Ranking The Closers By Job Security

A few weeks ago we ranked relievers based on their projected fantasy value, and built into that is a look at each closer’s job security. Let’s be a bit more straight forward on the job security front, since knowing which closers are at risk of losing their job is half the battle.

Mortal Locks
Mariano Rivera
Joakim Soria
Neftali Feliz
Carlos Marmol
Heath Bell
Brian Wilson

The players aren’t ranked within the tiers, so don’t worry about that. These six guys are as locked into their jobs as any player in the game. The only way they’re not seeing the vast majority of their team’s save opportunities is injury.

Firm Grasps
Joe Nathan
Jose Valverde
Chris Perez
Andrew Bailey
Francisco Rodriguez

Just a notch below the guys in the top tier, these five have considerable security in some form or another. For Valverde and K-Rod, it has to do with their contracts. The other guys, it’s more about their long-term role with the club. And Nathan is Nathan; Matt Capps is no obstacle for him if he’s healthy.

Good Grips
Jonathan Papelbon
Matt Thornton
Brandon League/David Aardsma
Jonny Venters/Craig Kimbrel
Joel Hanrahan
Brandon Lyon
John Axford
J.J. Putz
Huston Street
Francisco Cordero

For the first time in his career, Papelbon is very much at risk of losing his job. Daniel Bard and Bobby Jenks provide viable alternatives, and the team has no commitment to Paps beyond this season. Thornton was just given the job a week or so ago, and Chris Sale was given save opps ahead of him late last year. One slip up and he could be working the eighth inning again. Aardsma figures to reclaim his job once he returns from injury, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that League straight up Wally Pipp‘s him. I initially had Cordero in the very last tier, but resident Reds’ fan Justin Merry tells me it would take a total disaster for him to lose his job even with Aroldis Chapman waiting in the wings. Dusty Baker is very set in his ways, I guess.

Kevin Gregg/Koji Uehara
Frank Francisco
Brad Lidge/Jose Contreras
Ryan Franklin
Jonathan Broxton
Leo Nunez

It’s somewhat strange to see Broxton here when he would have been in the top tier just twelve months ago. But his second half swoon and impending free agency has him very much on the hot seat with Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen looming. Lidge will be out three-to-six weeks with his shoulder injury, and Contreras isn’t exactly the most reliable alternative, not when Ryan Madson is on his team. Gregg and Uehara will have each other to worry about, ditto last year’s big money signing: Mike Gonzalez. It’s not completely insane to say the southpaw could grab the job at some point.

Run For Cover
Fernando Rodney
Kyle Farnsworth
Drew Storen/Sean Burnett

This is the “oh crap, I only have one closer and the draft is almost over” tier. It’s not so much “if” with Rodney, but “when.” The currently injured Scott Downs is probably first in line behind him, but Jordan Walden is the real threat. Farnsworth seems to be more a placeholder than anything, it sounds like Jake McGee is the guy they want to get the job, even if it occurs gradually over the summer.

* * *

I asked for input from the other RotoGraphers, but the tiers were mostly my doing. Disagree with something? Then let’s talk it out in the comments.

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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.

26 Responses to “Ranking The Closers By Job Security”

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  1. MikeD says:

    Mike, nice list, but one small correction. You need another category above “Mortal Locks.” The new one should be called “Immortal Locks,” which Mariano Rivera being its only inhabitant.

    +20 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Borden says:

      Rivera will save under thirty games this year and spend time on the DL. Soriano will save ten to twelve games.

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  2. Sterling says:

    Terry Francona is as loyal to his guys as they come. All of the Red Sox fans calling for Pap’s job are the same ones that claimed Lars Anderson was going to be as good as Mark Teixeira – not thinking things through completely. Bard has proved he can shut down the 8th. The Red Sox are in a position where they are going to win now. Papelbon will probably leave next off season and have a major payday thanks to the number of saves he puts up in 2011. I digress to White Sox fans as to whether or not they feel Jenks is going to steal his job. John Wettland was never in fear of losing his job when Mariano was setting up saves for him.

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    • Telo says:

      I agree. Unless Paps is clearly struggling, which I can’t imagine him struggling to that degree, it’s his job in 2011. He’s a lock.

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  3. AA says:

    I would put Broxton in the Good Grip category. Mattingley has firmly stood behind him, and both Kuo (scary elbow) and Jansen (lack of experience) have big warts in any chance to succeed him.

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    • Sal says:

      This list seems to based more on gut and performance rather than what’s been said by the managers and teams over the course of ST. Not really helpful if that’s the case.

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    • ray says:

      What Mattingley says now and how he deals with blown saves are another story. From what I have read, LA may have Broxton on a short leash this year.

