If Reds Move Aroldis Chapman to Rotation, Who Could Be Their Closer?


As long as Aroldis Chapman is a member of the Reds roster and “relegated” to the bullpen, there will be conjecture as to his role: closer or starter. A few days ago, Jordan’s BRM debut dealt with the subject. Yesterday, Mark Sheldon addressed as well. One thing is for sure, this subject does create a divide among the Reds fanbase.

(Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE)

Personally, I have largely been a proponent of having Chapman as a starter. I softened on this stance as last season unfolded due largely in part to the extreme success Chapman was having as the Reds closer. There are those within certain baseball circles that will tell you that if there is one role in baseball that is severely overvalued, it is that of the closer.

Well, time to play the “what if” game. What if it is decided that Chapman should be moved to the rotation? The answer will have to begin with who will be the closer. And I will repeat what I said the other day, there are options. Here’s a look at a few names.

Free Agents

1. Rafael Soriano – I mentioned Soriano the other day. He was extended a qualifying offer by the New York Yankees and wants a multi-year deal that has a lot of zeroes attached. He will most likely be too expensive for the Reds to sign, but, no doubt, Reds GM Walt Jocketty will at least kick the tires.

Even with that caveat and the fact it has been reported that the Reds will not be “big spenders” in the free agent market, I cannot completely rule out signing Soriano.

Soriano performed well with Mariano Rivera missing much of last season. He converted 42 of 46 save opportunities and held opponents to .217 batting average. He proved his 2010 season was no fluke. That was even better.

2. Joakim Soria – The Royals declined an $8MM option as Soria is coming off his second Tommy John surgery. Hardball Talk’s D.J. Short states that Soria is open to being a setup man for the Yankees (Mo is coming back, remember), but he would prefer “a closer job on a one-year deal in hopes of re-establishing his value and testing the market again next offseason”. Sound familiar? While the situation isn’t completely the same as how the Reds brought in Ryan Madson previous to this past season (but it is now), that same type of deal could be done for Soria.

Don’t rule out a return to Kansas City, but after five years as the Royals closer (and a successful five years), you would think Soria would want to be on a team that can, at the least, contend on a yearly basis.

3. Jose Valverde – The Reds have been linked to Papa Grande through MLB Trade Rumors as they predict Valverde will sign with the Reds. While his secondary numbers are none to flattering and he was “removed” from his closer’s role during this past post-season, Valverde has a track record. He was 35 for 40 in save opportunities last season, his worst since becoming a closer.

For me, as I have said before, the theatrics are a huge turn-off. Huge…

4. Ryan Madson – Can’t be ruled out to return by any means. He hasn’t thrown a meaningful pitch for the Good Guys, yet he will be wanted. The issue may be the number of years. This issue, for Madson, is one that is two-fold. He was reportedly offered a four-year deal last off-season, which the Phillies would later pull and sign Jonathan Papelbon, and somehow, the Reds offered Madson the best deal?

2011 was his first as a closer, so the hesitancy from any party is logical. Now, with having missed an entire season to recover from TJ, there could be even less opportunity to nab that multi-year deal. May have to settle on a deal that resemble the deal that brought him to Cincinnati.

5. Jonathan Broxton – After being acquired in a trade deadline deal, Broxton posted decent numbers for the Reds (4 for 4 in save opportunities), he also managed to scare the beejeebies out of a few fans, too. Surprised no one brought up Coco Cordero…

Brox will be looking for the chance to be a closer, and I cannot blame him for pursuing that route. With the addition of a breaking ball, Broxton became a little more effective.

Again, Walt doesn’t expect the Reds to be a big player within the free agent market.

Trade Route?

Ah, there could be a potential trade that could bring the Reds a closer. How about…

1. Chris Perez – Seems Perez may have burned all his bridges in Cleveland. When you blast your fans, your front office and departing manager, doesn’t say much for you as a person, does it? And there may be a few that would not want this type of behavior being exhibited by one its player. Thing is, Perez is pretty darn good at being a closer. He actually had a better conversion rate (39 of 43) than Chapman 38 of 43). Granted, most of the other numbers favor Chapman.

Well, on Wahoos on First, Steve Kinsella had suggested that Perez could be dealt to the New York Yankees. He authored his take previous to the “breaking news” that Rivera would return for the Pinstripes, but it still holds merit. The chances have possibly taken a hit since Rivera made a decision to return, but, if he chooses, Perez could be that setup guy instead of Soria.

Steve’s proposal has the Tribe receiving David Phelps and Melky Mesa in return. Phelps started 11 games in 2012 for the Yankees and Mesa, an outfielder, is considered one of the best, if not the best, athlete within the Yankees farm system. Could the Reds offer a package that would appear better to the Indians?

Most likely as even with the trades made over the past calendar year, the Reds still have a little more in their coffers than the Yankees.

Perez did make $4.5MM last season and is a Super 2 arbitration eligible. 2015 would be the first year he could be eligible for free agency. That could appealing as well.

(Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE)

In-house Options

1. J.J. Hoover – Hoover’s name seems to be the popular “draw” for the slot. And it should be. After the Reds acquired Hoover from the Atlanta Braves (by the way, thanks, Atlanta!), he was installed as the closer at Louisville. All Hoover did was mow down opposing hitters. In his 37 innings, Hoover posted an ERA of 1.22 and WHIP of 0.730. His BB/9 was only 2.9 and SO/9 was an astonishing 13.4.

Yes, that is Triple-A, but Hoover didn’t exactly struggle at the MLB level either. His BB/9 did go up (3.8) and his SO/9 did fall (9.1), but he maintained a WHIP under 1.000 (0.978). I’ll add this: his slash against was Chapman-like in that it was .160/.248/.264. Granted, that might be a little unfair, but Hoover can do the job.

In fact, having Hoover on the roster could make any decision about a closer a little easier. You don’t have to bring in a free agent (although you must do your due diligence), and, in both the short and long term, save some dough in the process.

2. Sean Marshall – With all the hub-bub over Chapman, people forgot how incredibly untouchable Marshall was especially down the stretch. After a forgettable outing against the St. Louis Cardinals on August 27th, no one could even touch Marshall’s performance in the season’s final month. Not even Chapman.

Over his last 15 outings, Marshall permitted only one run and it was unearned. Of the 47 batters he faced in those 12 innings, he struck out 14 for a SO/9 of 10.5. Over this same timeframe, opponents hit a paltry .122 against him.

Sure, Marshall began 2012 as the Reds closer and was eventually replaced by Chapman in mid-May when it was deemed Marshall was “struggling” in the role. Marshall may have used the move as motivation.

There are others in free agency and even in-house, but these appear to be the best options.

That is IF the Reds move the Cuban Missile to the starting rotation.

(UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal of FOX reports that neither Soria nor Madson will be ready by the start of the season (it’s at the bottom of the article). That could, in part, trim the list of potential closers for Walt. It could also lead to scrapping any ideas of moving Chapman into the starting rotation.)