Mariano Rivera is not walking through that door. Neither is Joe Nathan, for that matter. Or Rick Aguilera, or Eddie Guardado.
Yes, closers are still overrated. But they’re an overrated necessity. Or something like that.
Indeed, the role has been oversold and, somewhat embarrassingly, worshiped for several decades. It’s overrated for all the reasons that you’ve surely heard by this point, chief among them being that in many games, the most high-leverage situation is not the one with no outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning. Just because the particular inning happens to be the last inning doesn’t mean it’s the most valuable, or so the thinking goes.
Yours truly subscribes to this theory and wholeheartedly believes that the Proven Closer thing is mostly a needless sham.
But here’s the thing: baseball teams still seem to need this crutch to lean on. After all, there’s certainly something to be said for knowing one’s role. While it’s hard to quantify the effect of knowing when to expect to enter the game versus having no clue until your number is called, there are plenty of examples of players wanting and needing routine to be successful.
So, why haven’t the Minnesota Twins addressed their closer situation?
The Spring Training opener is in the books, and there are still a handful of Proven Closers out there on the market, from a perennial All-Star in Craig Kimbrel to bargain bin options like Bud Norris and A.J. Ramos to aging veterans such as Ryan Madson and Jim Johnson. (Sean Paul D laid these options out nicely in a FanPost earlier this week.)
Yes, count me in on the Twins throwing some money at Kimbrel, although the Twins are surely scared off by the age (31) combined with a late-season dip in velocity and the workload that Kimbrel has carried throughout his career. Those concerns fade if Kimbrel signs a one-year deal, of course, but there’s no doubt he’s holding out for something much larger. Perhaps the Twins are waiting for Kimbrel to blink and accept a massive one-year deal, but they aren’t the only team hoping for such a scenario, either.
So if Kimbrel’s unlikely to join the fold, where should the Twins turn?
Well, he’s already on the roster: Trevor May.
Trevor May should be the Twins’ closer
The idea of May slotting in as the closer in 2019 is hardly original. In fact, he may even be considered the front-runner at this point as he finished the 2018 season with the final three saves of the campaign for the Twins and was dominant in doing so.
Which is, of course, part of the basis for this argument. While it’s a painfully small sample size, May thrived in high-leverage situations last year in his post-injury return to the bullpen.
Taking out the disastrous September 4 stint as an opener against Cleveland in which he gave up four earned runs in a single inning, May’s ERA clocked in at 1.85 last season. He finished the season with six consecutive scoreless appearances, including a line of 3.0 innings, zero hits, six strikeouts, and one walk over his three successful save attempts.