Early look at the ninth inningby Derek Carty
December 22, 2008
There has been a lot of movement on the closer's market so far this winter, so I thought today would be a good time to take a quick look at how this has affected each team in baseball. Who looks like a great late-round pick, and who figures to disappoint? Here's a breakdown (as organized as I could be) of how I see each team's situation. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me or comment.
+--------------+---------------------+-----------------------+-------------------+ | TEAM | CLOSER | OTHER POSSIBILITY? | FA POSSIBILITY? | +--------------+---------------------+-----------------------+-------------------+ | Angels | Jose Arredondo/Scot Shields | Possible | | Athletics | Joey Devine | Brad Ziegler | Unlikely | | Blue Jays | B.J. Ryan | Trade/Scott Downs | Unlikely | | Indians | Kerry Wood | Entrenched | Not Possible | | Mariners | Brandon Morrow | Several* | Possible | | Orioles | George Sherrill | Trade/Ray/Johnson? | Possible if trade | | Rangers | Frank Francisco/C.J. Wilson | Possible | | Rays | Dan Wheeler | Percival/Balfour | Unlikely | | Red Sox | Jonathan Papelbon | Entrenched | Not Possible | | Royals | Joakim Soria | Entrenched | Not Possible | | Tigers | Fernando Rodney | Joel Zumaya | Possible | | Twins | Joe Nathan | Entrenched | Not Possible | | White Sox | Bobby Jenks | Trade/Several** | Unlikely | | Yankees | Mariano Rivera | Entrenched | Not Possible | | Astros | Jose Valverde | Trade/Doug Brocail | Unlikely | | Braves | Mike Gonazalez | Secure | Unlikely | | Brewers | Villanueve/Riske/McClung/Julio | Possible | | Cardinals | Chris Perez | Very risky (FA) | Likely | | Cubs | Carlos Marmol | Entrenched | Unlikely | | Diamondbacks | Chad Qualls | Tony Pena/Jon Rauch | Unlikely | | Dodgers | Jonathan Broxton | Secure | Possible | | Giants | Brian Wilson | Secure | Very unlikely | | Marlins | Matt Lindstrom | Secure | Unlikely | | Mets | Francisco Rodriguez | Entrenched*** | Not Possible | | Nationals | Joel Hanrahan | Very secure | Unlikely | | Padres | Heath Bell | Very secure | Unlikely | | Phillies | Brad Lidge | Entrenched | Not Possible | | Pirates | Matt Capps | Very secure**** | Possible if trade | | Reds | Francisco Cordero | Entrenched | Not Possible | | Rockies | Huston Street | Manny Corpas | Very unlikely | +--------------+---------------------+-----------------------+-------------------+* Brandon Morrow would close if things stay as they are, but if a starter is moved he could stay in the rotation and there would be a battle for the ninth inning.
** There's talk of maybe trading Bobby Jenks. If he is moved, I'd say Octavio Dotel would be the favorite to close, with Matt Thornton and Scott Linebrink also options.
*** Francisco Rodriguez will definitely close games, but manager Jerry Manuel said J.J. Putz could also get a lot of opportunities. I'll believe it when I see it.
**** Like Jenks, Matt Capps could get traded, though it isn't the most likely scenario. If he is traded, John Grabow might be the favorite to close.
Current free agents
Here are a list of guys who are free agents and could find themselves closing games in 2009 (or are at least more likely to than their free agent peers).
And here are the teams who are currently in the market for a closer (or could conceivably be in the market for one):
As the rest of the teams looking for closers would be small-market teams only able to make small investments, the remaining closer options could sign on cheaply with these teams or with a bigger market team for more money but as a setup man. In the first scenario, these guys would be draftable but would have shorter leashes than they might other years with bigger contracts. In the second, their value would depend on the closer ahead of them.
It'll be very interesting to see how this all plays out, but hopefully this was a succinct explanation of where things stand as of right now and will allow you to start honing in on potential sleepers for 2009. As you know, I am a big proponent of waiting on closers in mixed leagues, so here are the guys I'm currently taking at the end of mock drafts:
- Mike Gonzalez
- Joel Hanrahan
- Heath Bell
- Joey Devine
- Chad Qualls
- Trevor Hoffman
- Dan Wheeler
- Frank Francisco
If you end up with three of these guys, I think you will be in great shape going into the year. Of course there's still a lot of off-season left, but right now I'd be very happy with that. In the recent Rotoworld Mock Draft, I was able to get Devine, Hoffman, and Wheeler after Round 19. As the season approaches, Hoffman's value could go up if he signs on as a closer (which I expect him to).
I'm generally staying away from these guys, at least for now, unless they are the only guys left on the board (in which case I would definitely take Perez and might take Lindstrom, Sherrill, and possibly Zumaya or Villanueva but leave the rest):
- Chris Perez
- Matt Lindstrom
- George Sherrill
- Joel Zumaya
- Carlos Villanueva
- Troy Percival
- C.J. Wilson
- Fernando Rodney
- Non-Villanueva Brewer relievers
I might also consider Scot Shields, Manny Corpas, or J.J. Putz if my preferred guys are gone, my sleepers at other positions are gone, and the league setup warrants.
Derek Carty, 23, has also been published by NBC's Rotoworld, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, and USA Today. This season, he'll be contributing to FanDuel and will be linking to all of his work at DerekCarty.com. In his three years competing in expert leagues, he has won 2 titles with 4 top three finishes, including a LABR NL title in 2009, making him the youngest person to ever win a major expert league title. Derek is a proud graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and is a firm believer in the importance of combining stats and scouting. He welcomes questions via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter.
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