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January 26, 2012
Resident Fantasy Genius
The Closer Carousel
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
^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?
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
National League Closers