With the White Sox shipping Addison Reed to Arizona in exchange for slugging third base prospect Matt Davidson, the Sox will once again be looking for a new closer.
Can Coop figure out something for the 9th yet again? Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune
This isn’t the first time the White Sox have traded a young closer in recent years. The Sox shipped Sergio Santos to Toronto one year after he racked up 30 saves. Eventually, Reed stepped in and won the job and saved 69 games in 81 opportunities over the last two seasons. His 85% save percentage ranks among the best in franchise history.
Now onto the list of potential players to fill Reed’s role as the White Sox fireman:
Nate Jones seems like the most logical in-house choice to take over the closers role. He is a young, hard throwing right hander that has struck out over a batter an inning over the course of his two seasons in the Sox bullpen. He reduced his walks per nine innings from four to three last season and improved his K/BB ratio from 2.03 to 3.42. In fact, Jones improved all of his secondary statistics from his first season to his second despite his ERA jumping from 2.39 to 4.15 in 2013.
The one real knock against him is that he has never saved a game at the Major League level and is technically 0-for-7 in save opportunities. Jones’ only real experience as a close came in 2011 when he saved 12 games for AA Birmingham. Still, Nate’s electric stuff makes him the top candidate.
Unlike Nate Jones, Matt Lindstrom does have experience as a Major League closer. He has 45 career saves for the Astros, Marlins and Rockies. However, he has not recorded a save since the 2011 season when he had two saves for the Rockies.
His last full season as closer was with the Astros in 2010 when he closed out 23 of 29 save opportunities.
Lindstrom had a slight drop off in K’s/9 innings last year and a raise in BB/9 innings. As a result his K/BB ratio was right at 2.00, down 0.86 from the previous season. Still, Lindstrom was a pretty solid piece in the Sox bullpen posting a 3.12 ERA. Some of the cons with Matt are that he is in the last year of his deal and is a likely candidate to be traded by July and that he was used mostly as a situational right hander last season. Lefties hit .317 against Lindstrom in 2013.
Petricka came up late in the year last season and appeared in 16 games for the White Sox where he went 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA. He had a pretty high WHIP at 1.552 and walked as many batters as he struck out.
His minor league numbers last year were really solid, though. Petricka posted a 1.81 ERA in 31 games between AA and AAA. He struck out 9.5 batters/9 innings and had a respectable 1.280 WHIP. He wasn’t really used as a closer though, notching just one save with Charlotte.
He made the move to the bullpen last year after being used primarily as a starter in 2011 and 2012. The move to the 'pen seems to have agreed with him as he posted his best numbers to date. He has a solid fastball around 94 MPH and also throws a slider. Petricka is still young, just 25-years-old, and could be in the mix as a long-term solution in Nate Jones can’t get the job done.
Webb, like Petricka, also saw time with the big club at the end of last season after a very good season in the minors. Webb appeared in nine games for the Sox with no decisions and a 3.18 ERA. He struck out 10 batters and walked four in 11.1 innings.
He spent time at all three levels last year in the Sox minor league system posting a very impressive 1.87 ERA with a 1.149 WHIP and struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings. He also recorded 10 saves. After coming over to the Sox from the Blue Jays organization in the Jason Frasor deal the Sox moved Webb from a starter into the bullpen.
Last year was his first full season working out of the 'pen and it seems to have worked. Webb has an upper 90’s fastball that is probably better suited for short relief work. He will need to improve his command as he walked nearly four batters per nine innings in the minors last year but if he can continue to work on throwing strikes Webb could have a future at the back end of the White Sox pen.
Veteran Free Agent
While I doubt this is the road the White Sox will choose to go, there are a lot of players still on the market who have been successful at one time or another as a closer and given the relative inexperience of the current White Sox bullpen, the right guy at the right price might make sense.
Among the players currently still available are Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney, Francisco Rodriguez, Chris Perez and Jesse Crain. Balfour, Benoit and Rodney are probably seeking multiyear deals worth a fair amount of money, which wouldn’t make sense for the Sox. The other guys on the list have varying degrees of reliability but might be had at the right price. Again, I don’t really expect a free agent to come in as the long-term solution but maybe as a guy to add some depth to a young, inexperienced unit.
Complete Wild Cards
As we mentioned, the transition from starter to reliever has worked wonders for guys like Petricka and Webb recently. The team hopes the same will happen for guys like Simon Castro and Nestor Molina this year, so I suppose they're names worth throwing out there. Of course they'd have to pass up many guys at a couple different levels, so if these are names you'll hear in the closer discussion again, it won't be until well into the summer or heading into 2015.