Help Wanted: Closer Needed

The Free Agent season has settled into a trickle now after the deluge of news during the Winter Meetings in Dallas but numerous questions remain.  Will the Reds make any moves this off season?  Who will be in the starting rotation?  Who will be the starter in Left Field?  Are Zack Cozart and Scott Rolen going to be ready at the start of spring training?  And of course, who will be the Closer in 2012?

The rotation remains in limbo.  Unless the Reds trade for James Shields or another ace the must look to the free agent market or rely on the status quo.  The Reds appear able to answer the Left Field question in house now that Josh Willingham has signed with the Minnesota Twins.  Cozart and Rolen both appear poised to come back strong, a critical need for a realistic shot at a division title.  So let’s use the Quality Appearance Ratio to statistically analyze the available free agent closer market as well as the in house solutions available.

First, like we did with starting pitchers yesterday, we need a list of available prospects.  As winter meetings moved along the pickings have indeed become slim.  As of noon today the market is reduced to Francisco Cordero, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, or sticking with Bill Bray, Nick Masset, Logan Ondrusek or even rookie Bradley Boxberger.  Since Boston just traded with Houston for Mark Melancon so we should check him out as well.  Let’s look at their numbers and see where our money would be best spent and whether that money can provide any security in close ballgames.

Upon observing these numbers, my immediate conclusions are that Bray, Masset and Ondrusek should not be in this conversation.  If you can’t secure even 65% of the games you pitch in you will damage the teams chances of winning severely.  The injuries to Brad Lidge in 2011, make him a risk in the coming year that is probably larger than should be deemed acceptable.  He only managed 19.1 IP and at 34 years of age that problem is likely to accelerate.

Ryan Madson appears to be slightly better statistically than Cordero and at age 31 he also has his youth in his favor.  He has a giant albatross hanging around his neck though in the form of “Super-Agent” Scott Boras.  The Reds have no players on the MLB roster represented by him and I would be shocked if they would add one now.  I was surprised to hear the Reds may sign former Yankees prospect home town boy Andrew Brackman as he is in the Boras stable so it does indicate a willingness to at least interact with the agency.

I included Mark Melancon in this analysis for a couple of reasons.  The first is that the inaction of the Reds front office means we are missing lucrative opportunities from willing trade partners.  I believe the Red Sox trade for Mark Melancon will prove to be the best move in baseball in 2011.  He is 26 years old and played for a terrible team and still posted strong numbers.  His ground ball/fly ball ratio will be wonderful in Fenway just as it would have been at GABP.

No numbers can be brought to bear on Brad Boxberger, but by all accounts he is a solid prospect.  It would be difficult to place him in the closer role right out of the gate for obvious reasons.

That leaves Francisco Cordero who delivered a solid performance in 2011.  He had one nightmarish week in July where he failed to convert multiple opportunities against the Brewers and Cardinals to mar what would have been a fantastic season.  But he still  represents one of the two best options available and with the Red Sox move the time is now right because according to the laws of supply and demand the supply is significantly higher than the demand so the price should be far more reasonable than what the Reds payed for Cordero last year.

2012 is the Reds year to win, we are in the drivers seat as long as we don’t fall asleep at the wheel.    Walt Jocketty must act accordingly.

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