Texas Rangers closer Eric Gagne (elbow) opened the season on the 15-day disabled list. The reason wasn't because of his injury - he just needed to get more work in before he could take over the closer gig. He pitched a simulated game Monday, April 2, and is slated to throw another one Wednesday. If all goes well, he'll pitch on consecutive nights at Double-A Frisco Friday and Saturday. Barring setbacks, he would likely make one or two appearances in Triple-A before joining the team.
Gagne is a former All-Star closer but has been hindered the last two seasons due to elbow, back and shoulder injuries. Gagne had Tommy John surgery in 1997 but avoided a second one two seasons ago. Last year Gagne had surgery to remove a nerve and had season-ending back surgery after pitching only two innings. Gagne joined the team late in the spring and pitched only three innings.
If Gagne is injury-free, like the team claims, this move should help Gagne's value in the long run. If Gagne started the season rusty, he may have performed poorly. It's possible the team would have resorted to relief pitcher Akinori Otsuka, who saved 32 games for the Rangers last season. Now, the Rangers can be patient with Gagne, let him get up-to-speed and allow him to rejoin the team later this month. The team expects Gagne to be activated April 13, when the Rangers play the Seattle Mariners.
Otsuka will be replacing Gagne, and as such, his fantasy value skyrockets in the short term. Otsuka, who replaced Francisco Cordero as the fulltime closer in late April last season, earned his 32 saves in 36 opportunities and had an ERA of 2.11. He has yet to receive a save opportunity in the first two games.
Gagne is still expected to perform well, and a 30-save season is definitely possible. If you have Gagne on your fantasy team, you need to have Otsuka as well. If you need to trade a spare part to acquire Otsuka once Gagne returns, look to do so.
There is very little chance Otsuka is on waivers right now. If you own him, his value is pretty good right now. However, it lessens by the day. It's unlikely you can trade him for much right now, because it's widely known that his time as a closer is minimal. If you're looking to acquire him, do so after Gagne returns and notches a couple of saves.
Fantasy owners looking to replace Gagne will find the waiver wire lacking quality replacements at this time. One route would be to pick up quality setup pitchers like the Atlanta Braves' Mike Gonzalez, the Detroit Tigers' Fernando Rodney or the Oakland Athletics' Justin Duchscherer, if they went undrafted. They may have an opportunity to pick up saves while the fulltime closer is resting, and they should help your strikeout rate. The Cincinnati Reds, who lack a true closer, are utilizing a closer-by-committee approach and provide a few options for the desperate or risky owner. Reds relievers David Weathers, Mike Stanton and Victor Santos could all be short-term options. Tampa Bay is also without a closer, but it's anyone's guess as to who will get save chances there right now.
About Andrew Stewart
Andrew Stewart has been a Hot off the Wire Analyst for KFFL since 2007.
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