Every Major League team needs a closer. The Yankees are fortunate to have one of the best in left-hander Aroldis Chapman, who decided not to opt out of his contract and instead added one year and $18 million to his remaining two-year deal. Chapman is not going to be a
Every Major League team needs a closer. The Yankees are fortunate to have one of the best in left-hander Aroldis Chapman, who decided not to opt out of his contract and instead added one year and $18 million to his remaining two-year deal. Chapman is not going to be a Yankee forever, though. Other teams in the division have chosen to mix and match at the back end of their bullpen in recent years, or are actively looking for “the guy.” Whatever the case may be, the Yankees and the rest of the American League East must always be grooming a future closer.
This week, we asked our AL East beat reporters to pick a future closer for each of the five teams in the division.
Blue Jays: RHP Jordan Romano
With Ken Giles in his final year under team control, the Blue Jays could have an opening for the ninth inning after the 2020 season. An external option would likely be considered, but internally, the Blue Jays have a handful of high-powered arms to pick from. Romano gets the edge here because he’s been mentioned by manager Charlie Montoyo in the past as a reliever who could get some looks in save situations behind Giles. With his fastball back into the high-90s again this spring alongside his slider, Romano was enjoying a good camp after losing steam late in '19. Beyond Romano, the Blue Jays could even look to converting some of their young starters -- including Trent Thornton, Julian Merryweather or Sean Reid-Foley -- into a closer. -- Keegan Matheson
Orioles: RHP Hunter Harvey
If searching for their future closer, the Orioles might not need to look any further than their current roster. He has a mustache, a mullet and some serious closing genes. We’re talking about Harvey, who appeared poised to become a key part of the O's late-inning plans before baseball was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Baltimore's front office had been continuously noncommittal regarding Harvey’s short-term role, but it’s no secret how dominant they think he could be as a back-end reliever after the former top starting prospect took off following a midseason shift to the bullpen last summer. Not only did Harvey stay healthy, he flourished, striking out 11 and pitching to a 1.42 ERA during an electric seven-game late-season MLB debut. A small sample? Yes. But in it, Harvey flashed the weapons of an elite late-inning arm: a near triple-digit fastball, a power curve, a swing-and-miss splitter and a willingness to pitch in high-pressure situations. He largely resembled his father, Bryan, the two-time All-Star closer from the early-1990s. -- Joe Trezza
Rays: RHP Nick Anderson
When the Rays acquired Anderson from the Marlins at the Trade Deadline in July 2019, they believed the right-hander could turn into a late-inning weapon out of the bullpen. But not even Tampa Bay could have predicted just how much success Anderson would have over the last two months of the season. Allowing just five earned runs in 23 dominant appearances, the right-hander had a strikeout in 41 of the 64 outs he recorded. And to make it even more impressive, Anderson walked just two batters over that span. Though Tampa Bay won’t name a set closer anytime soon, expect Anderson to get his fair share of save opportunities over the next couple of seasons. -- Juan Toribio
Red Sox: LHP Darwinzon Hernandez
Brandon Workman has earned the closer role for this season after posting a 1.88 ERA last year with 16 saves, but the righty is a free agent after the 2020 season. If Workman leaves, who will the Red Sox turn to? Without question, Hernandez, who possesses an electric left arm with a high-90s fastball, has the stuff to do the job. The 22-year-old was groomed as a starter, but Boston moved him to the bullpen last season out of necessity and he recorded 50 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings. The issue with Hernandez is his command. He had a combined 48 walks in 57 1/3 innings for the Red Sox, Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland. But Boston believes he can make the necessary adjustments and throw more strikes as he matures. -- Ian Browne
Yankees: RHP Deivi Garcia
With Chapman having signed a one-year contract extension this past November, the Yankees expect to have their closer role filled for the foreseeable future. Should Chapman require a stint on the injured list, the Yanks have several capable in-house candidates who could handle the ninth inning -- a group that includes former closer Zack Britton, who paced the AL with 47 saves in 2016.
General manager Brian Cashman has frequently said that relievers usually land in that role after struggling as starters, and so it is natural to wonder which names might be in that conversation three years down the line. Here’s one thought: talent evaluators already believe that Garcia could dominate out of the bullpen with his electric fastball and curveball tandem. The Yankees are developing Garcia as a starter, but if his changeup doesn’t turn into a third weapon, perhaps the 20-year-old could eventually transition to the bullpen. Hey, it worked out well for Mariano Rivera. -- Bryan Hoch
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.