Early this morning, the Toronto Blue Jays finally made a decision on who would be handling closing duties at the outset of the 2016 season. Both Roberto Osuna and Drew Storen had legitimate cases to handle the ninth inning, but in true Highlander fashion, there can be only one.
Osuna is closer
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) March 30, 2016
The 21 year old reliever burst onto the scene during spring training last year. He was only invited to camp to get a sense of the major league enviornment before heading back down to the minor leagues. However, Osuna clearly had other ideas. Armed with a high fastball in the upper 90s, a Bugs Bunny changeup, and a developing slider, he earned a job in the major league bullpen despite never having thrown a pitch above A-ball. Once the season began, it didn’t take long for Osuna to make an impact. His major league debut came on the second day of the regular season with the bases loaded and one out in the 8th inning of a one-run game at Yankee Stadium. And oh yeah, he was facing Alex Rodriguez. I’d say it turned out ok. Osuna took off from there, not allowing a run in his first seven appearances in the big leagues, and holding a 0.76 ERA on May 26.
When Miguel Castro flamed out as closer, and Brett Cecil melted down against Baltimore on June 20th, the role was passed to the rookie Osuna. He got his first save on June 22nd against Tampa with five strikeouts in two innings, and he never looked back. By year’s end, Osuna had put up 20 saves, a 2.58 ERA and a 9.7 K/9. He then put up a 2.16 ERA in seven postseason appearances, including a save in the ALDS-clinching game five. He finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting…and did all of it as the youngest player in Major League Baseball.
Despite all of that, if you had asked who had the leg up on this job two weeks ago, I’m willing to bet a large section of the Blue Jays fan base would have told you that Drew Storen was a lock. Osuna pitched in the minors as a starter and, despite his success at the back of the pen, that’s where the Blue Jays eventually wanted him to end up. However, in order to turn him back into a starter, the team would need to increase his workload in 2016. That simply can’t be done from the closer’s job. To further the point, John Gibbons told USA Today that, “Osuna can give you more than one inning. Drew’s probably limited to one inning. That’s kind of who they are.” As such, all of the logical signs pointed to Storen.
All of that changed on March 22nd when Roberto Osuna gave an interview to John Lott of VICE Sports. During that discussion, the Jays’ pitcher made it clear that he has no desire to ever return to the rotation; he wants to be a closer for the rest of his career. The adrenaline of pitching with the game on the line in front of a packed house just had too much draw for the young righty. Now, obviously the team will do what they think is best, but they would be unwise to completely ignore Osuna’s wishes. And if Osuna is going to stay in a bullpen role going forward, there’s no reason not to let him stay on as the closer. Drew Storen is a pending free agent. He’s not the guy this team needs to keep happy for the next five years. Even with the ability to go multiple innings, Osuna was the only choice.
Now, here we are. Robert Osuna is the closer and he will be preceded by the setup duo of Drew Storen and Brett Cecil. It may not be Chapman followed by Miller and Betances, but I’d hand a lead over to the Blue Jays trio without hesitation. Brett Cecil is still working on his streak of not allowing an earned run since June 24th (the game after he lost the closer role), and Drew Storen has proven that he belongs in MLB’s elite class of relievers. Add in Gavin Floyd and Jesse Chavez, both of whom can throw multiple innings, and Joe Biagini, Ryan Tepera, and Arnold Leon, and all of a sudden this team has the makings of a very strong bullpen. When combined with the Blue Jays elite defense, teams could find that games against the Blue Jays get very short, very quickly.
It all starts/ends with Roberto Osuna. Go get ‘em, Little Cannon.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports