Death. Taxes. Closers will break your heart.
Those are, famously, the three certainties laid out by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, an avid fantasy baseball player. Or at least, they should have been, because along with death and taxes, few things are more guaranteed than the fact that last year's top closers will probably be this year's middle relievers.
That fact has been more true than usual this year, with Blake Treinen having been removed from the gig weeks ago. Earlier this week, Wade Davis, another premier closer from 2018, saw manager Bud Black give his job to Scott Oberg.
Then, on Sunday, the runaway leader from last year, Edwin Diaz, became the latest to yield his post. With Diaz allowing runs in each of his last four appearances, including serving up homers in three of those outings, Mets manager Mickey Callaway said the team has "to be open-minded" about the ninth inning going forward.
“I don’t think anybody is locked into roles,” Callaway said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to win, based on usage and things like that.”
It's been a precipitous drop for the 25-year-old Diaz, who owned a 1.96 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and 124/17 K/BB ratio on top of saving 57 games with the Mariners last year. The Mets paid a high price to acquire him and Robinson Cano this winter with an eye on locking down their high-leverage situations.
Instead, Diaz has posted a 5.44 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 43 innings, and even before the recent rough stretch he held a 4.81 ERA. Home runs have been an issue, with the right-hander allowing more than two per nine innings, but he's also walking batters at a higher clip than he did in 2018.
As he works things out, the Mets reliever most likely to benefit is Seth Lugo. Lugo is fresh off winning the NL Reliever of the Month award for July and is striking out 32.6 percent of batters faced while putting up a 2.68 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 70/13 K/BB ratio in 53 2/3 innings of work.
Diaz is too talented to struggle like this forever, but for the time being both should be rostered in fantasy leagues as the situation works itself out.
The Phillies' abundance of moving parts precipitated one of those parts moving ... to Lehigh Valley.
Maikel Franco was demoted to Triple-A on Sunday to make room on the 25-man roster for Brad Miller. Miller was activated Sunday after missing time with a right hip flexor strain.
Franco was hitting .231/.296/.405 with 15 homers through 102 games.
“We just felt that this was the appropriate time to make a move that was difficult for our clubhouse because we all care deeply for Maikel Franco, who is an exceptional teammate and a great person," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "But we felt that the best roster for the Philadelphia Phillies had Sean Rodriguez on it right now because of his ability to play all over the diamond.”
Kapler noted the versatility of the Phillies' current roster -- along with Miller, who plays all over the diamond, the club also has Swiss Army knife Sean Rodriguez and multi-faceted Scott Kingery at its disposal -- as one of the reasons the team felt it could get by without Franco, who has started 574 games at third base for the Phils since the start of the 2014 season. In that time, he owns a .249/.302/.431 career line.
In his stead, Kingery started at the hot corner Sunday, clearing a spot for Corey Dickerson to make his first Phillies start in left field. Dickerson batted leadoff and went 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBI in a 10-5 loss to the White Sox.
Dickerson seems to be the one who stands to benefit most from the roster move. With Franco gone and Kingery capable of handling third base, the 30-year-old should see plenty of time in left field, especially against right-handed pitching. Rodriguez should also see an uptick in playing time with his ability to hit lefties.
Editor’s Note: Stay ahead of the competition from wire to wire with rankings, customizable projections, trade evaluator, exclusive columns and more in our Season Pass. And start using optimized lineups on Yahoo!, DraftKings and FanDuel with our DFS Toolkit!.
Catch of the Day
Starlin Castro wasn't one of the 77 players who changed teams on Wednesday, but his presence isn't stopping the Marlins from promoting his heir apparent.
Top prospect Isan Diaz will join the Marlins in New York on Monday, multiple outlets are reporting. The Marlins have not confirmed the report that Diaz and fellow prospect Lewis Brinson are being called up.
When he does arrive, Diaz has a chance to immediately be one of the more exciting offensive players on the admittedly excitement-devoid Fish. The 23-year-old was having a big year at Triple-A New Orleans, batting .305/.395/.578 with 26 home runs, 70 RBI and 89 runs scored.
Prospect-watchers will remember Diaz from his days with the Diamondbacks and later with the Brewers. Diaz was dealt from the Diamondbacks to the Brewers in a deal for Jean Segura, then traded from the Brewers to the Marlins in exchange for Christian Yelich. Diaz appeared on top-100 prospect lists ahead of the 2017 season but saw his star fade after a couple of forgettable seasons in the upper minors.
He's rejuvenated that buzz with a big season at Triple-A this year, though, and will likely get plenty of reps at the keystone in place of the veteran Castro. Diaz may be best left for deeper mixed leagues and NL-only types for now, but if he gets off to a hot start he could be a viable fantasy player in all formats down the stretch.
