Monday, December 21, 2009
Too many 'closers' this winter?
From the Dept. of Cry Me a River, Ken Rosenthal's item about pitchers who happen to have protected some ninth-inning leads last season ...
For some closers, the free-agent game of musical chairs is not likely to end well.
Too many of ‘em are on the market. Not enough well-paying, ninth-inning jobs remain.
Two more closers -- Pirates righty Matt Capps and Nationals righty Mike MacDougal -- became free agents when their respective teams declined to offer them salary arbitration.
The availability of the Padres’ Heath Bell in trade only adds to the squeeze. Bell is more affordable than some of the closers on the open market; his salary in arbitration is likely to be in the $4 million range.
Four teams already have found closers. The Braves signed left-hander Billy Wagner. The Orioles signed left-hander Mike Gonzalez. The Rays traded for righty Rafael Soriano and the Astros signed righty Brandon Lyon and traded for righty Matt Lindstrom.
Only three teams are still looking for closers -- the Tigers, Nationals and Pirates.
This is all quite interesting, but there's one thing missing ...
Quotation marks. Lots and lots of them. As in, For some "closers," the free-agent game ...
And like this: Two more "closers" -- Pirates righty Matt Capps and Nationals righty Mike MacDougal ...
Over the last three seasons, MacDougal has walked nearly as many hitters as he's struck out. He's been exceptionally stingy with the home runs, so (if his luck holds) he's just good enough to pitch in the majors. But he's good enough to protect small leads only in the mind of his agent or (if his luck holds) some addle-brained baseball manager.
Capps is a different story, I think. He seems to have been victimized by poor luck last season, and figures to improve quite a bit on his 5.80 ERA. But as the Pirates general manager noted, Matt Capps doesn't give you anything that dozens of other relief pitchers can't give you. And most of them will come cheaper.
Mariano Rivera is a closer. So is Joe Nathan, and Francisco Cordero, and Jonathan Papelbon. A few others, for sure. But most "closers" have that label simply because some manager decided that this pretty good reliever had more guts than that pretty good reliever. It's foolish for teams to spend millions of extra dollars because some manager had a gut feeling about somebody else's guts.