Earlier this week, we saw the first real blow-pen situation of the season go down with the Marlins on their west coast road trip to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Steve Cishek took the blown save and loss on Sunday versus the Giants and I promptly was calling for A.J. Ramos to be picked up in fantasy leagues in the post “Fish Out of Water: Cishek Leading the Blow-pen.” Very much to my surprise, the very next day Cishek received the ball in the bottom of the 9th inning after the Marlins took the lead over the Dodgers in the top of the inning. I figured Cishek would at least be given the day off after having worked in two of the previous 3 days, throwing 34 pitches the day before. But apparently, Marlins manager Mike Redmond was very eager to lose another game. Cishek was called upon and laid a hanger to Scott Van Slyke who deposited it into the bleachers in walkoff fashion to hand Cishek his 4th blown save in 7 opportunities and his 3rd loss of the season. The defeated look on Cishek’s face when it happened told it all, and you just knew that he knew at the very moment he would no longer be closing games for the Marlins.
So the following day, Redmond informed the media that Cishek had been removed from the closer’s role and that he would go with a committee approach with Ramos figuring to get the first crack. Then heading into Wednesday action, there were rumblings that the Marlins were interested in a free agent relief pitcher with lots of closing experience, Rafael Soriano. Soriano had a good run as a closer from 2009-14 with the Braves, Yankees, and Nationals, but it just didn’t make sense for the Marlins as they would be taking on more payroll after having already increased payroll 50% from last year, and they already had a cheap, viable (and probably better) option in Ramos who has been nothing short of dominant this season. It was then later reported that the Marlins were no longer interested in Soriano with the cost being an issue. Well, wouldn’t you know it that the Marlins were presented with another save situation on Wednesday and it indeed was Ramos who got the call and he protected a one run lead by striking out 2 in a perfect inning. I don’t foresee Ramos running into too much trouble with the way that he has been pitching with improved control this year, so he is indeed a must own in any fantasy format and hopefully you were able to snag him.
Addison Reed began his pro career with the White Sox in 2010 and quickly ascended the Minor League ranks with a lights out performance at each and every stop as he quickly earned the “closer of the future” tag. It was hard to blame anyone for thinking anything less, as Reed posted a 1.26 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 12.75 K/9, and 1.61 BB/9 in 78.1 IP across four Minor League levels in 2011 before reaching the bigs in September of that year. Reed took over as the permanent closer for the White Sox early on in the 2012 season as a rookie, but in that season and the next, though he never lost the closing job, the assessment of his performance has to be called adequate at best.
Prior to the 2014 season, the White Sox apparently had seen enough and shipped him off to the D-Backs in exchange for third base prospect Matt Davidson. With his first season as a D-Back, it was more of the same uninspiring performance, yet he was never relieved of his duties. In Reed’s first three seasons, he posted ERA’s of 4.75, 3.79, and 4.25 while converting just 101 out of 119 save opportunities (84.8%). There’s just something wrong there when a pitcher with that negative type of output and poor conversion rate is continually being given the chance to close out games. Most pitchers in the role of closer for a team will go years without having an ERA above 3.00 let alone 4.00, and here Reed is with two seasons as a closer with 4.00+ ERA. I get it that he is still young at 26 and he showed so much promise in his meteoric rise through the Minors, but there has to come a point where his team needs to just turn the page on him and go with another arm to be their fireman. When a guy has never posted an ERA below 3.79 in three full seasons as a Major League closer, you have to stop and think why is he still being put into situations to blow games?
On Wednesday, Reed was called upon to protect a one run lead and he promptly loaded the bases and then gave up a grand slam to Michael Taylor to get charged with the blown save and the loss. Ah, the good ol’ “BS-L” in the box score, the Cishek special. However, unlike Steve Cishek who has been experiencing a loss of velocity, there is no reason for Reed’s most recent blow up except for the simple statement that he is just not that good. Reed now has a 7.20 ERA and 1.90 WHIP, and he is just 2 for 4 in save opportunities with a very much depressed swinging strike rate at 7.8%. The Diamondbacks need to be proactive about this and make some sort of switch before this gets out of hand.
The problem the Diamondbacks face though is that there is no obvious candidate to replace Reed like how the Marlins had Ramos showing off his filthiness. Next in line would appear to be the veteran submariner Brad Ziegler as he has filled in at closer before when necessary. He currently owns a 1.26 ERA and 0.91 WHIP, but that’s all a mirage as his 3.77 K/9 is very unimposing and more telling of what can be expected of him is his 3.84 xFIP and 3.45 SIERA. There were rumblings in the off-season of converting Tommy John surgery survivor Daniel Hudson into a potential late inning bullpen arm, so he could be an option. Evan Marshall (6.08 ERA, 1.88 WHIP) would be an option as well if he hasn’t pitched just as badly as Reed. And usually, David Hernandez would be an option too, but he is making his way back from Tommy John surgery and the expectations of him will be kept to a minimum when he does return in late May or early June.
So with no clear cut option to possibly take over 9th inning duties, if they are looking to make a change (which I surely would hope they are at least contemplating it), do they take a look at someone like Soriano? The Marlins are passing on him, but that doesn’t mean the Diamondbacks will as the veteran looks to find a home team. So those fantasy leaguers who are absolutely desperate for saves, Ziegler is worth a look, but signing Soriano does make some sense for the Diamondbacks. I think that Hudson would be the most interesting option for upside purposes, but the team may not be ready to go that route just yet with him.
With all this being said, I expect Reed to get the next opportunity, but all bets are off if he blows any of his next couple chances.