FanPost

Who's Closing in Milwaukee in 2017?

With Tyler Thornburg ready to win a ring in Boston, everyone is asking the same question: who will have ownership of the 9th inning in 2017?

There are a few internal candidates, and here's a case for and against each one of them:

Carlos Torres

WHY HE SHOULD CLOSE: The 34-year-old Torres was solid in his first season in Milwaukee, finishing the year with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He was somewhat of a stabilizing force in the bullpen, especially after the trades of Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith. A 7-year veteran, Torres would certainly be able to handle the mental aspect of closing, and if he performs well as a closer it would increase his trade value and allow the Brewers to flip him at the trade deadline for a mid-level prospect.

WHY HE SHOULDN'T CLOSE: 2016 was the best statistical season of Torres's career, and it's rather unlikely that he pitches as well in 2017 as he did this past season. His 3.75 FIP indicates that next season he will likely post numbers closer to his 3.96 career ERA. To put it simply, he might just not be good enough next year to close.

Corey Knebel

WHY HE SHOULD CLOSE: Knebel has shown that he possesses the stuff to be a solid late-inning reliever. Armed with a high-90s fastball and a sharp-breaking curveball, Knebel owns a 10.51 K/9 rate in three seasons in the bigs. Knebel also spent the majority of his minor-league career closing, collecting 26 saves in 31 chances. He earned his first two big-league saves last season, too.

WHY HE SHOULDN'T CLOSE: Knebel has shown, especially in 2016, that he has some control issues to work out. Knebel walked 4.41 batters per nine innings this past season. When he's not throwing strikes, Knebel has trouble. The result of these poor outings: a 4.68 ERA in 2016.

Jacob Barnes

WHY HE SHOULD CLOSE: Barnes performed well as a rookie in 2016, with a 2.70 ERA. The 26-year-old throws a fastball that averaged 95 mph in 2016; he also throws a slider/cutter that can become an effective strikeout pitch. Barnes even earned a save in 2016, and he did it in the tough pitching environment that is Colorado. He also managed a 1.21 ERA in Triple-A Colorado Springs.

WHY HE SHOULDN'T CLOSE: Barnes only pitched in 27 games last season, and may not be experienced enough to be handed the closer job so early in his career. He also battled elbow issues, has battled control problems for his entire minor league career, and is still rather unproven in the majors. The Brewers might want to wait and see if Barnes is the real deal before handing him a key bullpen role.

Jhan Marinez

WHY HE SHOULD CLOSE: Claimed off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays in May, Marinez turned out to be a nice surprise for the Crew, posting a 3.22 ERA while being serviceable in a middle relief role. If the Brewers don't add any more depth, could they see if Marinez is capable of handling a more significant role?

WHY HE SHOULDN'T CLOSE: I really don't see Marinez as a late-inning guy. He's had horrible control for most of his career, throws mostly just fastballs, and didn't strike guys out at a very high rate at all (7.21 K/9 rate). He's much more valuable in the middle-relief/mop-up role he was used in last season.

Damien Magnifico

WHY HE SHOULD CLOSE: The 25-year-old Magnifico has been a stud closer in the Minors, earning 38 saves in the past two seasons. His best year came in 2015 with Double-A Biloxi, when he earned 20 saves with a 1.17 ERA.

WHY HE SHOULDN'T CLOSE: He appeared in three big-league games last season. This isn't going to happen.

These are most, if not all, of the internal candidates for the job, but the Crew is reportedly looking for relief help on the free agent market too. Options include: Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Brad Ziegler, Greg Holland, Neftali Felíz, Fernando Salas, and Drew Storen. Each of these relievers have closing experience (although Felíz and Romo pictched in setup roles last season, Salas split time between setup and closing duties, and Storen hasn't closed since the first half of 2015) and could provide a relatively cheap boost to the Milwaukee bullpen. Out of these potential targets, my pick would have to be Romo or Salas. Casilla is 37 and quickly on the decline, Ziegler is coming off a great 2016 and likely has better suitors, Holland is a question mark coming off of Tommy John and his agent wants a 2-year $18 million deal, Storen flat-out stunk last year, and I'm not certain if Feliz's success in Pittsburgh last season will carry over into next year.

So, to recap: the Brewers could either turn to internal options that include Carlos Torres, Corey Knebel, Jacob Barnes, or possibly Jhan Marinez, or they could opt to sign low-cost free agent reliever who has late-inning experience. The question is, which do they choose? My personal preference is to have the Brew Crew sign Romo or Salas and see if they can flip him at the trade deadline for prospects, by which point Knebel or Barnes will hopefully be ready to inherit the closer role. In the long term, the Brewers are going to have to acquire a prospect they know will be able to hold down the late innings for several years.

Of course, I'm not the GM. It's David Stearns who has to decide what to do with his bullpen from here.