An interesting article came across my plate yesterday entitled “How Paying Established Closers Saves Teams Money.” Understandably, the title grabbed my attention and I considered the likelihood that I would click through to find that the author was full of excrement, then spend some time shaking my head at those that leap to odd conclusions and back unproductive beliefs with faulty logic. That’s not what happened here. As it would turn out, should you choose to read the article yourself, there is evidence that suggests paying an established closer does in fact save a team money.
To sum up the research found within, bullpen pitchers reaching their first year of arbitration after seasons as non-closers or setup men make significantly less money in that arb year than pitchers reaching arbitration after a year of closing. Naturally, in subsequent years salaries escalate at a steeper rate following larger initial contracts. It makes sense, I’d just never thought about it. Pay an established closer, who is already making a moderate free-agent salary and you can have your cake and eat it too, with an eye on the bottom line.
We’ve seen the White Sox dodge arbitration years for young closers before. Most recently with Addison Reed’s departure and previously with Sergio Santos. When Santos was dealt, the Sox turned largely to the existing youngsters to take his place rather than employing any strategy resembling the above. This season, with Addison Reed leaving a year before he hits arbitration, the White Sox have supplemented the roster with established, experienced bullpen arms, protecting the team’s salary interests in the young potential closers-of-the-future they hope to have already under control.
The perception that acquiring bullpen arms without long-term futures indicating an attempt to “win now” was already stretching the situation. As is the case with people like me, that is, people who write about teams without having sat in on a single meeting with the powers that be, there is other information out there that we just don’t know.
Retaining a veteran arm like Matt Lindstrom and acquiring the likes of Ronald Belisario, Felipe Paulino, and Scott Downs creates options ahead of Nate Jones, who is seen by many as the heir-apparent to the team’s closer role. If the White Sox are not going to make a hard push for the division in 2014, why drive up salaries for 2015? Maybe one more year of Nate Jones being utilized outside of the closer role not only creates freedom of usage for Robin Ventura, but doesn’t provide Jones the arbitration ammunition that will be fired entering the 2015 season.
As I stated before, I’m just a blogger. Hell, I’m not even a good one. Nate Jones might very well be named the White Sox closer and end up grabbing an extra couple of million in his first year of arbitration. He might also help the team from a less prominent role because sometimes it makes sense to spend a little money now to save a little money later. Especially when you have what you believe to be a young core that can be heavy competitors in the approaching years.