Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2013 [Print without images]

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Closer landscape for September, 2014

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

It happens every year, without fail.

60 Feet 6 Inches

When it comes to saves and the closer role in baseball, change is the name of the game. Sixteen of the 30 major league closer roles changed hands for an extended period of time this season, a fact that should surprise nobody considering that at least that many did so in both 2011 and 2012.

Fantasy owners as a whole are learning; you see more than ever going the cheap route in the saves department. Understanding the volatility of the role is key to your draft-day strategy, though that's not to say you should punt saves entirely.

Today, let's play the prediction game -- both for 2014 as well as the remainder of 2013 -- examining the landscapes of each of the 30 major league bullpens. Picked for each team is: A "2014 Projected Closer," the definition of which is somewhat obvious, though doesn't necessarily mean the Opening Day closer, but rather the one likely to be in that role the majority of 2014. A "2014 Sleeper," which isn't always the top handcuff choice, but rather a pitcher with a skills to rise from nowhere and thrive in the ninth (à la Rex Brothers this year). Finally, a "Rest of 2013" pick, for those of you still in tight late-season races. Both the projected 2014 and rest-of-2013 closers are graded, to provide a sense of their expected value.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Brad Ziegler has pitched well since taking over as closer, going 7-for-9 in save chances with a 3.33 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 24 appearances since July 1. Still, even during that span, he has exhibited the primary flaw in his game, the lack of a dominant pitch to use against left-handers: They have a .315 batting average and .333 wOBA (weighted on-base average) against him, compared to .273 and .293 by right-handers. Next season, therefore, is where it gets interesting, because Ziegler is the one prominent Diamondbacks reliever who isn't yet locked into a 2014 salary -- J.J. Putz ($7 million for 2014), Heath Bell ($9 million, but only $5 million paid by the Diamondbacks) and David Hernandez ($2 million) are the others -- as he's up for arbitration at season's end. Could the Diamondbacks shop Ziegler? Might they prefer to restore Putz, the pitcher with the lengthier track record as closer, to the role given a new season's fresh slate? Won't Ziegler's September have much to say about the team's decision? The answers: A pair of "maybes" and a "probably," but most probable is that the Diamondbacks' 2014 bullpen should look a lot like 2013's. 2014 Projected Closer: J.J. Putz -- C. 2014 Sleeper: Matt Stites. Rest of 2013: Brad Ziegler -- C.

Atlanta Braves: Even with his declining strikeout rate -- he has whiffed 12.9 percent fewer batters this season than last -- and impending arbitration eligibility -- he'll be first-time eligible -- Craig Kimbrel will be the Braves' rest-of-2013 and 2014 closer. Consider: His 37.3 percent whiff rate ranks seventh among qualified relievers, and his 3.2 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) ranks first. 2014 Projected Closer: Craig Kimbrel -- A. 2014 Sleeper: Jordan Walden. Rest of 2013: Craig Kimbrel -- A.

Baltimore Orioles: Jim Johnson's recent struggles are a matter of perspective; he's only 13-for-17 in save chances with a 1.64 WHIP in 20 games since July 1 but he has a 2.45 ERA during that same span. Considering he'll be up for arbitration again after having earned $6.5 million this season, Johnson could be a trade or non-tender candidate this winter, especially because the Orioles have cheaper alternatives in Tommy Hunter (also up for arbitration but earned only $1.82 million this year) and Darren O'Day (set to earn $3.2 million in 2014). The Orioles' winter decisions might be the most important to track. That said, Johnson is the team's closer for the rest of this season, and his performance in September and beyond could drive his 2014 circumstances. 2014 Projected Closer: Jim Johnson -- C. 2014 Sleeper: Tommy Hunter. Rest of 2013: Jim Johnson -- B.

Koji Uehara
Koji Uehara has emerged as the Red Sox's closer and could be in good shape to be in the role in 2014.

