Reds: Comparing Amir Garrett’s $1.5-million salary vs the best closers

Sep 5, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Amir Garrett (50) reacts after striking out Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Amir Garrett (50) reacts after striking out Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Raisel Iglesias, the Cincinnati Reds closer for the past several seasons, was shipped off to the Los Angeles Angels earlier this offseason. Moving forward, the team has yet to name its closer for the upcoming season, but Amir Garrett has not been shy about his intentions to lock up that position heading into the 2021 season.

Amir Garrett secured his first career save last season. On September 15th, with the Reds leading the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1, Garrett entered the game. While it took him 27 pitches and included a bit more drama than Reds Country would have preferred, AG finally recorded his first career save after Kevin Newman flied out to short right field.

With Iglesias and Archie Bradley gone, and Michael Lorenzen likely ticketed for the starting rotation, it would appear that the closer’s job will come down to Garrett and Lucas Sims. For arguments’ sake, let’s assume Garrett wins the job. How does his $1.5M salary stack up against the best closers in the game?

Are the Reds getting value with Amir Garrett as the closer?

Amir Garrett and the Cincinnati Reds settled on a $1.5M salary for the upcoming season. That’s about a $1M raise from what Garrett was making last season. So, when compared to the best closers in the game, is Cincinnati getting a good value?

Let’s first look at who we would consider the best closers in the game, shall we? When thinking about the job of a closer, it’s really quite simple. Get the final three outs of game without surrendering the lead. One of the easiest ways to calculate the value of a closer is by looking at the number of saves.

A look at the saves leaders from 2020 would show that Brad Hand, who’s currently a free agent, was among the best closers last season. Hand converted 16-of-16 saves with an 11.9 K/9 and a 2.05 ERA. Without a contract for the 2021 season, however, it’s hard to compare Hand’s salary to Garrett’s, though MLB Trade Rumors predicts Hand will sign a two-year/$14M deal this winter.

Who are the Top 5 closers in baseball?

Acknowledging Brad Hand as one of the Top 5 closers in baseball, let’s take a look at some of the others. Liam Hendricks, who just signed a four-year/$54M contract with the Chicago White Sox, is one of the best closers in the American League.

Last season, Hendricks, who played for the Oakland Athletics, recorded 14 saves in 15 attempts for a save percentage of 93.3%. Hendricks posted a 1.78 ERA and a 12.3 K/BB. With an average annual value of $13.5M, the White Sox are banking on Hendricks continuing that dominance in 2021 and beyond.

Speaking of the White Sox, last year’s closer Alex Colomé is still on the free agent market. In 2020, Colome recorded 12-of-13 saves and owned a 0.81 ERA. Colomé has yet to sign with a new team this offseason, but the Red Sox are said to be interested in signing the right-hander. According to MLB Trade Rumors, Colomé may be able to secure a one-year/$6M contract this offseason.

While I’m tempted to place former Reds flamethrower Aroldis Chapman among the best closers in baseball, the right-hander underperformed last season. However, Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Nick Anderson was quite impressive.

Anderson posted a 1.1 WAR in just 19 games while recording six saves. The right-hander helped anchor the Rays’ bullpen en route to the World Series. Anderson posted a 0.490 WHIP and recorded 26 strikeouts in 16.1 innings of work. Anderson is pre-arbitration eligible and will make the league minimum in 2021.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Josh Hader among the best closers in the game. The left-hander is utterly dominant every time he enters the game and recorded 13-of-15 saves in 2020. Hader recorded 31 strikeouts in 19 innings of work. Hader and the Milwaukee Brewers avoided arbitration yesterday, and the southpaw will take home $6.675M in 2021.

Is Amir Garrett the Reds option to be the closer in 2021?

It remains to be seen if Amir Garrett will be the Cincinnati Reds closer in 2021. To be honest, I prefer Lucas Sims to Garrett, but that’s due to Garrett’s lack of effectiveness against right-handed hitters.

While the southpaw is a nightmare against left-handed hitters, Garrett has long-since struggled to get outs versus right-handed batters. Last season, Garrett allowed just a .043 batting average when facing right-handers, but that average ballooned to .231 when a right-handed hitter stepped into the batter’s box.

Of Garrett’s four home runs allowed in 2020, all four came off right-handed hitters. When facing left-handed batters, Garrett shut them down with opposing lefties posting an OPS of just .258. However, when a right-handed hitter faced off against AG, that OPS skyrocketed to .807.

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In terms of salary, Amir Garrett is a steal at just $1.5M in 2021. Garrett certainly has the fire and determination to be the team’s closer, but will his production match his intensity? We’ll have to wait until spring training to find out, but whether Garrett is the Reds’ closer or a left-handed specialist, he brings great value to the Cincinnati organization.