Here are all 30 Opening Day closers, probably

February 4th, 2020

With pitchers and catchers set to report to camp next week, roster battles and roles will soon be under scrutiny. When it comes to who will cover the ninth, some clubs already know. Others will use the next several weeks to figure it out.

As for where things stand now? That’s where’s reporters come in, identifying the likeliest candidate to close for each club on Opening Day along with other names to watch this spring. Here's what they expect:


Blue Jays:
Presumed to be a hot commodity on the trade market when the offseason began, Giles’ name was mostly held out of reports, and the Blue Jays can certainly use him. Toronto’s bullpen will be open for competition in several spots this season, perhaps right up to its setup man, but Giles is locked in to the ninth inning as one of the club’s best players. The 29-year-old is entering his final year of team control and coming off an excellent season in which he posted a 1.87 ERA with 83 strikeouts over 53 innings. Giles credited an improved overall mental approach entering last season, which was evident. He could be a top name available at the Trade Deadline but, at least until then, he’ll be a steady hand on a young roster that needs one. -- Keegan Matheson

Orioles: /
Givens was asked to do a lot last season as one of the few veteran members of the Orioles’ ever-churning relief corps. He wasn’t technically the closer, as rookie manager Brandon Hyde tasked him with nearly every high-leverage situation, regardless of inning. But Givens did get the lion’s share of the Orioles’ save situations. The results weren’t great, with Givens posting a career-worst ERA (4.57) and home run rate (1.9 per 9 IP) while blowing eight of 19 save opportunities. It was probably no coincidence Givens’ best stretch came in the month Harvey was active, which lengthened Baltimore’s bullpen significantly. With both in the fold this year, the Orioles have options. This isn’t a competition, per se, more a function of how Hyde chooses to deploy Givens and Harvey, assuming the electric rookie right-hander can stay healthy. -- Joe Trezza

Pagán was one of the pleasant surprises for the Rays in 2019. After being acquired in the offseason from the A’s, Pagán was one of the last cuts during Spring Training and didn’t make the Opening Day roster, starting the season in Triple-A Durham. But once he got his opportunity in the Majors, the 28-year-old made it count. Pagán led the Rays with 20 saves and established himself as a key high-leverage reliever in, arguably, the best bullpen in the American League. Heading into the 2020 season, Pagán will have to prove that he can have the same type of success in consecutive seasons and will get most of the save opportunities at the beginning of the season. However, the Rays have made it clear that they aren’t interested in naming a set closer, which opens the door for Nick Anderson, Chaz Roe, Colin Poche, Diego Castillo and José Alvarado to earn save opportunities. While Pagán led the teams in saves, the Rays had 11 pitchers earn one save last season, and it’s pretty safe to expect a similar approach in ‘20. -- Juan Toribio

Red Sox:
Workman is the favorite as the Red Sox’s closer after he took on the role in the second half of the 2019 season. Last year, the 31-year-old posted career bests with a 10-1 record, a 1.88 ERA and 16 saves over 71 2/3 innings in 73 games. Internally, Ryan Brasier finished second on the team to Workman with seven saves -- all in the first half of the season -- while Matt Barnes, who was a contender for the closer role in ‘19, recorded four saves. The Red Sox also could seek out an addition from outside of the organization. Boston was tied for 21st among all Major League teams with 33 saves (64 save opportunities) last season, compared to '18, when its 46 saves (66 opportunities) tied for seventh. -- Jessica Camerato

The last pitch that Chapman threw in 2019 was barreled by José Altuve, securing the American League pennant for the Astros, but that shouldn’t overshadow another fine season for the hard-throwing left-hander. Chapman converted 37 of 42 save opportunities during the regular season, posting a 2.21 ERA in 60 appearances and ranking fourth among AL relievers with a 13.42 K/9.0 IP ratio. Since 2010, Chapman leads all Major League relievers in K/9.0 IP ratio and ranks third with 883 strikeouts, trailing only Kenley Jansen (903) and Craig Kimbrel (898). Though his average fastball velocity has dipped into the high 90s, Chapman is still capable of touching the triple digits, while his biting slider has developed into an elite offering. -- Bryan Hoch


