More Closer Speculation

I forgot to mention the closer situation of the Chicago Cubs this afternoon, and there have been some developments in San Francisco worth noting.

On May 18, the Cubs were reportedly close to moving Ryan Dempster to the rotation and naming Carlos Marmol the closer.  They decided against it, but on May 20, Dempster announced to the media that he would indeed be joining the rotation.  Less than an hour later, after speaking with manager Lou Piniella, he went back and said that he would be staying in the bullpen.  On May 22, several papers reported that the Cubs were grooming Angel Guzman for the closer’s role with the intention of moving Dempster to the rotation.  Dempster was cited as Guzman’s mentor as he attempts to make the shift.

It’s difficult to say what is really going on here, and Lou Piniella isn’t giving us any hints.  “You people keep harping on the same subject. Forget the subject. You’ll know soon enough. Thank God, you don’t have to make the decisions.”  The line, “you’ll know soon enough,” might indicate that a change is in order.  The fact that Guzman’s final start came on May 17th and his first relief appearance came on May 22 also seems to indicate he is being groomed for a job closing.

In 7 relief appearances spanning 12.0 innings this year, Guzman has struck out 11 batters and walked 4.  His groundball rate over this time has been an even 50%.  Definitely good enough numbers to be a closer, but we are looking at a small sample size.

For now, I’d say Dempster and Guzman are both worth owning in all leagues.  I’d try to sell Dempster now for two reasons.  The first is that he would not be worth owning as a starter in most leagues.  The second is that his peripherals aren’t very good, anyway.  If Guzman is indeed in line to become the closer soon, now is the time to grab him.  Hold onto him until we’re sure one way or the other.  He gave up 3 earned runs tonight – despite 1 K, 0 BBs, and 2 GBs in his inning of work – further distorting the picture.

After the Armando Benitez fiasco last night, Brad Hennessey converted a save opportunity tonight.  Benitez hadn’t pitched two days in a row and seemed to be capable of pitching, so this could be a vote of no confidence for him.  Hang onto Benitez, but Hennessey should be carefully watched from here on out.  He should probably be picked up in moderate to deep leagues in case Benitez falters again.  His peripherals are the best they’ve been in three years, though, so I wouldn’t bet too heavily on another Benitez meltdown.  It’ll be interesting to see who gets the next save opportunity and what statements are made about tonight’s ninth inning.

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