Throughout spring training the widely held assumption was that the White Sox would use Nate Jones as their closer after trading Addison Reed to the Diamondbacks, but manager Robin Ventura avoided making any sort of official announcement and now we know why: Matt Lindstrom is going to be Chicago’s closer.
Jones is probably the better pitcher, but Lindstrom isn’t bad either and has some previous closing experience for the Marlins in 2009 and Astros in 2010. He has 45 career saves, along with a 3.56 ERA, and last season Lindstrom logged 61 innings with a 3.12 ERA and 46/23 K/BB ratio for the White Sox.
These things aren’t set in stone, of course, and odds are Jones will get a crack in the closer role at some point. But for now Ventura will go with the 34-year-old veteran and use Jones in key spots that don’t involve a lead of 1-3 runs in the ninth inning. Depending on specifically how Ventura uses him, that could actually be a more valuable role.
Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.
Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.
As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.