Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins says that the organization will not name a closer until mid-spring at the earliest
The beauty of returning the majority of an American League East championship roster is that many questions entering spring training have two good answers.
Whether it be the leadoff spot, left field or the number five starter’s job, the Blue Jays are trying to find the best of several options, not just find any option. This much is true in the closer’s role, as well.
Leading with Osuna, there would be no eyebrows raised if the second-half closer of 2015 returned to the role in which he was dominant. Saving 20 games over 68 appearances, Osuna posted a 2.58 ERA while striking out over one batter per inning.
Oh, he also turned 21 on Sunday.
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With Osuna in the closer’s role, Drew Storen would slide automatically into a setup role, but perhaps not a strict 1-2-3 role in the eighth inning. Brett Cecil would still figure prominently into that conversation, and depending on the handedness of opposing batters or past matchup splits, manager John Gibbons could move freely between the two high-end options.
In Storen, the Blue Jays should be hoping for a midway point between his elite 2014 and a 2015 that began with excellence, but fell apart after the arrival of Jonathan Papelbon. With 95 career saves, he also knows the ropes of inning number nine.
Part of the appeal with Storen may be what his presence in the closer’s role would do for the bullpen as a whole. Osuna, to a much greater extent than Storen, could be flexed throughout the final four innings and stretched out to work over one inning at a time.
We’ve circled Dellin Betances and his role in New York as a rough comparable. Not only would this maximize Osuna’s value in 2016, but also bridge the gap towards starting in 2017 or beyond. Again, though, this brings in the unpredictable variable of future plans.
External variables will also be at play here. If Aaron Sanchez fails to earn the fifth job and slots back into a high-leverage bullpen role, that will impact the arms around him. As will injuries or unexpected performance issues.
As it currently stands, though, the Blue Jays can choose between a dime or two nickels. Which way are you leaning?
Stats: Baseball Reference