World Series Giants Rangers Baseball

Ron Washington wants experienced closer to replace Neftali Feliz, who had zero experience before 40 saves


Now that Neftali Feliz is apparently on board with the front office wanting to make him a starter Ron Washington is facing the very real possibility of being without his 40-save closer from last season and the manager told Tim MacMahon of that he’d expect the Rangers to acquire a veteran reliever to fill the role:

I have confidence in Jon Daniels and our scouts. If that’s the case, I’m 100 percent sure they’ll go out there and find somebody to close ballgames down for us. Who do we have in our bullpen that’s closed ballgames down? We ain’t talking about “might be able to.” We need somebody that’s bona fide to close ballgames down. But, like I said, if we need to stay in-house, we’ll figure that out.

What’s interesting about Washington’s push for an experienced closer is that Feliz had zero experience as a closer before saving a rookie-record 40 games as a 22-year-old. In fact, he was a full-time starter in the minors as recently as the middle of 2009 and came into last season with two career saves. Managers’ desire for “an experienced closer” is so strong that the guy who just went to the World Series with a 22-year-old ex-starter as a rookie closer isn’t even open to the idea of letting another inexperienced guy get first crack at the gig.

Arthur Rhodes and Darren Oliver certainly meet any qualification for relief experience, but neither of them has been a full-time closer and another in-house candidate, right-hander Mark Lowe, has just four career saves. Setting aside all the “experienced closer” stuff, the most obvious candidate to me is Alexi Ogando, who has overpowering raw stuff and posted a 1.30 ERA with a 39/16 K/BB ratio in 42 innings as a rookie. And soon enough hard-throwing prospect Tanner Scheppers will be ready for a call-up.

In other words, unless Washington is absolutely insistent on handing ninth-inning duties to someone with a significant number of career saves the Rangers are probably better off trusting another inexperienced guy to come through just like Feliz did last season.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.