Boston Red Sox: This might've been a bullpen in flux until a couple weeks ago, when it was learned following his 55th appearance of 2013 on Aug. 13 that Koji Uehara had reached the threshold to activate a previously unknown $4.25 million vesting option for 2014 on his contract. Heck, he'll probably also reach the 35-games-finished threshold necessary to escalate his salary to $5 million; that would further lock him in as Red Sox 2014 closer. Any doubts about Uehara's durability appear to have vanished, as he has made appearances on consecutive days 12 times this season, has pitched more than one inning seven times, and is on pace to set a professional-best high with 71 1/3 innings (even including his one year in Japan as a full-time reliever in 2007). This is a much firmer bullpen than anyone might be willing to give credit. 2014 Projected Closer: Koji Uehara -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Rubby De La Rosa. Rest of 2013: Koji Uehara -- A.

Chicago White Sox: Addison Reed might be in the midst of another up-and-down campaign as White Sox closer, blowing five of his 41 save chances and on five occasions allowing two or more runs, but despite that he has made many more strides than you might think. He has upped his strikeout (24.5 percent, up from 22.7) and ground-ball rates (35.0 percent, up from 33.5) and lowered his walk rate (5.8 percent, down from 7.6) and well-hit average allowed (.133, down from .234), signs that the 24-year-old is growing as a big league pitcher. Remember, Reed is a pitcher who whiffed 38.0 percent of the hitters he faced, as well as 7.8 times as many as he walked, during his minor league career. There might yet be growth here; he could be a beneath-the-radar 2014 value. 2014 Projected Closer: Addison Reed -- A. 2014 Sleeper: Nate Jones. Rest of 2013: Addison Reed -- B.

Chicago Cubs: Current closer Kevin Gregg isn't especially likely to be back next season, as he's an impending free agent who has blown four of 19 save chances with a 4.73 ERA and 1.73 WHIP in 26 appearances since July 1, and the curious question therefore becomes whether the Cubs, who have spent all of 2013 playing for the future anyway, might audition 2014 closer candidates sometime in September? It's possible, as both Blake Parker (2.02 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) and Pedro Strop (2.19 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) have outpitched Gregg during that same time span, both earning praise during that time as future closer candidates. Strop, who throws a little bit harder, has a little more strikeout potential and a little more experience of the two, is quite the sleeper … both for 2014 and the remainder of 2013. 2014 Projected Closer: Pedro Strop -- C. 2014 Sleeper: Blake Parker. Rest of 2013: Kevin Gregg -- D.

Cincinnati Reds: A year ago, there was much chatter about whether Aroldis Chapman might be converted back into a starting pitcher; the experiment wound up lasting deep into spring training before he was restored to the ninth. Today, after Chapman has tallied the most strikeouts (212), second-best strikeout rate (42.8 percent), sixth-most saves (71) and seventh-best ERA (2.09) among relievers with 75 or more innings since the beginning of 2012, there's considerably less debate about his future role. Underwhelming performance behind him in the Reds bullpen has driven much of that, but Chapman's own desire to close -- it's a major reason he was switched back in March -- has contributed. He'll both finish 2013 and begin 2014 one of fantasy's three most valuable closers, and he's signed for an affordable $3 million next season. 2014 Projected Closer: Aroldis Chapman -- A. 2014 Sleeper: J.J. Hoover. Rest of 2013: Aroldis Chapman -- A.

Chris Perez
Chris Perez seemingly has more security as the Indians closer than in recent years.

Cleveland Indians: For the second consecutive winter, Chris Perez will be up for arbitration (he and the Indians agreed to a $7.3 million deal this year), and that means potentially another offseason of trade rumors. But there are three key differences this time: Perez has been less critical of his surroundings this year, competition for his role has diminished and the Indians, now a competitive team, will probably decide they need a veteran force holding down the ninth inning in 2014. He's 15-for-17 in save chances with a 2.48 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 28 appearances since returning from a shoulder injury, and much more likely to be back in 2014 than could have been said a year ago about his 2013. (Which, naturally, means he's destined for a trade this winter, right?) 2014 Projected Closer: Chris Perez -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Cody Allen. Rest of 2013: Chris Perez -- B.

Colorado Rockies: Rafael Betancourt's impending Tommy John surgery clears up what could have been a muddled Rockies bullpen the remainder of this year plus next, as he'll miss practically all of 2014, presumably won't have his $4.25 million option picked up and might be destined for retirement. That thrusts Rex Brothers, the long-time "closer of the future," into the ninth-inning role. Though Brothers' command had come into question at earlier stages of his career, since his first save of the season on May 22 (the second of his career) he has been outstanding, going 14-for-15 in save chances with a 2.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 27.8 percent strikeout rate in 39 appearances. He has finally arrived as a top-10 fantasy closer candidate, and he might well enter 2014 ranked among that group. 2014 Projected Closer: Rex Brothers -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Chad Bettis. Rest of 2013: Rex Brothers -- A.

