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Closing Time

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I'm in an awful hurry this morning; I'm supposed to attend the BMW Championship today, and I needed to get my happy ass up out of bed much earlier than I did. Therefore, this will be somewhat abbreviated.

I have to say, first off, the pitch that Jacobs hit out didn't look like all that bad of a pitch to me. It was down, it was away, and it was just a very nice piece of hitting to put that kind of a swing on it. Was it an absolutely perfect pitch? Probably not. It may have caught a bit more of the plate than what you would like to see in that situation, but it wasn't a hanging slider, it wasn't a belt high meatball, or anything like that. Sometimes you just get beaten.

Still, that's two in a row for Perez, and I think it's fair to be a little bit concerned at this point. Perez looked ridiculously good when he threw against the Diamondbacks in the second game of that series, then looked less than impressive the next day. Last night, he still looked good to me, but he did give up a game tying home run. Never mind how good of a pitch it was, I wouldn't think anyone was out of line for questioning whether or not this is the guy that we want to go to war with next season.

For me, the answer to that question is still yes. I think Perez absolutely has the stuff to close, and I think he certainly has the mentality. He didn't look tentative last night, in his first appearance since blowing the save in the desert, nor did he run and hide after the dinger, coming back to strikeout the next two batters. He seemed to show that short memory that you always hope to see out of a late inning reliever in that situation, not always necessarily a given with a young pitcher of his ilk, no matter how nasty the stuff he can toss up there.

For someone else, though, the answer could certainly be different, and while I might argue against it, I wouldn't dismiss the argument. Perez has still shown a propensity for occasional control problems, falling behind hitters much too often for a truly top notch closer. He's been much better this season in terms of walks than he was in previous years, but strike one still isn't in his repertoire quite as often as you would like to see.

Unfortunately for those of you in the camp that Perez simply isn't ready, or even that he isn't the long term solution period, there aren't a ton of really attractive candidates to bring in for the closer's role next season. Looking at the complete list of free agents for next year, the relief pitcher's area looks thin on the ground. Probably the most attractive candidate on the list would be everybody's favourite trade target this deadline season, Brian Fuentes. Other than him, Brandon Lyon, the DBacks' closer this year, will be a free agent, but he's been less than impressive. As Cardinal fans, we should all remember perfectly well what Kyle Farnsworth can do to a game; he doesn't seem like much of an option. Kerry Wood is set to be a FA after this season, but I'm pretty sure the Cubs are going to make a move to bring him back. Dan Wheeler could very well be out there, but he hasn't been lights out.

Of course, there is one name on the list that really would set the Cardinals up pretty well, and that's Francisco Rodriguez. That does bring into question, though, just how much are you willing to pay for a guy that throws one inning seventy times a year? K-Rod will most likely get the largest contract ever given to a closer this offseason, and he's widely considered by many to be a significant injury risk. It's certainly a nice thought, but I'm just not sure that Rodriguez is all that realistic.

Trade targets are not all that plentiful, either. Huston Street remains the biggest name on the market that should be available, but you have to be a bit concerned about the  troubles he's had staying on the field. When healthy, Street is still as good as they come, but just how often is that going to be?

J.J. Putz of the Mariners could be another intriguing target. How badly does one of the worst teams in baseball need an elite closer? Seattle could very well be going into full scale fire sale mode, which would most likely involve dealing Putz. How much it would cost to bring him over, in terms of talent cost, though, is anybody's guess.

So there are most of your options. Outside of the pitchers above, you're mostly looking at second or even third tier guys, basically just guys you would bring in to try and hold down the fort for one season, at the most, until you have a better option available, whether that's Perez, Motte, or some other pitcher from outside the organisation. Not a particularly inspiring list, eh?

As I said earlier, Perez is still my guy. What do you guys think?

Oh, and also, just for fun, pursuant to Joe Strauss' recent invitation for people to bring suggestions for managerial/ pitching coach tandems to his next chat, let's do the same, shall we? I'm interested to see what sorts of candidates we like here at VEB.

See you later, guys. I'm off to the golf course.