Oakland A’s: Jake Diekman should not be the closer just yet
By David Hill
The Oakland A’s have tentatively named Jake Diekman as their closer for 2021. Their bullpen construction dictates that he should not close just yet.
As it currently stands, Jake Diekman is set to be the Oakland A’s closer in 2021. Oakland is likely to lose Liam Hendriks, and as Diekman was one of the more dominant bullpen arms in baseball last year, his ascension to the role makes sense on paper.
His performance in 2020 certainly speaks to his potential to handle the ninth inning. He allowed just two runs, one earned, on eight hits and 12 walks over 21.1 innings, striking out 31 batters. Diekman was the rare set up man to get recognition in the offseason, as he was named as a finalist for the All MLB Team for 2020.
There are some obvious concerns with Diekman in this role. He has a career 5.0 BB/9 rate, including his 5.1 BB/9 rate last season. Diekman also has all of seven career saves, and has not been tasked with holding down the ninth inning for a full season. While he did close out Game Two of the Wild Card round, one has to wonder if he can last in that role as the primary option.
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The biggest concern with Diekman as the closer actually has nothing to do with his performance at all. Instead, the A’s bullpen construction should give pause to this idea. Based on the current bullpen depth chart, Diekman is the only left handed reliever on the A’s. Unless, of course, Oakland shifts A.J. Puk into the bullpen.
This can certainly change before spring training. The A’s do need four arms in the bullpen based on their expected free agency defections. Even with their limited financial resources, there are plenty of left handed relievers that could be available and can fall within their budget.
But first, the A’s actually need to sign one of those arms. That may be easier said than done considering how many teams need bullpen help. However, as free agency drags on, the A’s may find themselves with the perfect opportunity to land one of those needed relievers.
Jake Diekman may be the Oakland A’s closer on paper, but their roster construction does not indicate that he should be. A signing or two could change that.