What has happened to the closer?

yankees pitcher holding hat in hand and glove in the other

With the recent trade of Jim Johnson by the Orioles, and the amount of closers still on the market, the question in the title has merit. It seems in recent years the big name, big salaried, 9th inning shutdown closer has been devalued to the point where one can be acquired for a third-string second baseman. The question is, why??

If you look at the last few World Champions, it may offer a clue as to why. The pitcher that got the last out for the Red Sox in 2013 was our old friend Koji Uehara, who didn’t move into that role until late June, after the Sox has already gone through Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey (and lost both due to injury) and Junichi Tazawa, who couldn’t handle the role and went back to set up duty. Before Koji there was the Giants’ Sergio Romo, who replaced an injured Brian Wilson in midseason, after a failed audition by Santiago Casilla. The Cardinals had incumbent closer Ryan Franklin going into the 2011 season, but Jason Motte got the last important outs in October for Tony LaRussa that year.

The thinking in baseball has changed. Gone are the days of Jonathan Papelbon getting four years at $52 million from the Phillies (he was so important to their success last season they were rumored to be ready to deal him before the trade deadline). And, apparently, also gone are the days of an arbitration-eligible closer with consecutive seasons of 50 or more saves in Baltimore. Personal feeling about the trade aside, I have a hard time imagining paying Johnson $10 million to close games this season, which could have happened if he had won his arbitration case.

Call this new era what you will, but I choose “The Mariano Effect.” The recently retired (THANK GOD!!!) Mariano Rivera is messing things up for everybody, even in retirement. Teams are starting to realize that if you don’t have someone like Rivera – which no team ever will again (the closest thing in the game today is probably Craig Kimbrell of the Braves) – you might as well look in house. Or, if nothing on your roster seems a fit, there will be plenty out on the market coming off of one or two year deals.

This year alone the list includes: Fernando Rodney, Brian Wilson (possibly back to the Dodgers), Chris Perez, Carlos Marmol, John Axford, Grant Balfour, Hanrahan, Bailey, and Kevin Gregg (remember him?). I probably missed a few, but I think you get the point.

The Jim Johnson trade does not mean the Orioles are “giving up” on the 2014 season. It means that their, and the rest of baseball’s, thinking has begun to change.

This entry was posted in Blog View, Featured by Tony Pezzica. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Pezzica

Tony Pezzica
Tony was born in Baltimore, and raised in Harford County. He is a former high school, college, and semi-pro pitcher who is a proud graduate of Calvert Hall. He got the opportunity to play at both Memorial Staduim, in high school, and Camden Yards, at a failed Oriole tryout camp....more

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Hot off the street

Orioles Rundown

The Orioles will look to end their 8-game home stand on a high note with Kevin Gausman taking the mound against the Washington Nationals. The right-hander has pitched better since the end of June with...read more

Series Preview: Orioles (67-56) vs/at Nationals (73-50)

After a massive letdown of a series versus Houston, the Orioles will now take on the first-place Nationals in the 2016 edition of the Battle of the Beltways. The Orioles (67-56) currently stand 2.5...read more

Monday’s O’s Links: Should O’s Look to Deal Zach Britton?

Well, that sucked. The Birds usually beat up on the Gnats, so hopefully they can do some of that over the next few days, because it certainly feels like the season is slipping away, doesn't it? Plenty...read more

PiR: AL West’s Dominance of O’s is Nothing New

Reality: The Baltimore Orioles have struggled against the AL West all season. https://twitter.com/BirdlandStats/status/767393869772288000 Perception: This is not a rare occurrence for the O’s....read more

Series Notebook: O’s Get a Lesson in Mashing from Houston

After getting swept by Houston back in late May, the Orioles were undoubtedly looking for some payback against the Astros while they were in town. They did just that by launching six homers on Thur...read more

View More