Assessing dwindling choices at closer
Assuming the Nationals do not add a closer via trade or free agency, they will likely begin the season with Shawn Kelley or Blake Treinen in that role. If neither sticks, perhaps Koda Glover will be ready.
But if no one emerges by late July and the Nationals are still in the race, might they again add a closer around the deadline? Or even just choose a new one from within?
Changing closers midseason is the newest accidental baseball trend. The 2016 World Series champion Cubs added Aroldis Chapman. The 2015 World Series champion Royals ditched Greg Holland for Wade Davis when Holland’s elbow acted up. The 2014 Giants demoted Sergio Romo in favor of Santiago Casilla before they won it all. The 2013 Red Sox had to pivot to Koji Uehara midway through their eventual championship season. Romo was not the Giants’ closer on Opening Day of the 2012 season, but he was their closer in October, when they won the World Series.
Kelley and Treinen and Glover all have the skills required to close, but if none seem to fit and the Nationals look outside the organization, the trade deadline might not yield many options worth their price in prospect gold — and the Nationals, after sending so much talent to the White Sox in the Adam Eaton deal, might not have the prospects with which to pay anyway.
In any case, the most obvious targets are those closers who will be free agents after this season, the ones teams will want to turn into some kind of value before they sign elsewhere in the winter. One familiar name is Jeanmar Gomez, the Phillies’ closer who had 37 saves last season, fifth most in baseball. Tony Watson, who seems likely to succeed Mark Melancon as the Pirates’ regular closer, will also be a free agent after this upcoming season. The Red Sox have a $13 million club option on Craig Kimbrel for the 2018 season, but they seem unlikely to fall out of contention and consider offloading parts.
Andrew Miller would be a free agent after the 2018 season, but the Indians, too, seem to be loading up, not unloading. Royals closer Kelvin Herrera is also locked down through 2018, and while a Royals fire sale is not out of the question, the asking price would likely be high. Zach Britton would likewise be a free agent two seasons from now and potentially available at a deadline sometime soon. But it seems unlikely that Peter Angelos would allow the best closer his franchise has ever built to go to the other team on MASN.