New closers everywhere!
OK, so not everywhere. But five of the 30 teams -- a full one-sixth of the league -- went from having no designated closer to suddenly a most interesting one in the span of about, oh, two days.
if your head is spinning, you're not alone. They're all worth rostering on some level, but sometimes you have to pick and choose. And I can help with that.
Here they are in the order I'd care to own them:
Greg Holland, RP, Cardinals
2017 season: 41 SV, 3.61 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 57 1/3 IP, 26 BB, 70 K
Greg Holland's signing with the Cardinals is still so fresh that we don't have a headshot for him, but he's not forgotten by me. Not in the slightest.
Yeah, you may look at those numbers last year and think, "Eh, he's OK. Doesn't look like closer material to me." Well, then the Cardinals must be nuts for paying him $14 million.
News flash: The Nuts play in Modesto. These are the Cardinals, and they are wise. Why? Because that ERA was inflated by a dreadful month of August in which Holland cut his right index finger and lost the feel for his slider. In the other five months , he had a 1.69 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and in the two years prior to having Tommy John surgery in 2015, he had a 1.32 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
He's a top-10 closer once he builds up to a point where he's able to pitch, which should be just a week or two.
Brad Boxberger hasn't been the most dominant reliever over the years, but he also hasn't been the healthiest, missing time with groin, core, oblique and lat issues just since 2015.
It's fair to wonder how much those injuries have impacted his production, especially considering he was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball at his healthiest in 2014, compiling a 2.37 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings over 63 appearances. Even last year, when he was back to full health, he looked like he'd pass as a closer, combining an elite strikeout rate with a not-so-terrible walk rate.
Bottom line is he's probably good enough to stick in the role for the Diamondbacks, who seem to be going to great lengths to keep Archie Bradley out of it. They stuck with Fernando Rodney all of last year, after all.
Blake Parker was the Angels' best reliever from start to finish last year and finally got a chance to earn some saves in September, but manager Mike Scioscia has been characteristically unforthcoming on the subject.
It hasn't helped that Parker had a disastrous spring, allowing 14 earned runs on 19 hits in 8 2/3 innings, which led to some rumblings that Cam Bedrosian could pitch the ninth inning, but then Bedrosian faltered during the exhibition season as well.
Angels beat writers all seem comfortable predicting Parker now, and Scioscia's actions in the season opener -- an extra-inning road loss that never presented a save situation -- would seem to support it. Bedrosian entered in the seventh inning. Parker didn't pitch at all.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister finally did declare Keone Kela the closer after offering excuses why he couldn't be all spring. Amid a number of imperfect choices, his superior stat line got the final say.
So what's wrong with him? Durability is a major concern. He missed most of the final three months last year with a shoulder injury after missing much of 2016 with an elbow injury, and it's not so clear he can pitch as many consecutive days as can be required for a closer. He's not exactly a sure thing performance-wise either, having issued 4.0 walks per nine innings last season.
The most concerning part to me is that Banister also saw fit to name Kevin Jepsen the backup closer, which is something you don't often see managers do unless the need arises. Jepsen, formerly of the Angels, Rays and Twins, didn't pitch in the majors last year, making him a risky first choice, but Banister may look for the first opportunity to make a switch.
Manager Bruce Bochy unequivocally declared Hunter Strickland his closer Thursday after the Giants announced, to no one's surprise, that Mark Melancon would begin the season on the DL, but Bochy said later in the day that he thinks Melancon could return "within a couple weeks."
"I think that's realistic," he said. "But until he starts throwing, that's a hard one to answer."
How realistic is it really if Melancon's elbow hasn't felt right all spring? If he's back on the DL with inflammation in the same area (right forearm) that sidelined him for the better portion of last season and was supposed to be surgically corrected in the offseason? I don't know, but I'm not comfortable making any sizable investment in him.
Which brings us to Strickland, who has long been a competent middle reliever and earned rave reviews for his slider this spring, when he allowed one hit while striking out eight over 7 1/3 scoreless innings. Apparently, he worked with John Smoltz to develop it, and Smoltz had one of the all-time great sliders.
It's possible Strickland is the Giants closer -- and a good one -- the rest of the way, but it's also possible he's the most short-lived of these five.