Detroit Tigers: Both the Tigers' eighth- and ninth-inning options, Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit, have expiring contracts (though Veras' deal carries with it a $3.25 million option). Would the Tigers, who entered this year with a clouded closer situation, dare enter 2014 with a similar arrangement? Things could look eerily similar: Bruce Rondon, who has four holds, a 2.84 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 26 appearances since his most recent recall, might again enter the winter surrounded by "future closer" buzz. This time, though, it'd be warranted. Rondon has lowered his walk rate -- previously the most significant flaw in his game -- from 14.5 percent during his first four professional seasons to 11.0 in Triple-A and 9.2 percent in the majors this year; he has walked just 8.6 percent of hitters since his June 28 recall. This could be a zag-when-others-zig bullpen in every sense: The Tigers might (but shouldn't) sign a veteran finisher, and fantasy owners might (but shouldn't) be wary of trusting Rondon buzz the second time around if no one is brought in. 2014 Projected Closer: Bruce Rondon -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Drew Smyly. Rest of 2013: Joaquin Benoit -- A.

Houston Astros: The question will be asked once more, does it really matter who closes for a 100-loss team? Jose Veras was the bargain reliever brought in to close this season, boosting his stock to swap midseason for future chips, and the Astros should well do it again this winter. For the rest of this season, expect the team to mix and match with the precious few save chances they have to give. Next season, the team might seek a low-priced candidate, such as  a Joba Chamberlain, Jesse Crain, Jason Frasor, LaTroy Hawkins, Carlos Marmol, Matt Thornton or even Veras himself, to allow their youngsters time to develop. But the major difference between these seasons is that, by 2014's end, the Astros might have something in a Kevin Chapman, Josh Fields or Chia-Jen Lo. 2014 Projected Closer: Joba Chamberlain -- D. Yes, it's a total guess. 2014 Sleeper: Kevin Chapman. Rest of 2013: Josh Fields -- F.

Greg Holland
After a slow start, Greg Holland is back to being a lights-out closer once again.

Kansas City Royals: Twenty-two weeks ago, it appeared that there was a changing of the guard in the Royals' ninth inning; Greg Holland had suffered back-to-back poor outings and lightning-armed Kelvin Herrera appeared to have taken over. But within a matter of days, Herrera had endured struggles of his own, Holland had recaptured the role and was destined for a 36-for-37 run of save chances with a 0.69 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and 42.0 percent K rate in his past 52 appearances. Only the aforementioned Craig Kimbrel has been a more valuable fantasy closer during that time, as Holland has established himself a clear top-five option both for the rest of this season and 2014. 2014 Projected Closer: Greg Holland -- A. 2014 Sleeper: Luke Hochevar. Rest of 2013: Greg Holland -- A.

Los Angeles Angels: Is this Ernesto Frieri-Dane De La Rosa closer "partnership" really that? De La Rosa has set up Frieri in three straight, all of which were finished off successfully by Frieri, so it seems that the latter might be Mike Scioscia's preferred option. Certainly fantasy owners should be rooting for that; Frieri's strikeout potential (33.9 percent rate) is considerably greater than De La Rosa's (21.6). As for next season, the Angels as a team are destined to undergo change -- probably manager, general manager or both, before even addressing the roster -- so there's a good chance the role will belong to someone else come Opening Day. The Angels, never shy bidding free-agent dollars, seem likely to sign someone proven. 2014 Projected Closer: Joaquin Benoit -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Garrett Richards. Rest of 2013: Ernesto Frieri -- C.

Los Angeles Dodgers: As expected, Kenley Jansen captured this role with brilliant early-season pitching, and it shouldn't go ignored that he has slashed his walk rate nearly in half (5.0 percent this season, after 8.7 in 2012). He has quickly elevated himself to one of the most valuable closers, both on the field and in fantasy, in the game, and will both finish 2013 and enter 2014 with little to no questions. The better question: If a handcuff is even necessary, would it be Brian Wilson back to handle the eighth, or will it be Paco Rodriguez? 2014 Projected Closer: Kenley Jansen -- A. 2014 Sleeper: Paco Rodriguez. Rest of 2013: Kenley Jansen -- A.

