It’s time to continue our journey around the league, looking at each team’s closer situation. The AL Central is home to one of the most fluid closing situations and also one of the most stable options in the league. Let’s take a look at their updated situation, as well as the other three teams in the division:
Chicago White Sox
Closer: Bobby Jenks
Waiting in the Wings: Sergio Santos
Closer of the Future: Matt Thornton
The White Sox closer situation has been in flux all year long, with questions surrounding Jenks’ ability floating around. He is currently sporting a 4.40 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, though injuries to J.J. Putz and Thornton have basically removed all the potential competition, temporarily. Thornton has 5 saves this season, to go with a 2.66 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, not to mention 64 K over 47.1 innings. He seems like a lock to move into the role for 2011, with Jenks likely heading out of town (he is not signed for next year). If you are in a keeper league and Thornton is still sitting on the waiver wire, he’s certainly worth stashing immediately.
Closer: Chris Perez
Waiting in the Wings: Rafael Perez
Closer of the Future: Chris Perez
When the Indians traded Kerry Wood to the Yankees at the Trade Deadline, they opened the door for Chris Perez to finally assume full-time closing duties. He had been acting as the closer at times this season, saving 16 games thus far with a 2.06 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Perez was acquired last year from the Cardinals in the deal that sent Mark DeRosa to St. Louis and at the time, he was instantly dubbed the team’s closer of the future. At this point, there appears to be little reason to discuss any other option. He should hold the job for the long haul.
Closer: Jose Valverde
Waiting in the Wings: Phil Coke
Closer of the Future: Daniel Schlereth
It was long thought that Joel Zumaya would eventually assume closer duties, but one injury after another has completely killed his potential. For now, however, Jose Valverde has a firm hold on the job. Signed in January, he scored a two-year deal with an option for 2012. Overall he has been great (2.83 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 24 saves), but things certainly haven’t been good since the All-Star Break. He’s carrying a 7.80 ERA, having walked 13 batters in 15 innings. Yes, it is troubling, but the Tigers don’t really have anywhere else to turn. Schlereth has the stuff to be a closer in the future, with 60 Ks in 49.1 innings at Triple-A, but he needs to get his control in order (in that same span, he walked 34 batters). In 9.0 Major League innings, he’s walked four. That’s just not going to cut it.
Kansas City Royals
Closer: Joakim Soria
Waiting in the Wings: Blake Wood
Closer of the Future: Joakim Soria
We can discuss the trade rumors as much as we want, but the fact is that the Royals have one of the elite closers in the game at an extremely discounted rate. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts he is signed for 2011 at $4 million, then the team has options for the subsequent three seasons ($6 million, $8 million and $8.75 million). He already has 125 saves with a 2.04 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. I know having an elite closer on a bad team is a luxury, but with the contract they have him under, can you say that the team will, without a doubt, not be competing by 2014? Unless they are absolutely blown away, there really is no reason for the team to move him.
Closer: Matt Capps
Waiting in the Wings: Jon Rauch/Brian Fuentes
Closer of the Future: Anthony Slama
The Twins are just accumulating late inning options, aren’t they? First they developed Rauch. Then, they acquired Capps in a Trade Deadline deal. Now, they are awarded Fuentes off waivers. The fact is, Capps should hold down the job, unless the wheels fall off, with Rauch and Fuentes forming a dynamic righty/lefty combo to bridge from the starter to Capps (and get the occasional save). It’s certainly a nice situation to have, especially for a team with questionable late-inning relief early in the season. As for moving forward, that’s the million-dollar question. Joe Nathan should be ready for 2011, and you would think would ultimately return to the closer’s role once ready. However, he’ll be 36-years old and not a long-term solution. While the Twins continue not giving Slama a real look, he just continues to thrive at Triple-A. The 26-year old has a 2.23 ERA and 71 Ks in 40.2 innings, yet has gotten just 4.2 innings of Major League experience this season. Sooner or later, they will be forced to see what he can do.
What are your thoughts on these situations?
Make sure to check out our look at the other divisions in baseball: