There are a lot of rumors this time of year and, depending on which come to fruition, there could be a lot of upheaval among the closer ranks. With teams searching for bullpen help some second tier teams could look to cash in on their closer to get a piece for the future. Who could be in line to gain save opportunities? Let’s take a look:
1. Steve Cishek – Miami Marlins (Last Week #4)
Why he’s on the list: One could argue that he’s actually already taken over as the Marlins closer, though one save does not a closer make. That said, Heath Bell continues to struggle and Juan Carlos Oviedo has suffered a setback in the minor leagues and could be headed for Tommy John surgery. Someone has to close in Miami and Cishek appears to be the best option at this point.
Recent Performance: He picked up a five out save on July 14 and is currently sporting a 2.08 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. In fact, he hasn’t allowed an earned run in his past 9 outings (8.1 IP, 5 H, 1 BB, 10 K). He hasn’t allowed a walk in his past 8 appearances.
Outlook: This is one of the messier situations at the moment and it’s hard to predict who is going to be the long-term answer. I wouldn’t expect it to be Cishek, but for the short-term he easily could get at least a few save opportunities until Heath Bell returns to the role.
2. Sergio Romo – San Francisco Giants (Last Week #1)
Why he’s on the list: I know what the Giants have said about Santiago Casilla, but how many saves can they really sit back and watch him blow? He’s blown four of his past eight save chances and, while they did bring him back for a save on Sunday, they also played matchups a little bit (he entered with 1 out). You have to think that their trust in him is slipping away.
Recent Performance: He continues to be one of the most dominating relievers in the game with a 0.67 ERA and 0.74 WHIP. He’s allowed just 2 H and 2 BB in July (5.1 IP) and hasn’t allowed an earned run since June 17.
Outlook: You have to think that all it will take is one more blowup in the near future for the Giants to finally make a change. As it is, with Casilla not getting the full inning, depending on matchups you have to think that opportunities could start materializing for other relief pitchers in San Francisco. Romo may be due for a blow-up (.183 BABIP, 96.9% strand rate), but you have to think if a change is made he will get the first crack.
3. Greg Holland – Kansas City Royals (Last Week Unranked)
Why he’s on the list: With the July 31 trade deadline fast approaching all indications are that Jonathan Broxton could be on the move. That would open the door for Holland, who many thought would get closing duties early in the year when Joakim Soria originally went down with an injury.
Recent Performance: Holland struggled early this year but has been pitching much better of late. Since posting an 11.37 ERA in April Holland has allowed just 5 ER over 25.2 IP. Injury clearly was part of the problem (he missed time on the DL) and he’s looking like the same pitcher who posted a 1.80 ERA and 0.93 WHIP a year ago.
Outlook: If a trade does happen, Holland is an easy choice to step in. While he is not likely someone who is going to close in 2013 (Soria is expected to return), that’s irrelevant really. He has the stuff and has been pitching like one of the elite RP in the game.
4. Luke Gregerson – San Diego Padres (Last Week Unranked)
Why he’s on the list: When Huston Street got injured it was Dale Thayer who took over as the Padres closer. With Street potentially getting traded, I would expect it to be Gregerson this time around as Thayer has struggled of late (4.61 ERA, 1.35 WHIP).
Recent Performance: He’s been perfect in his past four appearances (3.1 IP). On May 28 he saw his ERA balloon to 4.71 but now has it back down to a tidy 3.40.
Outlook: I thought Gregerson would get the first chance last time around, so with him pitching well now I would be surprised if he didn’t get the chance this time. If he pitches well he will have the potential to open 2013 with the job so owners will want to keep a close eye on him.
5. Rex Brothers – Colorado Rockies (Last Week #3)
Why he’s on the list: I’ve talked about how he could get an opportunity in a lost season for the Rockies, but that potential grows even bigger now as trade rumors involving Rafael Betancourt begin to emerge.
Recent Performance: He’s hit a small bump in the road, allowing 3 ER over his past 4.2 IP (6 outings) and having just 1 K in his past four appearances.
Outlook: I will keep saying that it makes sense for the Rockies to see if Brothers can handle closing duties in 2013 and beyond because a 37-year old Betancourt is just not a long-term solution for the team. Whether they trade Betancourt or not, it makes sense to give Brothers a look. Granted, he needs to start pitching a little bit better again, but I would expect him to before long.
Other names to watch:
- Jared Burton/Glen Perkins – Will Matt Capps get traded? If he does one of these two would get the shot to continue closing. At this point it appears to be Perkins (who arguably is the closer now as it is), but time will tell if he can hold the job for the remainder of the season or if the team wants to give Burton an opportunity.
- Mitchell Boggs – He’ll step in if Jason Motte struggles, though he hasn’t shown any signs of late. Boggs is someone just to keep in mind, but not someone to make a move on right now.
- Kyle Farnsworth – Can Fernando Rodney really keep up what he’s doing? It’s hard to imagine and, when he falters, Farnsworth is the most likely option to step into the role.
- Drew Storen – He continues to work his way back in the minor leagues. Once he returns the spotlight will really shine on Tyler Clippard and every mistake will be magnified. Time will tell, but it would be surprising not to see Storen closing again by year’s end.
- Shawn Tolleson – I’ve spoken about him before, but could he be traded from the Dodgers to a team that could utilize him as a closing option?
- Francisco Rodriguez – Milwaukee Brewers - With last night’s implosion of John Axford, Rodriguez belongs on this list (he’d come in at #2). At the same time, he’s only a short-term answer. There have been trade rumors surrounding Rodriguez and we all know he’s not likely to be on the roster in 2013. The Brewers need to get Axford straightened out and comfortable to closing for next season, so I would fully expect him to return to the role before long (if he even is removed).