After the Chicago White Sox loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, 670 A.M. the Score broadcasters Ed Farmer and Darin Jackson indicated that GM Kenny Williams is likely going to be on the phone exploring ways to fix the back end of his bullpen. As the Sox blew another two-run lead in the ninth, it is obvious something needs to change. Just two days after White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said he would likely stick with Matt Thornton as his closer, he brought in rookie Chris Sale. Sale quickly got into trouble, so he turned to Thornton, who blew his 4th save in as many chances.
Here are the top trade candidates followed by possible internal solutions within the organization who might to assume the role.
Near-term Trade Market
The Pirates would love to turn closing duties over to Evan Meek at some point. As Hanrahan makes $1.4 million this season, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility for him to be traded. He has allowed just one earned run in 5 1/3 inning so far this season and has gone a perfect 4 for 4 in save chances.
Soriano was signed by the Yankees to a $10 million contract against the advice of GM Brian Cashman, and has struggled in the first two weeks of the season transitioning from closer to set-up man. Sound like a familiar problem in reverse? His velocity is down and he has a 9.82 ERA in 4 appearances. His $1.5 million option year buy-out makes him an unlikely option unless the Yankees were to eat significant salary. That would mean a top prospect in return.
MLB Trade Dead-line Targets
If the White Sox can get by until the MLB trade deadline approaches, it should be a buyer’s market for closers this year.
Depending on their team’s standings, several closers could be moved as they will be free agents at the end of the 2011 season.
GM Kenny Williams has a good trade history with the Padres, so could a Heath Bell deal make sense?
Sergio Santos- Pick to Click
The most popular closer-in-waiting name bantered among Sox fans during a Soxman social media poll yesterday was Sergio Santos. Beware: He has only been a pitcher for two years, converting from a shortstop and has never closed before. However, he has electric stuff and is yet to be scored upon in 7.2 IP this season. He’s also an underdog and is used to proving people wrong. In 2010, Baseball prospectus said he had the best fastball of anyone in the Sox farm system. His 9 strikeout validate that. He has earned a shot.
Sale has nine strikeouts in seven IP this season and is 5 for 6 in save chances thus far in his career. He was given the save opportunity Saturday after Matt Thornton allowed five unearned runs to the Tampa Rays last Friday but struggled today. Could the Sox “sail away” with Sale or plot a course for him back to AAA?
Crain doesn’t have any closing experience, but he had a 3.04 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 71 appearances for the Twins last season. Think about this, if Ron Gardenhire didn’t have faith to give him the ball in the ninth after the Twins lost Joe Nathan to Tommy John surgery last season, should the Sox?
The Charlotte Knights closer was a favorite to make the team during spring training. He had a 7.64 ERA for the Nationals last season. He had some success with the Yankees but has bounced around the majors and minors since, struggling with injuries and finding the strike zone.
Matt Thornton has been one of the best set-up men in the game the last three years and was an All-Star in 2010 because of it. While he still might be able to close, Sox fans might feel better putting him back in the spot where he has thrived.
In “closing,” before you think Ozzie Guillen will quickly make a change at the backend of the bullpen, remember he used to say the same things about using Thornton as his closer in 2010 when Bobby Jenks struggled but ultimately kept going back to the “big guy.”
If the MLB trade deadline were tomorrow, who would you want to see the White Sox acquire?
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