Hand started to run out of steam toward the end of the 2019 season. At the beginning of September, the Indians shut him down for a few weeks due to arm fatigue, and he came back to make a sixth-inning appearance before the year ended. But the Tribe is not expecting the second half of last season to impact its closer in '20. Even though he wasn’t as sharp once the calendar flipped to July, Hand converted 34 of 39 save opportunities with a 3.30 ERA while averaging 13.2 K/9.0 IP. However, if he were to run into arm troubles again this year, the Indians have some options. The club was impressed by Nick Wittgren last year, and he could certainly take on more high-leverage innings if needed, but the Tribe also has two potential future closers in James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase. Karinchak, 24, was called up last September and posted a 1.69 ERA in five big league games after an impressive year in the Minors. And Clase, 21, adds a triple-digit cutter that helped spell a 2.31 ERA in 21 appearances with the Rangers. They may not be options at the back end of the bullpen right away given their inexperience, but either could grow into the role in the near future. -- Mandy Bell

Kennedy, 35, enters the final season of his five-year, $70 million contract with the Royals and his second as the team’s closer. Last year, he converted 30 out of 34 in save opportunities with a 3.41 ERA in 2019. There’s a good chance Kennedy, if he continues to perform well in the closer’s role, will be an attractive asset come the Trade Deadline. The Royals also have signed two other former closers -- Trevor Rosenthal and former Royal Greg Holland -- to Minor League deals, which could make for an intriguing camp battle for setup roles. Both Rosenthal and Holland have played for new Royals skipper Mike Matheny. -- Jeffrey Flanagan

After spending what seemed like forever as the Tigers’ closer of the future, Jiménez saw his time arrive once Detroit traded Shane Greene to Atlanta at the Trade Deadline last summer. He went 9-for-10 in save chances down the stretch, including three conversions on the road against eventual playoff teams in Tampa Bay, Houston and Oakland. The Tigers like his demeanor as well as his development, and are ready to have the hard-throwing right-hander lead a bullpen that is trending younger with the arrival of more prospects like Bryan Garcia. The only likely way Jiménez leaves the job is if the Tigers trade him, something they’ve been reluctant to do despite offseason interest. -- Jason Beck

It took longer than he might have liked to be installed in his place at the back of the bullpen in 2019, but wherever he pitched, Rogers was consistently one of the most effective relievers in baseball. The left-hander ranked second among qualified Major League relievers with an 8.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio and amassed 2.1 fWAR, placing him second among American League bullpen arms behind A’s closer Liam Hendriks. Not only did Rogers give the Twins 30 saves, but he also recorded more than three outs in 12 of those saves, which helped the Twins get by with a thin high-leverage relief corps for much of the summer. Hard-throwing 21-year-old Brusdar Graterol could eventually move into the ninth-inning role, at which point Rogers’ growing success against right-handed hitters will make him an effective lefty weapon in the dawning era of the three-batter minimum. -- Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox:
The 2020 season will be the first time the White Sox save leader from the previous season has returned since David Robertson in '16. Colomé thrived in his first season in Chicago and showed why he's been one of the American League's most consistent late-inning options over the past five seasons. The 31-year-old right-hander went 4-5 with a 2.80 ERA, a .191 batting average against and ranked tied for fourth in the American League with 30 saves. With a much-improved White Sox team expected to be more competitive this season, including its a revamped bullpen, Colomé could see his numbers increase. If he can stay healthy and the Sox can consistently give him a lead in the ninth inning, a 40-save season is not out of the question in '20. -- Russell Dorsey


Since being claimed off waivers from the Mets in June 2018, Robles has been impressive with the Angels, posting a 2.64 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 109 innings. He became the club's closer in '19 after Cody Allen struggled early in the season, and he finished the year with a career-best 2.48 ERA and 23 saves with 75 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings. The 29-year-old heads into '20 as an Opening Day closer for the first time in his career, but the Angels believe he can put up a season similar to last year. -- Rhett Bollinger

In his first full season with the Astros, Osuna led the American League with 38 saves (in 44 chances), the second-highest total of his career and sixth most in a season in club history. Osuna was inconsistent at times, but he handled the role well for the most part. He ranked fifth among AL relievers with a 0.88 WHIP, which was the third best in franchise history. Osuna, who became the youngest pitcher to reach 150 career saves, held lefties to a .150 batting average and a .472 OPS -- the seventh-best OPS allowed against lefties among AL pitchers. -- Brian McTaggart

