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NL West closers find varying degrees of success

What's working, what's not and who's waiting in the wings?
April 26, 2018

National League West teams have taken different approaches to how much they invest in their closer.You have the Dodgers and the Rockies, who have invested a lot of money in the position. Los Angeles re-signed Kenley Jansen before last season to a five-year, $80 million deal, just $6 million shy

National League West teams have taken different approaches to how much they invest in their closer.
You have the Dodgers and the Rockies, who have invested a lot of money in the position. Los Angeles re-signed Kenley Jansen before last season to a five-year, $80 million deal, just $6 million shy of Albertin Chapman's record deal for a closer. Meanwhile, Colorado signed Wade Davis prior to this season to a three-year, $52 million deal, which set a record for highest average annual value for a closer.
You also have the Padres and the D-backs, who have done more bargain shopping for closers, with San Diego claiming lefty Brad Hand off waivers during the 2016 season and Arizona acquiring Brad Boxberger and his $1.85 million salary from Tampa Bay during the offseason.
And then there are the Giants, who signed Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million contract prior to last season thinking they had secured the position, only to watch Melancon struggle and get hurt.
Here's a look at how the approaches have worked out and what the future holds:
Who's the closer?
How is it working out? Boxberger converted his first five saves before blowing a save against the Giants on April 18 on Brandon Belt's two-run homer in the ninth. He also struggled two nights later, as he allowed three runs (one earned) on some soft-contact hits. One of the reasons the D-backs put Boxberger in the closer spot over Archie Bradley was so they could use Bradley for more than just one inning or to face the heart of the opposition's order. That has worked well.

How secure is he? Arizona manager Torey Lovullo stuck with closer Fernando Rodney through some tough stretches last year, and he is likely to do the same should it happen with Boxberger. However, with both Bradley and Yoshihisa Hirano waiting in the wings, Lovullo's patience won't be absolute.
Who's next in line? Whether it happens this year or not, it certainly seems like Bradley will at some point become the closer.
Who's the closer?
How is it working out? Jansen had a heavy workload in 2017, appearing in 78 games (including 13 in the postseason) and throwing 85 innings. To compensate for that, the organization decided to take it easy with him during Spring Training, hoping it would keep him fresh come September and October. Whether that had a negative impact is debatable, but Jansen did not come out of the gates strong. His velocity was down, and he allowed six earned runs in his first seven games after allowing 10 earned runs in the regular season last year. Recently, Jansen's velocity has rebounded, and so has his effectiveness.

How secure is he? Jansen's hold on the closer job is secure, as the team knows that it needs him healthy and producing in order to make a deep run in October.
Who's next in line? If something did happen to Jansen, Tony Cingrani appears to be next. The lefty is off to a tremendous start. In his first 9 1/3 innings this year, Cingrani struck out 17 without allowing a walk.
Who's the closer?
Hunter Strickland
How is it working out? Strickland converted five of his first seven save opportunities, with both of the blown saves coming against the D-backs. However, in both those games, the Giants prevailed, so no damage was done. In fact, those are the only two runs he has allowed to this point in the season. Strickland has always had closer-type velocity with his fastball, and over the offseason, he learned a slider from Hall of Famer John Smoltz, which has helped.

How secure is he? With Melancon still battling forearm issues and Strickland pitching well, the latter seems pretty secure in the role for the moment.
Who's next in line? Should Strickland stumble, the Giants do have a lot invested in Melancon, and they could turn to him if he's healthy. They also have veteran lefty Tony Watson as a candidate.
Who is the closer?
How is it working out? Hand's season got off to a shaky start, when he blew a save against the Brewers on March 30 on Ryan Braun's three-run homer, then allowed three more runs to the Rockies in the ninth inning of a tie game on April 5. He's clearly back to his old self now. Hand has pitched 8 1/3 scoreless innings since. He's allowed just three hits in that span, while striking out 14.

How secure is he? As long as he's a Padre, Hand is going to be the closer in San Diego. That said, he's almost certain to draw interest at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, as he has intermittently over the past two years.
Who's next in line? If something were to happen with Hand, Kirby Yates would most likely be the guy to take over. Yates, like Hand, was a waiver claim who has flourished since arriving in San Diego.
Who's the closer?
How is it working out? Davis has converted nine of his first 10 save chances, and he has been what the Rockies hoped they were getting -- a shutdown ninth-inning guy. With Davis in the closer spot, the rest of Colorado's relievers have been able to settle into their roles, and the bullpen as a whole has performed extremely well. If fact, the Rockies have lost just once when leading after six innings this year.

How secure is he? Less than a month into a three-year deal, the ninth inning figures to belong to Davis for quite a while.
Who's next in line?Jake McGee, who closed on and off the past two years, and Adam Ottavino, who has been highly effective after struggling last year, can step in if Davis needs a breather.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.