERA since arriving in Steeltown. 

 

Another
inconsistent yet promising reliever worth watching is Chris Perez, who figures
prominently in the Indians’ relief plans and could wind succeeding Kerry Wood
sooner rather than later. Acquired from St. Louis in the Mark DeRosa deal, the
hard-throwing 24-year-old has looked sharp in his last five outings, all of
which were scoreless.

 

Dig
deeper and you’ll find Nick Masset, who’s fared well enough (2.51 ERA, 39/14
K/BB ratio) to be considered a viable backup to Reds closer Francisco Cordero.

 

Not
every team offers diamonds in the rough. Take the Orioles bullpen, where closer
George Sherrill is garnering interest as a setup man, not a closer. Why not
beat Baltimore to the punch and cash in before his value turns to dust? Better
that than banking on a replacement emerging from the likes of Jim Johnson or
Danys Baez.

 

Don’t
count on Bobby Jenks leaving the South Side any time soon, as White Sox skipper
Ozzie Guillen as repeatedly shown his support for the burly finisher. The
acquisition of Tony Pena signaled the possible departure of Dotel and Scott
Linebrink
, not Jenks.

 

 

–Alex Cushing, MLB.com

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