There may not be a closer with more job security than Hendriks, at least to start out the upcoming season. The right-hander is coming off a career year that led to his first All-Star selection and 3.8 fWAR, which led all big league relievers. The A’s were 42-37 at the time Hendriks took over as closer on June 22. They closed out the season going 56-28. Over that time, Hendriks’ 25 saves led the Majors, as he brought consistency to a section of the club that was erratic for the first three months of the season. Joakim Soria is another back-end bullpen arm who brings closer experience, but Hendriks is currently entrenched as the go-to guy in the ninth inning. -- Martín Gallegos

Since trading Edwin Díaz to the Mets after his 57-save season in 2018, the Mariners haven’t had a true closer. They used nine different pitchers to accumulate 34 saves in ‘19 and will likely again use multiple relievers to finish games. Magill, a 30-year-old right-hander, finished last season as the primary closer and had five saves and a 3.63 ERA in 22 outings after being acquired from the Twins in late July. Free-agent signees Yoshihisa Hirano (four) and Carl Edwards Jr. (two) are the only other healthy relievers on the roster with an MLB save. Hirano could work himself into that role, but Edwards will likely start out in a setup situation. Austin Adams would have been a contender, but he isn’t expected to be back from right knee surgery until midseason. Right-handers Sam Tuivalala and Erik Swanson are other options. -- Greg Johns

Leclerc was so good as the Rangers' closer in 2018, they gave him a four-year contract extension. Then he lost the job early last season and didn’t get it back until after the All-Star break. The Rangers are leaning strongly toward having Leclerc be the guy again this season, but that is not guaranteed. Rafael Montero would be a possibility should the Rangers decide Leclerc is better in a multi-inning role. Juan Nicasio has nine career saves, second most for any Rangers pitcher currently on the Spring Training roster. -- TR Sullivan


When the Braves signed Will Smith in November, the assumption was he would become the closer and Melancon would move back to a setup role. This was the arrangement the two shared while pitching in San Francisco last year. But the club instantly said the closer’s role still belonged to Melancon, who produced a 3.86 ERA in 23 appearances (21 innings) after being acquired by Atlanta on July 31. Melancon struggled during his first two weeks with the Braves and retired just eight of 18 batters faced during the National League Division Series. Smith converted 34 of 38 save opportunities for the Giants last year and earned his first All-Star selection. The veteran southpaw limited left-handed hitters to a .167 on-base percentage. There will be situations when he is used in the ninth inning and Melancon handles the eighth. -- Mark Bowman

The Marlins put to rest who would take the ball with a lead in the ninth inning by signing Kintzler in free agency. Even though the 35-year-old will still have to “win the job” in Spring Training, at least he provides experience in the role. Kintzler has 49 career saves, with 29 coming in 2017. Drew Steckenrider, who missed almost all of last year with right elbow inflammation, had been the frontrunner to close prior to the signing of Kintzler. Steckenrider still has a chance to win the job. Either way, Kintzler and Steckenrider promise to either close or be in a setup role. Kintzler was with the Cubs last season, and he is expected to provide a stabilizing presence to an otherwise mostly inexperienced bullpen. -- Joe Frisaro

In the Mets’ perfect world, Díaz will show up to camp in dominant form and make their decision easy. The team acquired Díaz in December 2018 to be its lockdown closer and still feels he can fill that role despite seven blown saves with a 5.59 ERA in his debut season with the club. (This winter, Díaz spent time working in Puerto Rico with new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, along with a team of trainers and health professionals.) That said, the Mets aren’t committing to Díaz just yet. Seth Lugo registered six saves late last year and could again be a factor in the ninth, as could free-agent acquisition Dellin Betances. Odds are, all three will notch saves at various points this season, even if Díaz earns the lion’s share of chances. -- Anthony DiComo

The Nationals head into the 2020 season with veteran closer options, thanks to returning relievers and a new addition. Sean Doolittle will be back for his fourth season with the Nats after earning 29 regular-season saves (sixth-most in the NL) and two postseason saves in ‘19. The left-hander also tied for first among NL pitchers -- and second among all Major League pitchers -- for games finished (55), up 20 games from the previous season. Doolittle will be joined in the bullpen by Daniel Hudson, after the right-hander signed a two-year deal in mid-January. Hudson, who recorded the final out to win the World Series last season, finished six games with a 3.72 ERA over 9 2/3 innings that postseason. Adding to the depth, the Nats inked newcomer Will Harris to a three-year contract last month. The 2016 All-Star went 4-1 with a 1.50 ERA -- the best among AL relievers -- over 68 games (10 finishes, zero saves) for the Astros. All three pitchers have at least eight years of Major League experience. Doolittle has recorded 111 regular-season saves over his career, while Harris has recorded 20 and Hudson 17. -- Jessica Camerato

