The Rays have a couple of positions up for grabs this spring, and maybe foremost among those will be finding a new closer. With both Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit gone, and Jake McGee still a work-in-progress, the position is up for grabs, and may go unclaimed.
The Rays did sign Kyle Farnsworth to a one-year deal worth $3.25 million. That deal also includes $300 thousand in incentives based on games finished*. ”Games Finished” is just code for “Saves” as MLB rules forbid incentive clauses to be based on performance. And it is reasonable to think Farnsworth will at times be called on in the ninth inning.
But without a proven closer on the roster, there is also the possibility of the dreaded “closer-by-committee,” something Joe Maddon recently confirmed.
“It’s possible. I think it’s not optimal, but it’s possible,” Maddon said. “If it occurs that way we’re going to make the best of it. I think Andrew is trying to get that particular person, and if it doesn’t happen, then we’re just going to have to do it the other way and figure it out from there.”
Obviously, the optimal solution is for Maddon to just pitch his best pitchers when he needs them the most. But that is easier said than done. Relief pitchers need time to warm up, and it is not always easy to predict when the most important outs will be at the plate. And Maddon doesn’t want to get into a situation where he is warming up his best pitchers 3-4 times every night.
There are reasons to be excited about the 2011 Rays. But the bullpen should also scare the bejeezus out of you.
* “Games finished” clauses are common for free agent relief pitchers that may potentially fill the role as closer.