Monday, December 5, 2011

Who Should Close in Cincinnati?

Who will shut the door
for the Reds in 2012?
One of the big concerns that the Redlegs need to address this offseason is the role of closer. Who will shut the door in 2012? John Fay has reported that the Reds and Francisco Cordero appear to be far from any sort of an agreement, and even if they did agree, it would be something to the tune of 1yr/$7MM. The Reds probably would not prefer to do a deal like that and I agree with them. There is always the option of trading for a closer, but with the way closers seem to be overvalued these days, it would be tough to trade for one and not feel like the organization gave up too much, as we saw with the Yonder Alonso for Andrew Bailey rumors. So let's take a look at the in-house candidates, in no particular order, who could get the call. Keep in mind that Dusty Baker is opposed to a closer by committee situation saying, "The one thing we don’t want to do is have a closer by committee."

LHP Bill Bray - If I was making the decision, I would hand Bray the ball in the first save situation of 2012. In his career, he is 13-12 with a 3.67 ERA with three career saves. Right handed batters have hit just .264 against him, while he holds left handers to an even lower .225 average. His SO/9 rate is 8.6, and just for fun, his career in the 9th inning consists of 27 innings pitched with a 3.00 ERA. Plus he's left-handed. That always seems to mess with people or intimidate them for some reason. I think Bray has more than proven he deserves a chance to close for this team. To me, he's a guy who is probably relatively unknown to fans of the rest of the league, but we as Reds fans know what he can do. He should get the chance to make a name for himself as a successful closer, and be what would probably be considered one of the bigger surprises in the league in 2012. BRAY 2012

RHP Jose Arredondo - Arredondo had a nice 2011 coming off Tommy John surgery. I'm only gonna look at his numbers with Cincy since they are post surgery. He was 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA last year, holding righties to a .218 average, and lefties to a .238 mark. His SO/9 rate is 8.2 and he had relative (although its a tiny sample size) success in the 9th inning with a 1.80 ERA in five innings. He has zero career saves. I like Arredondo a lot, but I'd still rather go with the more experience Bray at this point. If Arredondo has an immaculate spring that was way better than the other candidates, I wouldn't be upset to see the Reds trying him at closer to start the season though.

RHP Nick Masset - Did anyone else just shudder a bit? Masset sometimes gets an unfair rap for being terrible, though his career numbers aren't as terrible. He's 16-14 with a 3.78 ERA and a SO/9 rate of 7.7. Righties hit .262 against him while lefties are at .255. The problem is that he always seems to give up runs in big spots, which is not a good attribute for a potential closer. He's had the most 9th inning experience of any of the candidates mentioned here, with 63 IP and a 4.86 ERA. He's probably not high on the short list for closers, but he's surely on the tail end of it in case no one else can do it. He's better off sticking with a set up role though, and hoping that Reds' fans will cut him some slack, or convincing them by shutting people down in the late innings when he's called upon from the bullpen.

RHP Sam LeCure - LeCure is one of my favorite guys on the team. He's always got a good attitude and has done whatever the Reds have asked of him in order to contribute to the big league club. To me, though he just doesn't scream closer. He's great to have in long relief, and for spot starts, and I think think that's the role for which he's best suited. He's 4-6 with a 4.01 ERA in his career between the rotation and bullpen. His BAA is nice with .230 vs. righties and .234 vs. lefties. His SO/9 is right there with the others at 7.9, and he's got a 1.42 ERA over 6.1 IP in the 9th inning, not to mention that mustache. Maybe we could give the 'stache a shot in the 9th. Like I said though, he seems much more valuable to this team in his current role. *Disclaimer: Just remember that I said that, because now he'll probably go on to be one of the most prolific closers in the game's history. I'm that bad at prognostication.

RHP Brad Boxberger - I'm going to go ahead and tab Boxberger as the closer of the future for the Reds. I absolutely am infatuated with this kid and he has yet to throw a major league pitch. In his minor league career, he is 7-14 with a 3.75 ERA. Last year, between AA Carolina and AAA Louisville, he was 2-4 with a 2.03 ERA and he picked up all 11 of his saves to date. His SO/9 was 11.9 and as far as opposing batters while he was with Louisville, righties hit .231 and lefties hit .292. He had a really strong Arizona Fall League as well, further establishing himself as a late innings power arm. Barring a completely awful spring training, I'd say Boxberger will start the season in the Reds' bullpen and will pick up a few saves towards the middle-to-end of the season. He will then be the favorite to assume the closer role in 2013. I still think Bray gets the nod going into 2012, but that he will eventually relinquish the role to Boxberger.

Unless the Reds trade for a legitimate closer, I'd guess that one of the above mentioned guys will start the 2012 season at closer. There's been talk of signing an inexpensive veteran arm like Frank Francisco or Octavio Dotel, and that would be okay to me as far as helping shore up the 'pen, but I still think our in-house options for closer are better than either one of those two guys. Edinson Volquez is a dark horse candidate mentioned by John Fay because he has a plus fastball and a good changeup and it seems his time as a starter in Cincinnati is all but over, unless he has a serious revelation this offseason. Aroldis Chapman is still a name to watch as well, if he's unable to transition successfully to a starter.

I want to hear from you! Tweet at me @RedlegsWriter. Who do you want the Reds' closer to be in 2012? Do you want an in-house guy OR is there someone out there for whom you're dying to trade OR should the Reds bring back Cordero at any cost? Comment and tweet us!

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