Trade Spin: Jorge Julio sent to Florida

Updated: March 26, 2007, 5:11 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Well, the Florida Marlins did indicate all winter their desire to have a man with experience closing games for them in 2007.

On the same day the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that manager Fredi Gonzalez has made a decision on his opening-day closer, and would announce it on Wednesday, the Marlins acquired perhaps their best saves candidate of all from the Arizona Diamondbacks, picking up right-hander Jorge Julio in exchange for prospect Yusmeiro Petit, a right-hander who was shaky in a late-season trial for Florida in 2006.

Julio's not a bad closer candidate, with his high-90s fastball and 99 saves in 124 chances in his six-year major-league career, but like most of the late-round closers picked in your fantasy draft, he comes loaded with risks. Sure, he managed 15 saves and a 3.45 ERA in 29 games for the Diamondbacks from June 1-Aug. 12, after taking over for Jose Valverde, but like in his days in Baltimore, his command quickly left him and subsequently lost him the role. He finished the 2006 season with a 4.23 ERA and 1.318 WHIP, unreliable numbers for a fantasy closer, and his 4.20/1.384 career rates show that it was hardly a one-year thing.

Besides shaky command, the home run has been particularly problematic for Julio over the years. He managed a fourth consecutive year with at least 10 homers allowed in 2006, not a good sign for a pitcher who doesn't throw more than 70 innings per season. Julio has averaged 4.23 walks per nine innings for his career, and combined with his tendency to serve up the long ball, he's at high risk for those frustrating implosions.

In short, Julio's suddenly your best bet for saves among Marlins prospective closers, even if Gonzalez somehow sticks to his guns and anoints Kevin Gregg, Matt Lindstrom or Henry Owens his closer on Wednesday. Such an announcement now seems unlikely, though; the Marlins probably wouldn't part with a prospect of Petit's stature if they didn't view the return as closer material.

Either way, don't count on the Marlins employing only one closer all season; Julio could be a 25-save man with a decent strikeout rate, but there's a good chance he won't keep the role all year. For fantasy, rank him around 20th-25th among closers, meaning he's a weak No. 2, or a No. 3 option in mixed formats. He lacks an ideal "handcuff" pick, but one of the three setup men should step up as the best bet for that role in the early weeks.

Petit, meanwhile, is stuck behind a deep rotation in Arizona, meaning his best shot at a quick promotion would be a permanent move to the bullpen. He'll be one of the team's more talented young arms, and could be a late-season sleeper if he starts strong in the minors and the rotation gets hit by a barrage of injuries.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

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