It is difficult to imagine anybody other than Neris pitching the ninth inning for the Phillies, at least early in the season. Neris went 3-6 with a 2.93 ERA and 28 saves in 34 opportunities last season. His strikeout rate (32.4 percent) tied for 24th out of 149 relievers (minimum 50 innings). If he is throwing his splitter well, he is tough to beat. But Neris has stretches where he seems to lose confidence in the pitch. If Neris struggles, one candidate to move into the ninth inning is right-hander Seranthony Dominguez. But Dominguez comes with a big asterisk: He is recovering from a season-ending elbow injury. Though he is throwing already, his health should be closely monitored this spring -- Todd Zolecki


Trade rumors swirled around the left-hander all winter after Hader snuck into arbitration right at the cutoff for Super Two status, but he remains Brewers property and a key cog of a bullpen expected once again to carry a heavy load for Craig Counsell. Hader is the reigning two-time NL Reliever of the Year, having posted the fourth- and fifth-highest single-season strikeout rates in history (minimum 35 innings) over the past two years. If there was a weakness last season, it was the long ball; Hader gave up only 41 hits in 75 2/3 innings, but 15 were home runs. The baseball probably played a role in that, but still, Hader said he is intent on better repeating the many moving parts of his delivery in order to improve his command, and thus keep the ball in the park. The Brewers hope to have their primary right-handed weapon back in action alongside Hader sometime in May, when Corey Knebel is due back from Tommy John surgery. Should some team throw enough talent at the Brewers to convince them to trade Hader while his value is sky-high, then Knebel would be the leading candidate to step in. -- Adam McCalvy

Perhaps the closer spot should really read “to be determined,” as the Cardinals still have to assess Carlos Martínez’s shoulder health when Spring Training starts. Martínez is working toward a return to the rotation this spring, but if that doesn’t happen, he will likely be back in the closer spot until fireballer Jordan Hicks returns from Tommy John surgery mid-season. If Martínez does find himself in the rotation, the Cardinals feel they have many closer options, starting with the veteran lefty Miller. Don’t forget about Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant or Ryan Helsley -- the latter two will go to Florida as starters, but they may prove to be valuable again in the bullpen this year. Alex Reyes could also be an option, provided the former top prospect stays healthy this season. The Cardinals believe they have enough options to have flexibility in the back end of the bullpen. -- Anne Rogers

Following a rough 2019 for Kimbrel, the Cubs are pinning their hopes on the idea that the all-time great closer will revert back to his elite ways in '20. Kimbrel will have had a normal offseason, and a routine Spring Training is up next. A year ago, the righty went unsigned over the winter and did not receive a free-agent contract until Chicago swooped in with a three-year, $43 million pact in June. Kimbrel then posted a 6.53 ERA with a career-high nine homers allowed in 20 2/3 innings, while dealing with an assortment of injury setbacks. He allowed six homers on his fastball alone, following an eight-year run with an average of four homers surrendered per season. The heater also dropped to 96.2 mph on average, per Statcast. That was down from 97.1 mph in '18 and 98.3 mph in '17. That played a role in batters hitting .326 with a .783 slugging percentage off his four-seamer in '19. With a bullpen full of question marks, the Cubs absolutely need the lock-down version of Kimbrel if '20 is going to include a return to October for the club. -- Jordan Bastian

The Pirates haven’t yet committed to a new closer. In fact, manager Derek Shelton wouldn’t name a closer when given the opportunity to do so recently at PNC Park. But Shelton acknowledged that Kela will play some sort of prominent role in the back end of Pittsburgh’s bullpen, and the right-hander is the most logical candidate to take over in the ninth inning given his previous experience as the Rangers’ closer. Kela was dominant when he took the mound last season, but suspensions and a lingering shoulder injury limited him to 32 appearances. Right-handers Kyle Crick, Richard Rodríguez, Edgar Santana and Michael Feliz should factor into the late-inning mix, and hard-throwing righty Nick Burdi could join them later this year. Kela is entering his final season before free agency, so he will be a name to watch leading up to the Trade Deadline. -- Adam Berry

