Adam Wainwright has closed for a World Series winner. He’s still looking to make it back to the Fall Classic as a starter.
Demonstrating even better control of his curveball than usual, Wainwright kicked off the Cardinals’ latest postseason run on a strong note Thursday, allowing three hits over seven innings and striking out nine in an 8-1 win over the Pirates. He improved to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 39 2/3 postseason innings. His K/BB ratio is an exceptional 49/6.
Wainwright has had some good luck and some bad in the postseason. Of course, he was exceptional in the closer’s role for the 2006 champs, pitching 9 2/3 scoreless innings and picking up four saves. However, in his lone start in 2009, he was denied a win matched up with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw after allowing one run in eight innings (Ryan Franklin blew the save). In 2012, he was bailed out after giving up six runs in 2 2/3 innings in a decisive Game 5 against the Nationals, as the Cardinals came back and won. They went on to lose to the Giants in the LCS despite a win from Wainwright in his only start.
Wainwright finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak, leaving him 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA. Thanks to Kershaw, he’ll again be denied a Cy Young Award — he is looking at a top three finish for the third time — but he might have the chance to get the better of the Dodgers ace later this month.
The Dodgers have signed lefty Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million contract.The deal was reported to be imminent over the weekend, but was finalized today following Hill’s physical.
Hill missed a good deal of time in 2016 with blister issues — and he’ll be 37-years-old on Opening Day — but when he was healthy he was fantastic, posting the best season in his 12-year career. He had a a 2.12 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110.1 innings between the Athletics and Dodgers.
Along with a healthy Clayton Kershaw a maturing Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda, the Dodgers rotation looks to be a strength in 2017.
UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that a deal is in place pending a physical. The financial terms are not yet known. UPDATE: Joel Sherman of the New York Post hears it’s in the four-year, $62 million range. That will make him, temporarily at least, the highest-paid closer in baseball history.
12:15 PM: Ken Rosenthal reports that the San Francisco Giants are close to a deal with closer Mark Melancon.
Melancon had an outstanding 2016, posting a 1.64 ERA, 2.42 FIP and a 5.42 K/BB rate in 71.1 innings while saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals. You may recall that the Giants had a strong interest in Melancon last summer. It was a well-founded interest given the bullpen woes which waylaid San Francisco in the second half of last season and continued on into the playoffs.
The terms of the apparently impeding deal will be known soon enough, but Rosenthal reported yesterday that Melancon was fielding offers in the four-years, $60 million range. That’s a lot for a closer, but it’ll probably look like a bargain compared to the deals signed with the other two top closers on the market, Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Some have speculated that Chapman could get a deal closer to $100 million than $50 million, though that seems optimistic.
What the past couple of seasons have shown, however, is that having a top bullpen will get you very, very far in Major League Baseball. Champan may have been gassed at the end of Game 7, but he was essential to the Cubs’ World Series title. Powerful bullpens gave the Royals a title in 2015 and the Indians an AL pennant this past year. A weak one was, obviously, the Giants’ achilles heel.
Their great need at the back end of the pen, according to Rosenthal’s report, is apparently about to be filled.