Yesterday, I was fawning all over Andrew Friedman for all the moves he didn’t make. So, the baseball gods smote me for my hubris by ensuring that the Rays would continue not making moves now that Brian Fuentes signed with Oakland and Jon Rauch signed with Toronto.
(I really left the baseball gods with no choice. I even stupidly wrote a large part of a Rauch post just waiting on official word that he was going to be a Ray. In my defense, it is the middle of the winter and my baseball superstition reflex is recuperating. This would never happen mid-season. Stupid Stupid Stupid.).
Now that Bobby Jenks, Octavio Dotel, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch (and even Rafael Soriano) have found homes, there really aren’t any “closer” options on the free agent market. My idea, inspired by Jonah Keri, to move Jeff Niemann to the bullpen is also out now after Matt Garza was traded to Chicago.
So, unless some GM gets hammered and trades us a closer for Kelly Shoppach, the Rays are going to have to do what the Rays do best: innovate.
Jason Collette has a great statistical analysis at Dock of the Rays projecting potential closers based on their past work. His conclusion:
Farnsworth, Peralta, and McGee are the best choices for the closer role until J.P. Howell comes back who has the most proven experience of any of them. Howell has put on 25 pounds of muscle since we last saw him but nobody knows if his stuff will still be the same and it was his movement and deception that made him successful rather than his fringy velocity.
If I were Joe Maddon, and I had to choose between Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Jake McGee, and J.P. Howell to close games, I would. Re-reading Collette’s analysis, it is clear that each has some qualities that are likely to make them successful in late, high-leverage situations, but each is flawed. So, I say use them all. Why force one guy into a role they might not be able to handle when you can share the burden and spread the workload?
That is exactly the kind of unconventional solution the skipper loves.