Inside Ned Yost’s head on odd use of closer Greg Holland

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Scene 1: March 31, 2014. Opening Day. The Royals and Tigers took a 3-3 tie into the bottom of the ninth inning in Detroit. Reliever Wade Davis put runners on first and third with one out with a walk and a single. Royals manager Ned Yost brought in closer Greg Holland — with the game tied on the road — to wiggle out of the jam. Instead, Holland served up a walk-off RBI single to then-Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

Scene 2: April 26, 2014. The Royals and Orioles took a 2-2 tie into the bottom of the tenth inning in Baltimore. Reliever Danny Duffy loaded the bases following a hit batter and two throwing errors on bunts. Though Holland had been warming up, Yost brought in Louis Coleman. Coleman recorded a strikeout before serving up a walk-off RBI single to first baseman Nick Markakis.

Scene 3: April 27, 2014. The Royals lead the Orioles 9-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning in Baltimore. Yost brought in Holland to protect the seven-run lead. Ostensibly, Yost was giving his closer work because he hadn’t pitched since Friday. Though Holland allowed a run, the Royals walked away with the easy 9-3 victory.

The folly of Yost’s bullpen management is obvious to most observers but Yost vowed to never use his closer in a tie game on the road again. Via Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star:

“That’s the first time I’ve ever used my closer (in that situation),” Yost said. “Because I really wanted to win that game on opening day. But don’t look for me to do it. I’m not going to do it. Because I’ve got confidence in everybody down there.”

The Royals may never take that lead for which Yost is saving Holland. That means, as is evident from the April 26 game, the Royals will lose games with their best reliever sitting in the bullpen. But Yost’s comment is perplexing even beyond the obvious strategic shortcomings.

Yost says he “really wanted to win” on Opening Day, so he used his closer. Thus, by his own logic, using his closer in a tie game on the road gave his team the best chance to win. That he didn’t do it on April 26 means he was either lying or not putting his team in the best position to win. Either situation is not a good look for him.

As many point out when the bullpen management debate arises, Yost is just one of a gaggle of managers who use — and miuse — their closers in the same way. It’s hard to place all of the blame on him when 99 out of 100 managers would do exactly the same thing in his position.

There is a “one million percent” chance Aroldis Champan will opt-out of his deal

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that there is a “one million percent” chance Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman will opt out once the season ends.

Just going by the math this makes perfect sense, of course.

Chapman signed a five-year, $86 million deal with the Yankees before the 2017 season. Pursuant to the terms of the deal he’ll make $15 million a year in 2020 and 2021 (he was given an $11 million signing bonus that was finished being paid out last year). This past season the qualifying offer was $17.9 million. Craig Kimbrel of the Cubs just signed a deal that will pay him $16 million in 2020, 2021, and 2022 (he’s making a prorated $16 million this year). Other top closer salaries at the moment include Kenley Jansen ($19,333,334); and Wade Davis ($18 million).

It’s fair to say that Chapman fits into that group and, I think it’s safe to say, more teams would take him than those guys if they were all freely available. As such, Chapman opting out to get more money makes all kinds of sense. Heck, opting out, getting slapped with a qualifying offer, accepting it and then hitting the market unencumbered after the 2020 season would stand him in better financial stead than if he didn’t opt-out in the first place.

The question is whether the Yankees will let it get that far or whether they’ll approach him to renegotiate the final couple of years on the deal or to add some years onto the back of it. If they’re smart they will.