Sure, Iglesias had a career-high 34 saves in 2019, but it didn’t feel like it was a good season. Not only were there six blown saves en route to a 4.16 ERA in 68 games, the right-hander also set a franchise record for a reliever with 12 losses. Iglesias seemed to struggle most in non-save situations; he had a 5.18 ERA in those 25 games compared to a 3.59 ERA in 43 save situations. His ERA in those 12 losses? It was 23.48 (20 ER in 7 2/3 IP)! Some of the issues behind the struggle involved manager David Bell trying to use Iglesias more often in high-leverage situations in earlier innings to take advantage of his durability. His 30 saves requiring more than one inning lead the Majors over the last four seasons, including six in 2019. If Iglesias falters, or is used earlier, Michael Lorenzen (seven saves in ‘19) could step in. So could left-hander Amir Garrett, especially if there are lefty batters due up in the ninth. -- Mark Sheldon


Bradley was essentially the D-backs’ closer for the final two months of the 2019 season, but manager Torey Lovullo elected not to tag him with the label in hopes of not putting any more pressure on him. Bradley had a breakout year in '17 as the team’s primary setup man, but he took a step backwards in '18, thanks in part to a nail injury which didn’t allow him to throw his curveball as effectively. A mechanical adjustment to his arm angle during last season also helped get him back to his old self. Lovullo has great trust in him. The D-backs have some other back-end options in free-agent signees Junior Guerra and Hector Rondon. Kevin Ginkel was impressive in a setup role last year and could factor into the mix as well. -- Steve Gilbert

With longtime pitching coach Rick Honeycutt stepping aside, Kenley Jansen turned to Driveline Baseball analytics over the offseason to rediscover his trademark cutter. Even after his worst season, Jansen remains one of the better closers in the league. But for nearly a decade, he set a very high bar, and late in the 2019 season, management’s confidence in the closer clearly wavered. Backing up Jansen are Joe Kelly and bounce-back signee Blake Treinen, but neither was consistent nor healthy enough in '19 to indicate they’re an upgrade over Jansen. If a closer change is needed during the season, Julio Urías and top prospect Dustin May have late-inning stuff, although both go to Spring Training as candidates to fill out a starting rotation that lost Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill. -- Ken Gurnick

The Giants will need a new closer to replace All-Star left-hander Will Smith, who signed a three-year, $40 million deal with his hometown Braves in November. The departure of Smith, coupled with the jettisoning of Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson and Drew Pomeranz at last year’s Trade Deadline, depleted the club’s stable of veteran relievers, setting the stage for a wide-open bullpen competition this spring. Tony Watson, who will return after negotiating a new deal with the Giants this offseason, will be one of the few holdovers and could take over the closer role after serving as Smith’s primary setup man in 2019. Shaun Anderson is expected to come into Spring Training as a starter, but he impressed in a stint out of the bullpen last season and will be another intriguing ninth-inning option given his past closing experience at the University of Florida. Trevor Gott ended the season on the injured list with a sprained right elbow, but he could also be a candidate to close if he’s healthy. -- Maria Guardado

The Padres boast arguably the best bullpen in the National League, and they’ve got arguably the best closer in baseball at the back end. Kirby Yates burst into the national consciousness last season with an otherworldly season in which he posted a 1.19 ERA and struck out 15 hitters per nine innings. He somehow managed to run away with the Major League saves title, too, with 41 on a team that lost 92 games. But while the rest of the baseball world is just now taking notice, Yates has been dominant for a while. He owns a 2.31 ERA since he joined the Padres in 2017 (when he began honing and using his devastating splitter). Behind Yates in the Padres’ 'pen, flame-throwing righty Andres Muñoz and newly signed lefty Drew Pomeranz should see plenty of action in the later innings. -- AJ Cassavell

After leading the National League and setting a club record with 43 saves in 2018, Wade Davis lost his delivery, lost the strike zone and eventually lost his job in 2019. The Rockies trust that Davis’ track record, postseason pedigree and knowledge of his motion will get him back in line. Manager Bud Black wants Davis back in the role, and pitching coach Steve Foster believes that will happen. Closer or not, Davis has to be usable in the late innings or else it’s less depth for a bullpen that really needs it. Scott Oberg performed well as the replacement closer last season before blood clots in his arm ended his year. Again, he needs to be ready to pitch late innings. Righty Jairo Díaz, who replaced Oberg, once was pegged as the closer of the future. He has the highest fastball velocity. Carlos Estevez, forced into closer duty several years back, could have that in his future, but for now, he looks to be a weapon as a setup man. -- Thomas Harding