By: Ian Hunter
Canadian Baseball Network
The Toronto Blue Jays were in a win-win scenario when it came to deciding who should open up the season as the team's closer.
They either could've gone with Drew Storen, who comes with several years of a proven track record as a closer. But the Jays opted to go with the incumbent: Roberto Osuna.
To many, it seemed like a coin flip decision, but the Blue Jays really couldn't have lost either way; by either going with the recently-acquired Drew Storen with experience in the role, or Roberto Osuna, the team’s newly-minted fireballer closer.
Perhaps a bit of loyalty came into play here, as Osuna's short tenure as closer in 2015 surely factored into the decision-making. When John Gibbons finds a guy he likes, he tends to stick with them. And after coming up clutch in the regular season and in the playoffs, Osuna is now fully entrenched within the “Gibby circle of trust”.
Of the two players, Osuna seems to relish the title of closer much more. Last week, he expressed his desire to remain as a reliever and really had no aspirations to become a starting pitcher in the near future. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the Blue Jays bullpen always needs replenishing, and if Osuna stays successful in a relief role, it's prudent to keep him there.
Storen came to Toronto with much more of a pedigree as a "closer", but I think more than anything, he's simply happy to be playing for a competitive team and not having to worry about being choked in the dugout by a teammate.
There’s an interesting wrinkle to this decision; Storen does in fact have a games finished incentive built into his contract. Playing setup man to Osuna would certainly prevent him from getting there.
But as a would-be free agent, the only thing Drew Storen should be concerned with is staying healthy and contributing to this Blue Jays team … regardless of his role.
Considering that both of these guys are interchangeable between the 8th and 9th innings, I wonder if we might see them go back and forth a few times this year in the closer's role.
Not that Osuna and Storen are of the same caliber as Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances of the Yankees, but it's nice to know the Blue Jays have some flexibility in the back end of their bullpen.
My personal preference would've been Drew Storen over Roberto Osuna, but perhaps this decision hints at the Blue Jays' future plans for Osuna.
The club has reportedly explored the possibility of stretching out Roberto Osuna into a starter, but one would think that relegating him to these one-inning situations closes that door ... for this year, at least.
If Osuna were to be the setup man to Storen, there might be opportunity to allow Osuna to get four, five or six outs as a multi-inning reliever. In turn, progressively building up his innings and in essence stretching him out in-season.
But by staying as closer, Roberto Osuna may not be tasked with getting four and five outs, just the regular final three outs as regular closers often do.
Optically, going with Osuna over Storen was the better move for the Blue Jays. Osuna didn’t really do anything to prove that he shouldn’t be the closer this year, and that’s why he had the upper hand over Storen for the role.
It’s easy to forget that Osuna is still the youngest player in the majors at 21 years old, because he often approaches the game with a veteran-like calmness. But if for some reason, Osuna takes a step backwards and begins to experience a sophomore slump, I don’t think they’ll hesitate to instill Storen as the closer.
The Jays couldn’t have gone wrong either way, and this is a luxury that many teams can’t afford; two guys that could readily get the final three outs of a game on any given night.
The fact that Osuna expressed his desire to remain a reliever and keeping him as closer can only boost his confidence that much more.