This offseason was the time of fixing what ain't broken. Several teams who already had perfectly good closers in place went out and added new ones, doubling down on their strength.
Basically, the rich got richer, while the poor got poorer, sort of eliminating the middle class and ... hell, I'm going to get all political here. Never mind.
The point is, teams added closers that didn't really need closers. In Boston, New York and Houston, fine, whatever, the new guys (Craig Kimbrel, Aroldis Chapman and Ken Giles, respectively) will get the saves. Sorry Koji Uehara, Andrew Miller (temporarily), Luke Gregerson, these things happen.
But in Toronto? Roberto Osuna and Drew Storen could combine to face one supercloser, but good luck guessing now which one is going to be the primary.
Both guys pitch right-handed. Both have been better against righties historically but have been fine against both sides. Both have some history of success as a closer. Both were closers last year for at least part of the season.
I wrote about Storen's career last August, marveling at his up-and-down career. As I wrote at the time, this has been his career path:
- Good rookie reliever
- Good closer
- Good setup man
- Bad/injured setup man
- Good setup man
- Good closer
- Worst setup man in the world
That last bit was the end of last season, when Storen was replaced in the role by late-season Washington trade acquisition Jonathan Papelbon. From Papelbon's arrival to the end of the season, Storen pitched 17.2 innings in 19 games. He had a 7.13 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP, and his season ended early when he broke his thumb in a locker room ... tantrum? Is it okay to call it a tantrum? Whatever, he slammed his locker and then bones were wrong.
Meanwhile, Osuna. He had allowed nine earned runs all season through August, reaching September with a 1.87 ERA, 16 saves and 66 strikeouts in 57.2 innings. Miguel Castro and Brett Cecil both had their shots as the Toronto closer early in the year, but Osuna ended up in the role and, even at 20 years old, thrived.
But then September happened. Remember, Osuna had nine earned runs in four months before September. Well, through that month (and two days of October), he nearly equaled that, giving up eight earned runs in barely over a month. His ERA jumped three-quarters of a run over the last month. That's one month, hardly a blip, but it scared Toronto a bit, leading to the team trading for Storen in the offseason.
And there's one more wrinkle in this generation of the uber-bullpen. There are guys who are a team's closer, and guys who are a team's best reliever. Often, those are the same guy. But increasingly often, they don't have to be. In Texas, Sam Dyson is at least as good as Shawn Tolleson, but as Jeff Sullivan said in his chat Friday, Tolleson is likely to remain the closer, so Dyson can be implemented more strategically. Give Tolleson a clean ninth; use Dyson when it's necessary. It's how Kansas City used Wade Davis before Greg Holland's arm exploded, it's how the Yankees wield Dellin Betances.
As such, picking a team's closer isn't as simple as identifying its best reliever. If I were drafting a baseball team from scratch, I'd likely target Roberto Osuna a minute or two before Drew Storen. But that's not how fantasy works. From here, it looks like Storen will start the season as the save-getter, while Osuna gets the hammer of "flexible, deploy-anywhere reliever." Storen will come with a short leash, and Osuna will clearly get the "he's worked two/three days in a role" fill-in saves, so both are worth a fantasy look. Storen, though, profiles as the one to target first.