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January 26, 2012

Resident Fantasy Genius

The Closer Carousel

by Derek Carty

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Now that the Blue Jays have signed Francisco Cordero, all of the legitimate closer candidates are now off the free-agent market. As such, now makes for a good time to check out how things look now that the closer carousel has stopped spinning.

2011-2012 Off-Season Closer Carousel

Team

2011 Closer

2012 Status

First-Time Closer

Athletics

Andrew Bailey

Red Sox^

Competition

Blue Jays

Frank Francisco

Mets^

Sergio Santos

Orioles

Kevin Gregg

Demoted

Jim Johnson

Rangers

Neftali Feliz

Rotation

Joe Nathan

Red Sox

Jonathan Papelbon

Phillies^

Andrew Bailey

Twins

Joe Nathan

Rangers^

Matt Capps

White Sox

Sergio Santos

Blue Jays^

Competition

Astros

Mark Melancon

Red Sox

Competition

Cardinals

Fernando Salas

Demoted

Jason Motte

Dodgers

Javy Guerra

Must Compete

Competition

Marlins

Leo Nunez

Demoted

Heath Bell

Mets

Committee

Demoted

Frank Francisco

Padres

Heath Bell

Marlins^

Huston Street

Phillies

Ryan Madson

Reds^

Jonathan Papelbon

Reds

Francisco Cordero

Blue Jays

Ryan Madson

Rockies

Huston Street

Padres^

Rafael Betancourt

^Will close for his new team

All told, at least half of the league will have a different closer come Opening Day 2012. Of the 16 teams that could see turnover in the ninth inning (I say “could” because the Dodgers may just stick with Javy Guerra), just eight of their 2011 closers are guaranteed closing jobs in 2012. The reasons for this run the gauntlet, from pure incompetence (Gregg) to being traded into a set-up role (Melancon) to moving into the rotation (Feliz) to falsifying their identity (Juan Carlos Oviedo, aka Leo Nunez). This kind of heavy turnover will result in six first-time closers for the 2012 season, plus Matt Capps (who closed for a brief period last year) and, potentially, Kenley Jansen.

While new closers have a higher job-security risk, they can often still be undervalued fantasy commodities. Rafael Betancourt and Jason Motte have both shown excellent skills in a set-up role, and Jim Johnson could wind up sliding as a result of that little orange bird on his uniform and his less-than-top-notch strikeout skills. And no matter who ends up coming out on top of the Oakland and Chicago competitions, they’ll have good skills and a well-lit path to 25-plus saves.

In all the commotion, there are four teams whose situations have left such a void that they will need to figure out who their fireman will be during spring training. After dealing away Andrew Bailey, the A’s will let Grant Balfour, Joey Devine, and Fautino De Los Santos duke it out. De Los Santos may be the closer of the future there, but Balfour probably has the inside track in the short-term.

In Chicago, the White Sox dealt Sergio Santos to Toronto but have a plethora of options to replace him in Addison Reed, Matt Thornton, and Jesse Crain. I’d love to see Thornton get another chance to close—he really wasn’t given a fair shake in 2011—and new manager Robin Ventura said yesterday that Thornton is the favorite over youngster Reed.

The picture in Houston is not nearly as rosy. I was actually asked about their situation during my chat earlier this week:

GBSimons (Boise, ID): Derek, who closes in Houston? (Wow, that's a question that is truly only relevant to fantasy players.) Will Lyon be given the chance to stay healthy and hold down the job based on his salary?

Derek Carty: I think Lyon is the favorite at this point, but maybe not the heavy favorite. Wilton Lopez, David Carpenter, and Juan Abreu will also be in the mix, possibly among others. Whoever starts with the job is the best bet to saves 25-plus games.

The biggest losers of the offseason (fantasy-wise; I think it’s pretty clear Ryan Madson is a real-life loser) are Francisco Cordero, Leo Nunez, and Mark Melancon, who were all looking like closers back in September but no longer will be.

Now that the dust has settled (for the most part), here’s how I see the closing situations breaking down for every team in baseball. There are still a few guys left out there who could be viable set-up men at some point in 2012 (Brad Lidge, David Aardsma, Jamey Wright, Chad Qualls, etc.), but most of the actual closers should be set in stone at this point.

American League Closers

Team

Closer

Next-in-Line

New for 2012?

Angels

Jordan Walden

Scott Downs

 

Athletics

Grant Balfour/Joey Devine/Fautino De Los Santos

Competition

Blue Jays

Sergio Santos

Cordero, Frasor, Janssen

New Closer

Indians

Chris Perez

Tony Sipp

 

Mariners

Brandon League

George Sherrill

 

Orioles

Jim Johnson

Kevin Gregg, Pedro Strop

First-Time Closer

Rangers

Joe Nathan

Mike Adams

New Closer

Rays

Kyle Farnsworth

Joel Peralta, Jake McGee

 

Red Sox

Andrew Bailey

Mark Melancon

New Closer

Royals

Joakim Soria

Jonathan Broxton, Greg Holland

 

Tigers

Jose Valverde

Joaquin Benoit

 

Twins

Matt Capps

Glen Perkins

New Closer

White Sox

Matt Thornton/Addison Reed/Jesse Crain

Competition

Yankees

Mariano Rivera

Rafael Soriano, David Robertson

 

National League Closers

Team

Closer

Next-in-Line

New for 2012?

Astros

Brandon Lyon/Wilton Lopez/David Carpenter/Juan Abreu

Competition

Braves

Craig Kimbrel

Jonny Venters

 

Brewers

John Axford

Francisco Rodriguez

 

Cardinals

Jason Motte

Salas, Sanchez, McClellan, Boggs

First-Time Closer

Cubs

Carlos Marmol

Kerry Wood

 

D'Backs

J.J. Putz

David Hernandez

 

Dodgers

Javy Guerra/Kenley Jansen

 Competition

Giants

Brian Wilson

Sergio Romo

 

Marlins

Heath Bell

Juan Carlos Oviedo (aka Leo Nunez)

New Closer

Mets

Frank Francisco

Jon Rauch, Bobby Parnell

New Closer

Nationals

Drew Storen

Tyler Clippard

 

Padres

Huston Street

Luke Gregerson, Andrew Cashner

New Closer

Phillies

Jonathan Papelbon

Antonio Bastardo

New Closer

Pirates

Joel Hanrahan

Evan Meek, Chris Resop

 

Reds

Ryan Madson

Sean Marshall

New Closer

Rockies

Rafael Betancourt

Matt Lindstrom, Matt Belisle

First-Time Closer

 

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