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  4. Matt says:

    Jon Rauch is supposedly starting the season as the closer. If he does well, is there a chance he can keep the job until they have a reason to put Frank Francisco in?

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  5. Graham says:

    Isn’t the whole purpose of a “job security for closers” post in a fantasy portion of the site kind of defeated by placing two players from the same team both in the “Good Grip” category? To me that says neither one of them has a particularly good grip.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Josh says:

    Matt, Anthopoulos said that they brought Franky in to be there closer and that’s what he will be when he is 100%.

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  7. Hans says:

    Heath Bell should not be in the mortal lock category. Simply because he stands a good chance of being traded this year. Gonzalez is gone. Latos is out. When the Padres are out of contention, Bell stands a better than 50/50 chance of being traded. Padres have Adams and Gregorson to take his place. A no brainer trade really.

    Chris Perez is a close case to be bumped up. I assume he wasn’t based on proven effectiveness. But Cleveland isn’t in a pressure contention spot where he will have a short leash. And Cleveland doesn’t really have anyone to take his place. I understand no one gets all excited about Perez, but from a fantasy stability point of view, Perez’s situation is about as close to perfect as it gets for a closer. Just based on that alone, Perez is very underrated this year. Not saying to move him alongside Soria, but it’s almost like he needs an asterisk which says he can only beat himself. And he gets nine lives.

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  8. adohaj says:

    I thought hanrahan was closing for Pittsburgh

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  9. JohnnyComeLately says:

    Does Andrew Bailey really have a firm grasp on his closer role? With Fuentes and Balfour (& maybe even Wuertz) there, along with his possibly diminished stuff based on current arm injuries, I’d put him the next tier down.

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  10. me says:

    i think nathan should be moved down a tier.

    i agree that if healthy he is a lock but that’s a big if. his first year back from tommy john he’s going to be shaky and while gardy is going to stand by him as best he can if he struggles to much capps might be made the closer for part of the season at least. and even if nathan is the closer the whole year i would expect capps to get at least 10 saves

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  11. John K says:

    I was surprised by Hanrahan (he seems shaky b/c of the way he was used last year with Meek and also b/c of the trade risk).

    Also didn’t think Nunez was that shaky in Florida…. That’s disconcerting as someone who drafted him thinking that he was safe enough even if not a fantastic reliever

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    • JohnnyComeLately says:

      Nunez is only shaky because he’s terrible, not because there’s some sort of alternative. So that’s the good kind of shaky.

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  12. boxx says:

    K-Rod is another guy who stands to be dealt if the Mets fall out of contention. I agree with Graham in that two guys from the same team can’t be in the “Good Grip” tier. One has to assume that if one guy is lights out, he will wrestle control of the job. A good example is when Soriano and Gonzalez were splitting the closer duties in Atl a couple of years back until Soriano forced the hand of Bobby Cox by pitching so well.

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  13. syoung says:

    As a BoSox fan, the Paps situation just smells like it’s going to end badly – probably around, oh, the trading deadline when a number of former franchise stars have managed to shoot their way out of town in recent years. Yes, Francona is loyal but you’ve never really been booed until you’ve been booed in Fenway Park. Something about the resonance of those ancient wooden rafters. Papelbon in particular lets it get to him. Maybe not “Shaky” but “Good Grip” is probably over-stating it.

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  14. Ender says:

    I’d move Franklin up one rank, not because he is great but his history overall is too strong to be in that tier.

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    • gnomez says:

      I’d leave him – until Wainwright’s injury I predicted McClellan into the closer’s role by July. Boggs or Motte may still have a shot.

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  15. R M says:

    I’d move Lyon down to “run for cover”. He’s had a terrible spring, and after 2 straight years of outperforming his peripherals, he’s cruisin’ for a bruisin’. I own Mark Melancon in my fairly deep 12 team league….I honestly think he could take over this year.

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  16. cs3 says:

    Good Grips

    Brandon League/David Aardsma
    Jonny Venters/Craig Kimbrel
    now what is the point in telling us this?

    anyone can look at a team and say “if you have both Player A
    AND(!) Player B, then you will have one solid fantasy closer.
    oh ya but by the way… you you will be burning 2 roster spots ahaahaha”

    seems like the very definition of this tier’s name should exclude these guys.

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  17. Pat G says:

    I like how soria is a MORTAL LOCK!!!!!!!

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  18. J. Welderson says:

    Three of the “mortal locks” (Soria, Feliz and to some extent Marmol) look like they may be in danger of losing their jobs. This is why it’s not a good idea to put stock in lists like this.

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  19. J. Baker says:

    Marmol is not a mortal lock.

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    Hello, i think that i noticed you visited my web site thus i got here to go back the favor?.I am trying to to find issues to improve my site!I guess its adequate to use some of your ideas!!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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