If the 2023 MLB season so far has taught us anything, it’s that no one — especially no pitcher — is safe from the injury bug, and Wednesday gave us the latest victim before most games even got rolling. Tampa Bay Rays closer Pete Fairbanks, who was removed from a game against the Chicago White Sox last week with what the team thought was finger numbness due to his Raynaud’s syndrome, has instead been put on the IL with right forearm inflammation.
Fairbanks doesn’t seem too concerned about the situation and hopes to only miss the minimum number of games. But if there’s another thing the 2023 MLB season has taught us so far, it’s that you can’t trust anything a pitcher says about their own injury (just ask Brandon Woodruff, or Luis Garcia, or ...). Which puts fantasy baseball owners who drafted Fairbanks based on his dominant 2022 in a bind, down a source of saves in a year that’s already seen its fair share of bullpen chaos. So here are some players to look for on the waiver wire until Fairbanks returns.
Pete Fairbanks fantasy impact: Relievers to target
Jason Adam, Tampa Bay Rays — Let’s start with the most obvious one: Adam figures to see most of the save opportunities — we would say “all,” but we know how much Kevin Cash loves to mix and match — and the righty has been just as dominant as Fairbanks has been this season, with just two runs allowed over his 12 appearances. He nailed down a save against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night in Fairbanks’ absence by striking out the side, and while Tampa Bay has been too dominant to generate a ton of ninth-inning opportunities, Adam is a recommended add anyway given the help he’ll offer to your ratios.
Michael King, New York Yankees — Aaron Boone hasn’t officially named King the new closer over Clay Holmes, but after yet another dominant multi-inning save against the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday night, we’re guessing it’s just a matter of time. Holmes simply doesn’t have the dominant stuff he displayed when he won the job last year, and with the state of New York’s offense they can’t afford not to put their best reliever in the closer’s chair right now.
Will Smith, Texas Rangers — Jose Leclerc began the season as Texas’ closer of choice, but spotty command — he’s walked four over his last 4.1 innings — seems to have cost him the job after just a month. Smith has cashed in the Rangers’ last two save opportunities, including 1.1 clean innings on Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the job appears to be his unless he implodes.