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When Jonathan Papelbon signed with the Philadelphia Phillies two years ago, the Red Sox were confident that he would be easily replaceable. I even came to the thought that letting go of Papelbon was a smart idea. Since Papelbon’s departure, the Red Sox have made three deals for the closer position. Andrew Bailey, Mark Melancon and Joel Hanrahan have been acquired by the Red Sox for the closer position and all three players have not lived up to expectations. NESN.com Zach Stoloff reported that the Red Sox and Papelbon could reunite in a potential trade. Using Dikembe Mutumbo’s finger wag, I would wish to block that trade.
So the big question is who should be the Red Sox closer?
For now, Koji Uehara is a perfect fit. Uehara notched his first save Wednesday afternoon against the Rockies. He has been the most reliable pitcher in the bullpen and has gotten the team out of difficult situations. Signing Uehara to a one-year deal worth $4 million has proven to be a low-risk, high-reward move. Considering Junichi Tazawa and Uehara are the two pitchers Farrell mostly looks too, it should give off a sign that one of those two fit best to close out the 9th. And seeing that Tazawa fits better as a reliever, Uehara should continue to be the closer.
For the future, I would love to see Rubby De La Rosa as the closer. De La Rosa had a stellar Spring Training, and he is still improving. His slider is getting better and he has a dominating changeup. De La Rosa’s fastball sits from 94-97 mph. When I think of closer, I think of the pitcher who I believe will shut the door with no problem. For example, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman is known to being a really good closer because his fastball tops out near 105 mph. Being known to throw close to a 105 mph fastball, Chapman can change his pitches so batters do not always expect his dominating pitch. De La Rosa does not have a 105 mph fastball, but he has dominating pitches that will shut the door.
Another belief I have with the closer role is that signing closers for a lot of money is not worth it. For Papelbon’s case, it was not worth the Sox signing him to $50 million just to pitch one inning. Uehara was signed for $4 million and I believe he will continue to close games.
Another pitcher having a wonderful season is Pirates closer Jason Grilli. Since Hanrahan’s departure, Grilli was dubbed the closer and has succeeded. At 36, Grilli was never a closer in the past and now holds 26 saves. Grilli signed a minor league deal with the Pirates in 2011 and it has been a high reward for the Pirates. This can happen for the Red Sox too.
There have been too many failed experiments in trading for closers, so it is time for the Sox to find different alternatives.