Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Twins Spring Blog-Closer Options

Well, i'm sure you've heard by now the closer Joe Nathan's season is in serious jeopardy with a torn ligament in his right elbow. He will rest for two weeks and see if he can tough it out and pitch this season, but if he cannot, he will have surgery and will miss the entire 2010 season. And from what i've heard there is a 90% probability that he will require surgery. So the question now is who will shut the door for the Twins? I will look at some in-house options and some players the Twins could possibly go after.

In-House Options

Matt Guerrier-Right Matty G is the clubhouse leader to assume the role of closer. Last year he had 79 appearances (Most in MLB) and had a 2.36 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP. Guerrier was a closer in the minor leagues before the Twins kept him as a middle reliever. He did have a 5 out save last year on a day where Joe Nathan was unavailable due to throwing 50+ pitches the night before. He looked a bit shaky in that outing giving up two hits and a run to Kansas City. But none the less Ron Gardenhire has a lot of confidence in Guerrier so this job is his to lose.

Jon Rauch-Rauch is the other leading canidate to become the closer in 2010. He does have MLB closing experience with 24 career saves, 18 coming in 2008 with Washington and Arizona. He did have 6 blown saves in the same year while posting a 4.14 ERA. At 6'10" he brings an intimidation factor to the mound that you might not find with Matty Guerrier. Rauch was a late season acquisition for the Twins in 2009 going 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in his 17 games in Minnesota.

Pat Neshek-For those thinking that Neshek should be the closer in Nathan's absense, you can dream on. I can't see Gardy and his staff putting Neshek in the closer's role right off the bat after coming off Tommy John Surgery in the winter of 2008/2009. If he pitches very well you might see him in the role, if Guerrier or Rauch falter. But don't take that to the bank. Even though Neshek has a career 2.91 ERA and 0.96 career WHIP, I can't see him coming out in the ninth.The Twins will just keep him as a middle relief/setup man to get his confidence back.

Jose Mijares-A lot has to happen for this job to fall on the left arm of Mijares. In the past season and a half the Twins have used him as a left handed specialist. He has done well with the job posting a 2.12 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in that time. He's just 26 years old and entering his second full season in the big leagues. And his performance in last years playoffs show he might need another year or two before you can seriously talk about him as a closer.

Jesse Crain-Right now, Crain lacks the consistency to be put in the closer conversation. In the past four seasons his ERA has gone from 3.52 to 5.51 to 3.59 and finally up to 4.70 in 2009. It's very unlikely the Twins would trust Crain in the ninth with the way his career has gone so far. All we can hope for is he remains effective as a middle reliever.

Anthony Slama-Slama is not on the 40-man roster so no i do not think he will be in the big leagues to start the season. But he could find his way up here during the season. If he hasn't been dubbed the closer of the future yet, he should be. Last season he posted a 25 save 2.48 ERA season with AA-New Britain before getting called up to AAA-Rochester where he got 4 saves before the season ended. His career ERA in the minors is 1.86 with a career 1.04 WHIP. At this rate, he should be in Twins pinstripes full time by 2012.

Possible Acquistions

Heath Bell (SD)-Last year no one knew if Bell could close games for the Padres. Now everyone knows he can. He notched 42 saves while posting a 2.71 ERA in 2009 after the departure of Trevor Hoffman. In the offseason he signed a 1 year $4 million deal to avoid arbitration, and if he can continue to perform like he did the Padres might move him to save some money as he will earn a big contract in the upcoming offseason. And if the offer is right, the Friars will move him. You may recall the Twins and Padres had discussions in the offseason regarding 3B kevin Kouzmanoff so there would be some familiarity with the two sides. The Pads were very high on pitcher Glen Perkins and if he is still with the Twins he would be an almost certain part of a potential deal. But the Twins will have to throw in a high prized prospect or two to get the Padres attention if they choose to go after Bell. But are they willing to give into the high price?

George Sherrill (LAD)-If the Twins were looking for a possibly cheaper option, former Oriole closer George Sherrill could be available. Sherrill was a 2008 all star with Baltimore, while notching 82 Saves in his one and a half seasons there. He did carry a 3.67 ERA and 1.34 WHIP with the O's, but you gotta give the guy props for having decent numbers while closing games in the AL East. He is now the setup man for the Dodgers and with the ownership struggles, the Dodgers might be looking to cut some payroll during the year, and Sherrill would be a likely canidate with a shortage on good closers out there. The question arises again would the Twins be willing to give up higher profile prospects to get this guy to fill their hole at closer?

John Smoltz (FA)-Smoltz has a Dennis Eckersley type of career. Starter, closer, Starter. He is a 6 time all star as a starter and a two time all star as a closer. But, his success has come in the National League. He gave the American League a try last year with Boston and posted a 8.32 ERA in 8 games before being waived and claimed by St. Louis where he had a 4.32 ERA. Rumors has Smoltz signing with a National League team at some point this year, but if the price is right the Twins could come calling with a tryout for the ninth inning role. And Smoltz could go for it at this point in his career where he could be more effective pitching in just one inning. And he would also bring some great experience to a pitching staff that does not have much in postseason play. But again, Smoltz has to be open to trying the American League again, has to be open to closing, and needs to come at a bargain price which wouldn't be until mid-season. He would probably be conisdered a last resort.

No comments: