Veteran Closers Up for Free Agency This Season

Four of the Bull League’s top relievers are up for free agency at the end of 2018, and all eyes will be watching to see who gets offered extensions, and who gets their walking papers.

Topping the list is lefty Kyle Cahill, the Rimouski closer that the team picked up this off-season as a free agent, on a one year deal.

Former starter Cahill will make the transition to the closer role for Rimouski in 2018.

The 33-year-old last played with Dallas, where he had been traded to by California just at the trade deadline last July. Cahill was a starter until this off-season. The Fighting Moose currently plan to use the $13.5 million pitcher as a closer, maximizing his 97 mph fastball, and deadly breaking ball.

The transition could be difficult, as Cahill still considers himself a starter, and had a third pitch in his repertoire along with a stamina to support his continued role in the rotation. But as a closer, he could be positively a rally-killer. In early innings, batters hit just .204 against him last year.

If Rimouski doesn’t re-sign him, he would be a valuable starter or reliever for any ball club.

Jesus Carrillo is the first true closer on the list of pitchers with expiring deals this year. Carrillo has been a career workhorse pitcher out of the ‘pen, with a 2-1 finish last year, and 23 saves, making a career total of 38-44 and 171 saves. The popular closer is a six-time all-star, who at age 36 fashioned a career-best 1.23 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

The Boston Brawlers have been pleased with his performance for the past two seasons, but the $6.4 million a year arm is in the final contract year, and is not getting any younger. Will they extend him? It’s hard to say. A team’s setup man is normally the next logical choice to replace a closer, but Oscar Gonzalez may not be ready for the role. After 3 seasons, his WHIP is 1.55, and seems to be getting worse each year (1.69 in 2017). A reliever with a short period of time on the mound should not be risking blown leads by walking batters or allowing them to hit nearly twice an inning on average.

The 3rd ranked reliever in baseball, Adam “Fitzy” Fitzpatrick of the Seattle Salts, is also up for renewal after 2018. Fitzy’s 2017 season was a resounding success, as he was named the AEL’s Woodchuck Trophy winner for being the best among the relievers. While his record was an impressive 5-3, with 29 saves, he was absolutely a cold blanket for opposing batters, holding them to a .279 BABIP, and engineering an ERA of just 0.89 in 45 games. In 50.2 innings he allowed just 11 walks, and 38 hits, for a WHIP of 0.97.

Fitzy comes at a high price, however. Now 31, he will earn $9.5 million this year. Only former starter Cahill, and Chicago Pit Bulls veteran closer Ming Ou get paid more. Cahill hasn’t yet pitched as a reliever, and Ou (who is also in a final year of his contract) turned in only an average performance in 2017.

The Salts are looking at a possible budget crunch in 2019, and may not be in a position to afford a high-priced closer, meaning this year is very much a “do or die” season in terms of making a run at a Bull Cup. If they miss out on the postseason, Fitzy is likely to be history in Seattle.

Calgary’s RHP Kevin Krohn is eligible for free agency at the end of 2018, unless he re-signs.

Kevin Krohn ranked 16th among closers, and among the list is the youngest and hardest-throwing (at 99 mph).  Calgary Inferno’s Krohn was a breakout rookie, who took both the Rookie of the Year and the Woodchuck Trophy in 2013. Since then, he’s struggled to find that first-year success, but has still turned in worthy performances, amassing a career record of 14-16, with an ERA of 3.61, 95 saves, and 215 K’s in 189.2 innings.

We already mentioned Ming Ou, who gets an honorable mention on the list. He spent 2017 as a closer, but had originally signed his contract when he looked like he was about to become one of the league’s top echelon starters, before the 2015 season. He then missed half of 2015 with a torn labrum, and then had his 2017 campaign as a closer marred by injury. Chicago might have let him go after that, but he executed his option for 2018.

All this to say Ou had an ok year in the closer role, but probably not one worth $10 million. Given that Fitzy is earning just below that mark, Ou will likely renew, or go into free agency and sign for significantly less, making him a possible great deal come November.

 

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