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 ESPNDallas.com 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.
Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Angels have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with right-handed reliever Javy Guerra. The deal includes an invitation to major league spring training.
Guerra was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball last July after testing positive for a drug of abuse. That suspension is now over, though Guerra is probably ticketed for the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate to begin the 2016 season.
The 30-year-old made just three major league appearances in 2015 for the White Sox before getting outrighted off Chicago’s 40-man roster. He does own a 2.87 ERA in 150 1/3 career innings, but it has come with bouts of inconsistency and unreliability.
Maybe he can get everything going in the right direction with Anaheim.
As first reported by Bill Shanks of Fox Sports 1670, the Braves have signed right-handed reliever Carlos Torres to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.
Torres was waived by the Mets in January, somewhat surprisingly, and elected to become a free agent. The 33-year-old ultimately chose Atlanta, where he should have a good shot at an Opening Day roster out of spring training with the rapidly-rebuilding Braves.
Torres posted an ugly 4.68 ERA in 57 2/3 innings last season for the Mets, but he registered a gorgeous 3.06 ERA and 96 strikeouts across 97 innings in 2014.
If he gets off to a good start in 2016, he could become valuable trade bait.
Roberto Osuna became the youngest pitcher to ever play for the Blue Jays last season at age 20 and he rose to the challenge with a 2.58 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 75/16 K/BB ratio in 69 2/3 frames. Osuna eventually took over as Toronto’s closer, earning 20 regular-season saves and one in the American League Division Series — a five-out effort in Game 5 to close out the visiting Rangers.
But the Jays upgraded the back end of their bullpen this winter, acquiring Drew Storen from the Nationals in early January for speedy outfielder Ben Revere. Jesse Chavez was also brought to Toronto in a trade with the A’s.
Storen has more experience at closer than Osuna, and Storen struggled when the Nationals tried to put him in a setup role. Storen, in his final year of salary arbitration, also gets paid much more. He’s probably going to enter spring training as the favorite for the Jays’ ninth-inning gig, but there will be a competition …
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca on Wednesday that he doesn’t expect the team to choose between Osuna or Storen until midway through spring training, if not later.
There’s been talk of making Osuna a starter, so add that wrinkle.
Storen, 28, boasts 95 career major league saves.
Baltimore’s front office appears to be lining up a run of potential roster additions leading into the beginning of spring training.
We’ve already passed along the reports suggesting they are close to a three-year deal with free agent starter Yovani Gallardo, but now FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal adds that free agent outfielder Dexter Fowler could be next on the Orioles’ target list. It they get those two deals done, the O’s could then chase free agent slugger Pedro Alvarez.
Rosenthal says the Orioles are even eyeing Jay Bruce of the Reds, though the FOX reporter hears the O’s might not have the prospects to pull off that kind of trade.
The focus for the Orioles out of the gate this winter was re-signing Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. Wieters accepted his one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer in November and Davis was locked up to a seven-year, $161 million contract in mid-January.
Now the O’s are spending a little leftover cash on late-offseason additions to improve their position in what should be a tight 2016 American League East race.