Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Ones Who Were Closers: A Sobering Look Back

George asks:
Think I can dump Casilla? I've got Jaime Garcia and Shaun Marcum coming off the DL and have to get rid of someone beyond Chris Young.
Sure. I don't have a problem with it. Casilla hasn't picked up a save in almost a month and Jeremy Affeldt looks capable enough. Casilla could win the job back, but at the moment he seems like a subpar bet to do so.

On Wednesday, I took a look at all 30 closers in the Major Leagues and how I thought they might do the rest of the way. Here, I'm going to take a look at the closers that have lost their jobs this year and the odds that they get their jobs back. This includes all of the closers who lost their jobs...even the pitchers who lost their jobs in the preseason. Unlike my last article, I'm looking at keepers here.

Andrew Bailey
Think 2013 here, not 2012. Bailey might not even close again this year (though I'm thinking the Red Sox will at least try him out in September). But unless Bailey gets hurt again, the Sox are going to tender him a contract this winter/offer him arbitration. You don't think they're going to just let the guy they traded Josh Reddick for walk away, do you?

Mariano Rivera
I'm sure Mariano will try to make it back, and like nearly every baseball fan in the universe, I hope he does. But since he went for a premium price this year, he's probably someone you're going to simply throw back on your freeze date and hope to get at a lower price.

Kyle Farnsworth
The Rays used the same game plan with Fernando Rodney in 2012 that they did with Farnsworth in 2011. Sign the pitcher to a make-good one year deal, take on a relatively affordable option with a ridiculously cheap buyout and go. Farnsworth is a free agent this winter but even if he comes back to the Rays, Rodney's the man next year.

Sergio Santos
Injured. Maybe he'll be back in time for Spring Training. If you bought him for $1-2 in 2011 and can option him out in a league with standard Rotisserie contract, there's virtually no risk involved in hanging on at this point.

Matt Thornton
I thought about including Hector Santiago here instead but Thornton was the guy the expert market bought in February/March so he gets the nod here. After a lot of coy, Gary Hart-esque cloak and dagger from Robin Ventura about who would/wouldn't close, Santiago got the nod. Thornton got a smattering of saves but anyone who paid $13-17 in 5x5 or $22-26 in 4x4 for saves got burned.

Joakim Soria
Listed here because in some early auctions teams spent big bucks. He could be back next year. In my home league, he went cheap as a flier for 2013.

Matt Capps
Currently hurt. His injury seems to be lingering and the timetable keeps getting pushed back. The Twins have a $6 million option with a $250K buyout and I suspect they take the buyout. My guess is that Glen Perkins keeps the job the rest of the way and into 2013.

Jordan Walden
Some (not me) predicted that Walden would lose his job due to poor command and sure enough he did. His replacement - Ernesto Frieri - hasn't been that much better with the walks. If I were a betting man, I wouldn't bet on Walden get another shot next year, but stranger things have happened. I don't view Frieri or Scott Downs as major obstacles.

Brandon League
Traded to the Dodgers. Free agent this winter. Probably signs somewhere as a set-up.

Heath Bell
Bell has been a disaster, but the Marlins are on the hook for another $18 million combined in 2013-2014 so are probably going to give Bell another whirl in 2013. If you bought him at auction, his price is probably much too high. If he's a free agent in your league, though, and you're not contending why not pick him up cheaply and see how Spring Training pans out.

Drew Storen
Tyler Clippard has struggled of late but so has Storen so Clippard is likely to hang onto the ninth inning role. Storen could get the job back if he does well enough, but Clippard is under team control for a long time and will be relatively cheap next year. There isn't a great incentive to change as long as Clppard is getting the job done.

Ryan Madson
Hurt himself in March. Out for the year, he'll probably have to sign somewhere on a make good, one-year deal as a middle reliever.

Brett Myers
Traded to the White Sox, where he's setting up Addison Reed. Myers probably won't be closing next year, though whether he's in a bullpen somewhere or back in someone's rotation is anyone's guess at the moment.

John Axford
By now the issues that Ax has had in the ninth are well documented and need not be rehashed in this space. It was always a fine line for Axford, but the lack of control did him in this year. Of all the closers listed here, Ax probably has the best chance to get his job back this season. Jim Henderson has been shaky, the team doesn't seem to trust Kameron Loe, and Francisco Rodriguez looked cooked when he got an opportunity. I do find it amusing that some of the same people that dump all over Carlos Marmol defend Axford to the ends of the earth. While Marmol's walk rate is decidedly worse, Axford's walk rate has always been a big, obnoxious warning sign. There's nothing wrong with paying the right price for a guy like Axford or Marmol - saves are saves, and strikeouts count - but nothing drives a manager battier than a closer that walks the park, and guys like this are typically risky.

Javy Guerra
Despite the fact that Guerra had the job entering 2012, Dodgers closer-in-waiting Kenley Jansen went for the same average salary ($11) that Guerra did. Sure enough, Guerra eventually lost the job and Jansen didn't let go. As long as Guerra is in LA, it's very likely that his future is as a set-up.

Brian Wilson
I had a bad feeling about Wilson entering 2012 and he more than justified that bad feeling, spraining the UCL in his right elbow, leading to Tommy John surgery that ended his 2012 season. Like Madson, Wilson's a free agent at the end of this year so will probably wind up in the back of someone's bullpen on an incentive-laden, make good deal.

This is a pretty sobering list in terms of closers losing their jobs and getting those jobs back. Granted, a lot of these guys lost their jobs due to injury or trade, but it appears to me that - generally speaking - there isn't a lot of incentive to hang onto a closer on reserve once he loses his job. Of the closers that lost their job at one point during the season and got it back, only Grant Balfour, Frank Francisco, Carlos Marmol are currently closing. Based on their contracts, Francisco and Marmol might wind up closing again in 2013, but these aren't the kind of pitchers I'd have supreme confidence in entering next year.

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