Miami Marlins: The cost-cutting Marlins are always seeking ways to slash payroll, and closer might be one position at which they'll attempt to do so, considering Steve Cishek will be due a modest pay bump via arbitration from his $505,000 earnings this season. After all, this won't be a contending team, meaning no need for a pricey closer, and the Marlins have several intriguing young arms they could test besides: Mike Dunn, the team's holds leader (16); A.J. Ramos, one of the team's better strikeout artists (25.4 percent K rate); and Arquimedes Caminero, the team's hardest-throwing reliever, to name three. Don't be surprised if Cishek is moved to a contending team, though one more likely to use him in a setup/closer insurance capacity, like the Red Sox, Angels or Yankees. 2014 Projected Closer: A.J. Ramos -- C. 2014 Sleeper: Arquimedes Caminero. Rest of 2013: Steve Cishek -- B.

Jim Henderson
Jim Henderson has ben relatively effective this year and comes with a low price tag that should keep him as the Brewers closer in the near future.

Milwaukee Brewers: Jim Henderson might enter 2014 the most cost-effective closer in baseball, owner of a 25-for-33 performance in saves, a 2.67 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in his brief career, and a year shy of arbitration, meaning he probably won't earn much more than his $492,000 price tag of 2013. Though he has been inconsistent at times, not to mention missed time with a hamstring issue earlier this year, his Brewers have taken the go-cheap bullpen route in seasons past, meaning they might only add setup/insurance policies on the cheap behind him. A possibility that shouldn't shock: Fernando Rodney finds a big-money deal challenging, at which point he lands here as competition. 2014 Projected Closer: Jim Henderson -- C. 2014 Sleeper: Brandon Kintzler. Rest of 2013: Jim Henderson -- B.

Minnesota Twins: If not Henderson, Glen Perkins might enter next season one of the game's best closer bargains. He'll earn $3.75 million, considerably more, but he also has the 12th-most saves (32) and ranks ninth among pure relievers on our Player Rater despite his pitching for a 60-win team. This is the sneaky you-know-what-you'll-get bullpen. 2014 Projected Closer: Glen Perkins -- A. 2014 Sleeper: Jared Burton. Rest of 2013: Glen Perkins -- A.

New York Mets: A herniated disc appears to have ended Bobby Parnell's solid 2013 season prematurely, and it could cast some doubt upon his future with the team, being that he's up for arbitration after earning $1.7 million this season. Will the Mets go the cost-cutting route at closer this winter? Might they seek a more proven alternative? Or could they go status quo? Parnell should still be affordable; the latter seems the most likely bet. He'll keep the job warm until Vic Black, acquired from the Pirates in the Marlon Byrd-John Buck deal, proves ready. As for the remainder of this year, LaTroy Hawkins, 6-for-7 in save chances albeit with a 5.56 ERA, should be the leading candidate. 2014 Projected Closer: Bobby Parnell -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Vic Black. Rest of 2013: LaTroy Hawkins -- D.

David Robertson
Is David Robertson automatically going to take over the closer's role from Mariano Rivera in 2014?

New York Yankees: For the first time since 1997 -- that's 17 winters -- the Yankees will enter the offseason seeking a closer, barring soon-to-be-44-year-old Mariano Rivera having a sudden change of heart about retirement. That spawns lots of questions about this previously rock-solid gig: Is primary setup man David Robertson ready to inherit the role, à la Rivera from John Wetteland? Will the Yankees, known historically for their interest in big-name free agents, seek a more proven choice? Is their $185 million payroll goal still in place for 2014, and if so, might that mean some lower-priced, less-experienced options are brought in for competition? All signs point to Robertson getting the ball and being similarly successful, but pitch efficiency has been a hidden problem of his: He has averaged 4.10 pitches per batter faced and 15.91 per inning; Rivera's numbers are 3.69 and 15.14. He's no guarantee. 2014 Projected Closer: David Robertson -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Mark Montgomery. Rest of 2013: Mariano Rivera -- A.

