The closer role could be wide open next season for the Texas Rangers. Lefty Alex Claudio serviced in the role for most of the second half of 2017, but could we see a change in closer in 2018?
It’s hard to imagine the Texas Rangers committing to Alex Claudio at closer before looking at all options. The 25-year-old did well in the ninth inning role, but does he have a future as a closer in the Majors?
The Rangers never fully committed to Claudio as the “closer”, and there could be a reason for that. While Claudio did record 11 of his 15 save opportunities the organization might shake up his role multiple times throughout a season.
Even with lefty Jake Diekman on the roster, Claudio is likely still the most trustworthy left-handed reliever on the roster. Claudio’s ability to pitch early in games, and late gives him a trait that not many relievers have nowadays.
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Naming Claudio as closer puts a box around the versatile lefty and that is likely what the Rangers are trying to avoid. Instead, Texas could give someone like Keone Kela the closer role and move Claudio back into his former bullpen role.
Kela quietly had a fantastic season in the Rangers’ bullpen, and could be the next closer in Arlington. He appeared in 39 games, posting a 2.79 ERA, and opponents hit just .135 off him.
The 24-year-old only has three career saves, but most of the Rangers bullpen has little closing experience. Unless the organization brings in a veteran reliever to close games in 2018. Kela should be given a fair shot, and he has the stuff to flourish in that role.