Oakland Athletics to Go With Closer By Committee?

The Oakland Athletics have a number of relievers on their roster that could be called upon to close out any given game. According to an A’s beat writer, Bob Melvin could be looking to go with a closer by committee in 2017.

The baseball world isn’t expecting much from the Oakland Athletics in 2017. The A’s have spent some money bringing in familiar faces this winter, as well as adding another reliever that could be seeing time on the mound at key points throughout the season. Heading into the offseason, they already had Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle and John Axford, who have combined for 262 saves in their careers. With Santiago Casilla sitting on the free agent market in the latter half of January, GM David Forst added him to the club’s bullpen mix. Now, the A’s may not be leaning on just one guy to close out games.

The depth that they have in the bullpen could be a huge boost for the club if their rotation gets the old Sonny Gray back and sees Sean Manaea and others take another step forward in their development.

Of course, the A’s offense isn’t going to be leading the league in runs scored, but with a decent rotation and an experienced bullpen, they could surprise some people. Doolittle is the lone lefty in the mix here, which could see him used more frequently if only for that reason. As far as Axford, Madson and Casilla go, it could depend on which player is pitching the best of late, and will certainly come down to who is the most rested.

If I had to take a stab at it, I’d say that Doolittle will be more versatile and could see the bump whenever the situation calls for him–anywhere from closer to LOOGY. From there, Madson likely gets the nod for extended action first since he is the incumbent, followed by Casilla, then Axford. Some of this will be matchup based, and some of it may just be a feel that manager Bob Melvin has on that particular day. This season could put some of his managerial skills to the test in that regard.

For the A’s to have any shot at competing for a playoff spot in 2017, they’ll have to lock down just about every game they have a chance at winning. In a tough AL West, those opportunities may not be a fruitful as in previous seasons, but the team should still be exciting to watch with so much young talent on the roster looking to make an impact.

Outside of the closer by committee storyline, it will be interesting to see how each of these pitchers are used as the trade deadline approaches. Do the bigger assets see more late inning action than usual? It’s likely that Axford could become available in late July, but Madson, Doolittle and Casilla each have contracts with the A’s past the 2017 season, both making them valuable and an asset to the A’s in their rebuilding process as well as a potential trade piece.

For A’s fans, the stigma of a closer by committee may not be something that they are looking forward to seeing in action, but it could have a good impact for the club in future seasons if it helps to showcase each player’s potential trade value and ups the potential asking price for Forst and the A’s.

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