Fernando Rodney has struggled this season, and it may now be time to remove him from the closer’s role. He has gone from the seemingly invincible arrow shooting savior of the bullpen to the same league average to below pitcher he had been before 2012. Even though Rodney is a ‘proven closer,’ that stigma has not mattered to the Rays under Joe Maddon. In fact, a different reliever has led the team in saves in each of his seasons at the helm.
So what would be the Rays options if they were to remove Rodney from the closer spot, even if it is temporarily done so as to get him back on track? Here are a few candidates:
Joel Peralta: Peralta may actually be the best option to replace Rodney. Although he has only 11 career saves, and melted down at the start of 2012 when it seemed as though he would be the closer after Kyle Farnsworth got injured, he had been successful as a closer before. In September of 2011, as the Rays made their furious charge back into the playoffs, Peralta was the closer at the time. He may not have the blazing fastball of a stereotypical closer, but he is adept at getting popups and still strikes out a batter per inning. Plus, Peralta has been one of the few relievers that has been able to be trusted in a tight spot this year.
Jake McGee: It seemed as though McGee was the closer in waiting for the Rays, and that he may have cemented his status as such with an excellent 2012. Yet, much like most of the rest of the bullpen, he appears to have taken several steps backwards. However, ten of the runs McGee has given up came in 1.1 innings – Opening Day against the Orioles and May 1st against the Royals. Eliminating those games, McGee has an ERA of 2.87, with 22 strikeouts in 15.2 innings. Those numbers look like close to what one would like from a closer.
Josh Lueke: This one is more of a dark horse, although the Rays and Maddon have not been afraid to go outside the box before. Lueke pitched great as a closer in Durham, compiling a 2-0 record, 0.95 ERA, 7 saves and 29 strikeouts in 19 innings. However, he has yet to have the same type of success in the majors, with a career ERA of 7.14. He pretty much gets mentioned just because he closed for the Bulls, since he has yet to prove that he can be successful in the majors.
Chris Archer: Even more of a dark horse than Lueke as a possible closer, but Archer does have the stuff with his fastball/slider combination to be an effective reliever, and possible closer. He has pitched two games in relief in the majors, and even though he has been strictly a starter since 2010, Archer does seem as though he may be the type of pitcher that could step in and excel in the role. In fact, bringing Archer in as the closer may not only solve part of the Rays bullpen issues, but help relieve part of the logjam the Rays have of possible starters. Archer also could potentially bring continued stability to the closer role, which is something that the Rays have lacked since Danys Baez.
As it stands, McGee and Peralta appear to be the most likely to replace Rodney as the Rays closer, with Peralta likely having the advantage. Of course, there is also the possibility that the Rays look outside the organization to either find another closer, or even to just add more depth, given the collapse of majority of the bullpen. Also, there may be other pitchers in the organization that the Rays look to who are not on the above list.
The Rays have options to replace Fernando Rodney. With the way he has been pitching as of late, they need to begin exploring these options to see if his replacement is waiting int he wings.