Oakland Athletics: Though there's no denying Grant Balfour's near-elite fantasy value the remainder of this season -- he's the No. 13 pure relief pitcher on our Player Rater and he's 17-for-19 in save chances with a 3.18 ERA since July 1 -- his 2014 circumstances are sure to come into question. The Athletics have a history of "going cheap" at closer; they might not be willing to bring back a 35-year-old at a more-than-$5-million-a-year cost. Besides, they have an elite setup man who could "graduate" into the role in Ryan Cook, who has nine holds, a 1.09 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 25 appearances since July 1. The difficult thing to predict: Where does Balfour land? 2014 Projected Closer: Ryan Cook -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Sean Doolittle. Rest of 2013: Grant Balfour -- B.

Philadelphia Phillies: No current closer has more money due him after this season than Jonathan Papelbon; he's owed another $26 million in 2014-15, and he has a $13 million option for 2016 that vests with either 55 games finished in 2015 or 100 games finished in 2014-15 combined. That'll drive the Phillies' closer decisions, and just as it did in July, it'll diminish their chances of trading him this winter, though they'll make every effort to do so. Hey, at least Papelbon's owners can rest cozy knowing their closer might possess the longest leash of anyone. Now the question is whether their shabby middle-relief corps can get leads to him. 2014 Projected Closer: Jonathan Papelbon -- C. 2014 Sleeper: Justin De Fratus. Rest of 2013: Jonathan Papelbon -- B.

Jason Grilli
Will Jason Grilli, one of the biggest early-season surprises at closer, return the role when he comes off the DL?

Pittsburgh Pirates: Jason Grilli, one of the most valuable closers in fantasy the first half of this season, is on the mend from a forearm injury, spawning a great debate in this bullpen. Will he close again this year, after Mark Melancon has gone 8-for-9 in saves with a 0.60 ERA in his absence? And if he does, how will the team handle the two this winter, knowing that Melancon is due a raise from his current $521,000 salary in arbitration? The easy answer is that Grilli will return to the ninth and Melancon the eighth within the next two weeks and into 2014, but when there are two potentially elite relievers on the roster, it's often anyone's gig. 2014 Projected Closer: Jason Grilli -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Mark Melancon. Rest of 2013: Jason Grilli -- B.

St. Louis Cardinals: The popular prediction this winter will be that setup man Trevor Rosenthal, a harder thrower and better strikeout artist than Edward Mujica, will "graduate" to closer-ship next season, what with Mujica set for free agency at year's end. But before you leap to conclusions, remember that Mujica wasn't that expensive this year ($3.2 million), meaning he could return at an affordable rate, the Cardinals could entertain the thought of restoring Rosenthal to a starter's role, and the team could have former closer Jason Motte back in the mix by next May. There are several directions that this team could go, but considering how concerned the Cardinals have been about their starters' workloads, they might opt for status quo rather than have to scramble to find quality relievers to ease the strain on the rotation. 2014 Projected Closer: Edward Mujica -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Jason Motte. Rest of 2013: Edward Mujica -- A.

San Diego Padres: The Padres have been rumored to be shopping Huston Street for so long, they're sure to be surrounded by such chatter through another winter. He's still affordable, however -- he'll earn $7 million in 2014 and has a $7 million team option for 2015 -- and is a perfect 11-for-11 in save chances with 15 1/3 scoreless innings in 15 appearances since the All-Star break, restoring his stock to the upper tier of rest-of-this-year finishers. Street, considering both cost and performance, is also a virtual lock to be his team's Opening Day 2014 closer … even if he's no longer in San Diego by then. (Hello, Boston Red Sox annual winter closer trade acquisition?) 2014 Projected Closer: Huston Street -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Brad Boxberger. Rest of 2013: Huston Street -- A.

San Francisco Giants: Apparently, Sergio Romo is legit, and the Giants have been much more apt to push him this year than in the past. On 15 occasions he has pitched back-to-back days, including four instances of him pitching on three consecutive days, three times he has pitched more than an inning, he has already tied his career high of 88 left-handed batters faced and he's on pace for 58 1/3 innings, the second-highest total of his career. He'll enter -- and presumably finish -- 2014 the team's unquestioned closer, but it's possible that another disappointing year might result in the team shopping him midseason and/or testing 2015 candidates later in the season. 2014 Projected Closer: Sergio Romo -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Heath Hembree. Rest of 2013: Sergio Romo -- B.

