Rack up 76 saves in two seasons, move to a much better team where you’ll presumably get a whole lot more save chances; get injured, lose your job to another former closer, that guy gets hurt so you get your job back, and you get hurt immediately. As is the case for Mr. Joel Hanrahan, who, after two solid seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011-2012, was traded to the Boston Red Sox prior to 2013.
The man who took Hanrahan’s job was Andrew Bailey. Bailey had trodden a similar career path prior to his trade to Boston before the 2012 season, and he was the other half of Boston’s closer confusion in 2013.
Closer confusion isn’t a bad problem for a manager. If one half goes cold then the other can step in for a bit. The only time that closer confusion can be a problem, though, is when both halves are injured — even worse when both go down in the same 24 hours.
On Monday, the Sox placed oft-injured Bailey on the 15-day DL with a right biceps problem then, later that night, had to pull Hanrahan from the game for right forearm pain. The Sox, who started the year with a deep bullpen that flaunted power and off-speed guys, now find their bullpen as thin as their lead in the AL East.
Depending on your fantasy team’s bullpen status, this could either be a huge opportunity to pick up some free saves or to keep yourself from losing the saves injury might have just stolen from you.
Who will get the next Red Sox closer?
It comes down to two guys — maybe, possibly, three.
When a closer goes down, the most popular and reasonable thing for a manager to do is to push his entire bullpen back and make his eighth inning guy his closer (that is if you believe in a team having an actual and official “closer”). If manager John Farrell does do this, Koji Uehara will get the next Sox save opportunity.
Uehara was a closer during his time in Asia and saved 13 games in 15 chances for the Baltimore Orioles in 2010. He has a career 2.88 ERA, 0.923 WHIP and, with 1.2 BB/9, has the control managers like in their closers.
The only other guy in the reasonable running is fellow Japanese reliever Junichi Tazawa. Younger than Uehara by 12 years, Tazawa might be an everyday closer at some point, but with one career MLB save, doesn’t have the track record Uehara does — remember, managers like experience in their closers. His 2013 ERA and WHIP both sit similarly to Uehara’s, but he walks more guys. His 6 SO/BB is 2.5 below Uehara’s 8.5.
Some people speculate Craig Breslow, but that’s not going to happen.
If you’re desperate for saves, the popular opinion is that Uehara gets the next save chance. I’m on board with that and have already rostered Uehara.
Keep in mind, Hanrahan’s injury hasn’t been fully diagnosed yet, and Bailey isn’t expected to miss much more time than his stipulated 15 days. This could be a temporary fix, but hey, saves are saves. Besides, Farrell’s proven he’s willing to make switches. Hanrahan was removed with his injury after he had already blown a save and Bailey has a horrific injury history, so maybe you’ll find you’ve stepped into a larger save total than you initially thought.
Follow fantasy stud Nick Tom on Twitter @NickTomFB. He’s always willing to field questions and help you out.