The Oakland A’s will need a new closer in 2021. For now, Jake Diekman appears to have the inside track for the role, but he is a major risk.
The Oakland A’s formidable bullpen from 2020 is set to undergo plenty of changes in the coming year. Four relievers, including closer Liam Hendriks, are free agents. As Hendriks is highly unlikely to return to the A’s, Oakland will need to find a new closer.
Given the A’s budgetary concerns, it is not a surprise that the search for Hendriks’ replacement will begin within the organization. With that being the case, it is also not overly shocking that Jake Diekman is considered as the favorite to be the A’s new closer.
Diekman had joined Hendriks as one of the six final relievers for the All MLB Team which had been announced on Wednesday. Although he ended up on the unannounced third team, it is still an honor that shows how dominant of a 2020 he had.
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Despite not recording a save, Diekman tied with Hendriks and Mark Canha as the second most valuable member of the A’s last year, posting a 1.4 bWAR, easily the highest mark of his career. He allowed just two runs, one earned, on eight hits and 12 walks in his 21.1 innings while striking out 31 batters.
There are plenty of concerns with handing the role to Diekman. He has just seven saves over his major league career and has not proven he can handle the ninth inning. His command is also questionable at best, as he owns a career 5.0 BB/9 rate. Even in his dominant 2020 campaign, Diekman walked 5.1 batters per nine innings.
But the A’s may not have a choice. Burch Smith is the only pitcher still on the roster that recorded a save in 2020, and he is still looking to remain with the same team for consecutive seasons. Unless the A’s sign a closer looking to rebound after a rough campaign, or bring in a low cost veteran arm, the A’s will give Diekman the chance to show he can handle the role.
Jake Diekman has the inside track to be the Oakland A’s closer for now. His command issues make this a scary proposition for the A’s.