National League Quick Hits: Robinson Cano exited Sunday's game against the Pirates with a left hamstring strain. Cano had what looked to be his third double of the day, but he stopped halfway between first and second base while grabbing his hamstring. The veteran second baseman has gone on the injured list twice this season with left quad issues and another IL stint would appear to be in the offing. ... Cubs placed C Willson Contreras on the 10-day injured list with a right hamstring strain. Contreras suffered the injury while leaving the batter's box Sunday. It's not clear at this point how severe the strain is, so we'll have to wait and see what the Cubs say about Contreras' timeline. Victor Caratini is slated for most of the catching duties while Contreras is out. ... Noah Syndergaard allowed one run on three hits over seven innings in a win over the Pirates on Sunday. The 26-year-old righty has allowed three earned runs or fewer in five consecutive starts since the All-Star break. With the victory, he improves to 8-5 overall with a 3.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 140/38 K/BB ratio across 141 innings in 22 starts this season. ... Kris Bryant was absent from the Cubs' lineup Sunday due to right knee soreness. Bryant has battled soreness in the knee off and on for a few weeks. It's not considered to be a big deal, although worth noting is that he's in a 3-for-30 slump. ... Cardinals activated INF Matt Carpenter from the 10-day injured list. Carpenter had been limited to just four games since the beginning of July because of back and foot ailments. He has really struggled this season and wasn't hitting on his rehab assignment, either, but Carpenter will get his job back at third base and Tommy Edman will shift into a utility role ... Max Muncy had a huge game Sunday, finishing 4-for-5 with a home run, three RBI and three runs scored -- including a walk-off, two-run double -- as the Dodgers came back to edge the Padres 11-10. Sunday was a highlight, but the 28-year-old is having a terrific offensive season in total, batting .265/.371/.528 with 27 homers, 74 RBI and 75 runs scored in 110 games. ... Nolan Arenado hit two solo home runs to help the Rockies top the Giants 6-2 on Sunday. It was his third multi-homer game of the year, but the long balls were just his third and fourth since June 28. The power outage is uncharacteristic for the normally prolific power hitting 28-year-old, as he's hit at least 37 dingers in each of the last four seasons. He's still got 24 this year to go with a healthy .305/.368/.539 line, so there are few complaints, and perhaps Sunday's outburst is the start of a binge for Arenado.
American League Quick Hits: Yonny Chirinos was lifted from Sunday's start against the Marlins due to right middle finger inflammation. Chirinos was rolling before the injury, needing just 63 pitches while tossing five innings of one-run ball. The Rays should have more on his condition after the game. ... Justin Verlander recorded 10 strikeouts over six innings against the Mariners on Sunday to record his major league-leading 15th win of the season. Verlander carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning before finally giving up a one-out single to Kyle Seager. A solo homer by Seager in the seventh represented the lone tally against him in this one. The 36-year-old veteran righty generated a whopping 16 swinging strikes and needed only 98 pitches to complete six frames. It was his fourth consecutive double-digit strikeout performance. He's whiffed 206 batters across 157 2/3 innings, which ranks second in the major leagues behind his Astros teammate Gerrit Cole (216 punchouts) this season. He’ll carry a pristine 2.68 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 206/33 K/BB ratio into his next start against the Orioles in his next start on Sunday. ... Angels placed RHP Griffin Canning on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to August 1, with right elbow inflammation. It's not clear whether Canning suffered the injury during his last start or during his between-starts bullpen session. The good news is his UCL is intact, so hopefully it won't be a long absence for the rookie. Still, with Canning already on pace for a career high in innings, the Angels figure to be careful here. ... Dee Gordon (quad) could be activated from the injured list on Tuesday. Gordon resumed running recently and hasn't had any issues with his left quad strain. It sounds like he will probably skip a rehab assignment and rejoin the Mariners in a couple days. ... Yankees placed OF Aaron Hicks on the 10-day injured list with a right flexor strain. Hicks suffered the injury while making a throw on Saturday. It's an injury that's obviously more worrisome for pitchers, but it figures to be a long-term absence for Hicks, too. The Yankees have not yet offered a timetable for the outfielder's return. ... Angels placed SS Andrelton Simmons on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to August 3, with a left ankle sprain. Simmons injured the same ankle that put him on the IL earlier this season, although it's the other side of the ankle that's hurt this time. He's not sure how long he'll be sidelined. David Fletcher will handle shortstop while Simmons is out, with Matt Thaiss covering third base. ... Shane Bieber allowed two runs on five hits while tossing a complete game in Sunday's 6-2 win over the Angels. Bieber struck out eight without walking a batter on the afternoon. This was Bieber's second complete game in his last three starts and his third of the campaign. The All-Star hurler owns a strong 3.31 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 182/30 K/BB ratio in 149 1/3 innings this season. ... Angels placed RHP Felix Pena on the 10-day injured list with a torn ACL in his right knee. Pena hurt the knee while covering first base on Saturday. He will undergo surgery and is expected to be on the shelf for 6-9 months, so a late start to next season is virtually assured. Pena holds a 4.58 ERA but has struck out over a batter per inning this season. It's a blow to the Angels' already-thin rotation depth. ... Tanner Roark kept the Cardinals to one run over five innings, striking out six, to win his Athletics debut by a score of 4-2 on Sunday. He made one glaring mistake, which Paul DeJong deposited into the stands in left field in the fourth inning, but was otherwise exactly what the A's hoped they were getting when they traded prospect Jameson Hannah to the Reds on Wednesday. Overall this year, the 32-year-old has a 4.14 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 22 starts.