In a way, it’s déjà vu all over again. In 2012, the Seattle Mariners came into the season thinking they were set at closer. Brandon League had proved himself in 2011 with 37 saves. However, after blowing six saves with the Mariners in 2012, Seattle turned to Tom Wilhelmsen. Wilhelmsen finished the year strong, embracing the closer’s role earning 29 saves. He started this season strong also, converting his first eleven opportunities. After a save against the Yankees on May 16th, he had saved eleven out of eleven chances with a 0.50 ERA. Since then, he has five saves and four blown saves. For June, he is 0-2 with a 19.29 ERA. Are the Mariners going to switch closers again? Here are the options:
1) Keep Wilhelmsen the closer. Even though Wilhelmsen has had a miserable June, he still has four saves this month. The trouble has been his control. He has seven walks in 4.2 IP; he had eight walks in his previous 24 IP. The last thing a closer wants to do is put runners on. But, bad numbers aside, there is no proof that Wilhelmsen can’t return to the form that he showed at the beginning of the season. He had eight saves in eleven appearances and finished April with an ERA under one (0.75). I think this is the way the Mariners are leaning going into the Oakland series; there are no open signs Eric Wedge is ready to try another closer.
If the Seattle Mariners do decide to make a change in closer, the role might fall upon Carter Capps.
2) Go with another Mariner as the closer. This worked well last season with Wilhelmsen replacing League. However, the Mariners have no one currently on the roster with experience closing. It goes a little deeper than that; no Mariner reliever has earned a save in their entire career. Mariners’ starters go deep into games. In the last series against Houston, the bullpen got three innings of work. Carter Capps, the Mariner reliever with the most holds at six, would probably be the first choice if they replace Wilhelmsen but has struggled with the long ball giving up five home runs, the most of any reliever. Logan Bawcom has the most saves in Tacoma with 11, but he currently isn’t on the 40-man roster which would mean Seattle would have to make a roster move to call him up.
3) Make a trade. This is where the blown saves hurt Seattle. It seems silly to say at this point in the season, but if Wilhelmsen converted his four blown saves, the Mariners might be looking at the trade deadline differently. Right now, Seattle is 29-38. To get to .500 at the midway point (41-41), they would have to go 12-3 in the next fifteen, not overly likely for a team who hasn’t swept a series all season. But, they could’ve been 33-34, maybe looking to add some pieces. Unless the Mariners get hot, they are not going to add a luxury piece like a veteran closer. This is why sticking with Wilhelmsen seems the right course; they are unlike to add a reliever through trade and no current Mariner reliever have even earned a save in their career.