Friday, December 21, 2018

Cardinals add Andrew Miller to bullpen, but who is their closer?

The Cardinals made another big splash today by finalizing a deal to sign lefty reliever Andrew Miller.  Per Ken Rosenthal, the deal is for two years and $25 million with an option for 2021 that vests if Miller pitches in 110 games between 2019 and 2020.

According to Jeff Jones, when discussing Miller's role with the team, John Mozeliak said that "we see this as someone who will be used in high leverage situations...when you talk about role, there will be some flexibility in that."

So, even though Miller has served as closer before, saving 36 games for the Yankees in 2015, he is not guaranteed to be the closer for the Cards in 2019.  The fact that the deal does not include incentives for games finished is another indication that neither the team nor Miller expect him to be the closer or at least not full time.

In early November, Derrick Goold indicated that the Cards see Jordan Hicks as a potential closer in the not-to-distant future.  In addition, its been hinted that star prospect Alex Reyes could work out of the pen next year, to help limit his innings after an injury plagued season.  He too has closer-worthy stuff.

So, who will emerge as the closer in 2019?

My (somewhat) educated guess is that the Cardinals will use a combination of all three.

From the Tampa Bay Rays using "openers" (relief pitchers used to get the first several outs in a game), to starters lasting fewer innings due to the risks associated with facing a lineup for a third time in a game, the world of relief pitchers is constantly evolving.

No longer are managers just relying on their best pitchers to get the last 3 outs in a game, but they need quality relievers to help bridge the gap from when the starter hands the ball over in the 5th or 6th inning until the end of the game.  In addition, closers are often required to get more than just 3 outs. 

All of this means that relievers, including closers, will need more rest during the season, and managers need more than one option to close out games.

The Brewers used a three-headed monster of Corey Knebel (16 saves), Josh Hader (12 saves) and Jeremy Jeffress (15 saves) to close out games in 2018 on their way to the division title. 

The Cincinnati Reds did the same thing all the way back in 1990, using the "Nasty Boys" of Randy Myers, Norm Charlton and Rob Dibble, to lead them to a World Series title.

One thing is for sure, if Miller, Hicks and Reyes are all clicking in 2019, manager Mike Shildt will have the luxury of picking and choosing who he uses on any given night and what was a weakness in 2018 could become a strength in 2019.

No comments:

Post a Comment