Who's the Closer? Who Cares?

This season will be the third in which Robin Ventura is at the helm of the Chicago White Sox and the second in which mystery as to who will close games for the team will likely drag all the way up to the start of the regular season.

In 2012, you might remember, it wasn't revealed that Hector Santiago was the team's closer until the second game of the regular season when he began warming up with the White Sox ahead in the top of the 9th inning against the Texas Rangers.

 Coop'll close'em. // Credit: Ami Prindivile

Coop'll close'em. // Credit: Ami Prindivile

Santiago saved all of four games for the White Sox that season and was eventually stretched out into a starter, making four starts for the team down the stretch. Addison Reed, the White Sox's top prospect at the time, was called up and finished with 29 saves and went on to be the team's closer for the entirety of 2013, as well.

With Reed now in Arizona and no "established closer" on the roster, Ventura and Rick Hahn have been asked more than a few times this spring who could close games for the team. Like in 2012, they haven't tipped their hand, saying on more than one occasion that the job is still up for grabs and they haven't made up their minds.

Ventura's reasoning behind handling the situation is unknown. It could be that he doesn't want his young guys being continuously asked about the pressure of being a closer during the weeks leading up to Opening Day. It could be that likes to screw with fantasy baseball players. Hopefully, though, it's because he understands that having a 9th-inning guy established well before the season begins doesn't rank very highly on the list of important things to worry about during the spring.

I don't need to tell you that closers aren't valued like they once were. If you're reading this, chances are you're smart enough to know that on your own. The days of Francisco Rodriguez getting gobs of cash from the New York Mets are mostly in the past. Unless you're Craig Kimbrel or Mariano Rivera or Eric Gagne on Steroids, teams mostly view you as an expendable part. Jim Johnson saved 101 games for the Baltimore Orioles over the last two seasons. So what did they do? Shipped him to Oakland for basically nothing because they didn't want to pay what his arbitration number was going to give him.

With the addition of Javy Guerra, the White Sox have two members of their bullpen with at least a little bit of closing experience (Lindstrom being the other). Jones — the presumptive favorite for most of the spring — has shown during his two years in the bullpen that he at the very least has the type of stuff that profiles well as a closer.

Thus, Ventura has his choice. If he goes with Jones on Opening Day and Jones struggles and gets hurt, he can go with Lindstrom. If he goes with Lindstrom and the same happens to him, he can go with Guerra.

...and so on and so forth.

Successful teams are not built around ace closers. They're built around — or at least with — deep, competent bullpens. The White Sox aren't expected to contend in 2014, but if they do, the fact that Hahn, Ventura & Co., seem to realize that will be part of the reason why.
 

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