Padres Closer Moving Forward

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The Padres shocked their fans when two weeks ago just a couple of days after trading set-up man Joaquin Benoit they traded closer Craig Kimbrel. A team whose bullpen struggled in 2015 except for Kimbrel and Benoit now had traded away the 8th and 9th inning men who could close out the games the team did have in hand. This, after watching the Royals bullpen win battle after battle in a year where they lost their shutdown closer Greg Holland to surgery. What is next?

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First of all, I admit that this column is premature and likely to be updated throughout the off-season as the Padres wade through the free agent and trade waters towards building a team for 2016.

Yet they also do have several candidates on hand who could get a shot at locking down games in the same ballpark that the great Trevor Hoffman did.

  1. Kevin Quackenbush: I have always been a fan of this powerful reliever and even argued last year before the trade of Craig Kimbrel that he could fight Benoit for the closer position at that time. While his 2014 season was a constant shuttle ride between San Diego and El Paso (5 times) I was hoping to see Quack in San Diego more consistently in 2015. Unfortunately his 2015 was much worse than his 2014 at the big league level. With just about the same number of appearances he allowed almost twice as many runs, and also saw a decline in his K/BB and K/9 ratio. He has closed in the minor leagues in the past and for a spell in 2014, could he do it again?
  2. Jon Edwards: Edwards was part of the Will Venable trade last year from Texas and pitched in 11 games for the Padres. The converted rightfielder who was drafted in 2006 and didn’t pitch professionally until 2011 has made a successful transition. He saved 23 games in AAA last year and boasts a nifty 13.5 SO/9 ratio throughout his career. In San Diego he struck out 16 in just under 11 innings. Can he make the jump?
  3. Brandon Maurer: Maurer was a valuable member of the bullpen last year and also has added versatility as a potential starter for the team. With the pending departure of Ian Kennedy after not accepting the qualifying offer the Padres are running a little short in that department as well. With only 3 career saves while pitching in AAA with Seattle, he doesn’t have much professional experience doing the job, but how necessary is that to doing the job?

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The debate rages on about how exactly important it is to have closing experience. Certainly the value of a “trusted” closer can help to skyrocket their salaries, and ask the Detroit Tigers fan base about the value and you will get a varied response. The Tigers suffered mightily to find anyone who could close, and even bringing in veteran Joe Nathan in 2014 was a dramatic disappointment. Jose Valverde anyone?

Billy Beane in Oakland seems to make a mockery of the uber-importance placed on closers every year, building up save stats for relievers just so he can trade them for a higher value at the deadline or off-season. Luke Gregorson turned into a very solid closer for the Houston Astros this year after years of being the set-up man in San Diego. So how important is it?

Whether the Padres trade for a closer or turn internally, it will be a big part of the Padres success in 2016 assuming they score enough runs for games needing to be closed.

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