Danny Farquhar
Danny Farquhar has been a great late-season find for saves, but will he be doing it again in 2014?

Seattle Mariners: For the second consecutive year, the Mariners found themselves a productive closer off the scrap heap, as Danny Farquhar has been to this season what Tom Wilhelmsen was to 2012. This pattern, not to mention Farquhar's 11-for-12 record in save chances, 1.96 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in 20 appearances since the All-Star break, makes it easy to suggest Mariners closers as excellent down-the-stretch choices. It's next year that's always in question. Farquhar is a 26-year-old who has remade himself, going from sidearm to more over-the-top, so his chances at extending his success into 2014 are good. That said, similar things might've been said about Wilhelmsen a year ago, and neither had extensive experience in the role at the time. In addition, Wilhemsen himself might be in the mix come spring training. Here's an even wilder thought: What if 2014 follows the same pattern, except it's Carter Capps breaking out? 2014 Projected Closer: Danny Farquhar -- C. 2014 Sleeper: Carter Capps. Rest of 2013: Danny Farquhar -- B.

Tampa Bay Rays: Fernando Rodney's performance this season has regressed, but no one expected him to repeat his record-setting 0.60 ERA, not to mention he's 18-for-21 in save chances with a 1.98 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in his past 29 appearances to at least recapture some of the form he showed last year. Still, the last time the Rays found a bargain, eventual-breakout closer like this, they let him depart via free agency: That was Rafael Soriano in 2010. Rodney is a free agent this winter, and the Rays might choose to go the bargain route again, considering their track record of success filling the role as well as his declining skills comparative to his probable price increase. This bullpen is anyone's guess; Joel Peralta (signed for $3 million in 2014) might be the team's closer come Opening Day 2014 but it could be anyone's gig come year's end. 2014 Projected Closer: Joel Peralta -- C. 2014 Sleeper: Jake McGee. Rest of 2013: Fernando Rodney -- B.

Texas Rangers: Though Joe Nathan has a $9 million option for 2014, both he and the Rangers have the right to void it if they wish; he earned his right with more than 100 games finished since the beginning of last season. By all rights, both sides should want him back as closer, but could the Rangers entertain the idea of letting him go and using the cheaper Joakim Soria ($5.5 million salary in 2014)? This is a deeper bullpen than you might think -- Tanner Scheppers also has future-closer makeup, and Neftali Feliz could always re-emerge as a candidate -- so a change isn't entirely out of the question. 2014 Projected Closer: Joe Nathan -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Joakim Soria. Rest of 2013: Joe Nathan -- A.

Toronto Blue Jays: Since the beginning of 2012, Casey Janssen is 49-for-54 in save chances with a 2.63 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 111 appearances, while no other Blue Jays reliever has more than two saves or a lower WHIP. He has quietly transformed himself into one of the better big league closers -- a top-15 option among the 30 at any given time -- and he has an affordable, $4 million team option for 2014. There's no reason to anticipate change here. 2014 Projected Closer: Casey Janssen -- B. 2014 Sleeper: Steve Delabar. Rest of 2013: Casey Janssen -- B.

Washington Nationals: Though he's signed for 2014 at $11 million, Rafael Soriano has hardly proved a trustworthy closer, either in the real game or in fantasy. Since the All-Star break, he's 11-for-13 in saves with a 6.62 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 19 appearances, and his six blown saves this year rank sixth most in baseball. It's for that reason that the Nationals face an interesting dilemma: Soriano's contract has a $14 million option for 2015 that vests with 120 games finished between 2013-14; he has 49 so far this season. Might the team entertain a switch next season, what with viable candidates Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen on hand, knowing that it'd prevent Soriano from reaching that threshold? The smart bet has Soriano entering next season the unquestioned closer -- his salary almost assures it -- but if there's a closer role with tremendous odds of changing hands, it's this one. Storen was once this team's future closer, he has one save, three holds and a 2.00 ERA in 10 appearances since a brief tune-up in Triple-A and he's a natural 2014 sleeper. 2014 Projected Closer: Rafael Soriano -- C. 2014 Sleeper: Drew Storen. Rest of 2013: Rafael Soriano -- C.