Rangers GM Reveals Closer Options for 2023

The Texas Rangers had 10 different pitchers pick up saves in 2022; clearly, the closer role was in flux all season. And heading into 2023, general manager Chris Young isn't offering any more certainty on the matter, except to list five candidates for the closer's role. And he didn't even include the one who had the most saves last year.

“José Leclerc could easily be the closer," began Young. "I think Jonathan (Hernández) could be a closer. Ian Kennedy has experience as a closer. I think Danny Duffy has saves in his career (actually, just one). Brett Martin had saves last year; I know he’s not an option now (note: Martin could miss most or all of the 2023 season after shoulder surgery). 

"There’s just a number of guys that have experience in those leverage roles. Ultimately, what I’m excited about is we should be in a position where we are needing a closer more than we have the last few years.”

So, bottom line, reading between the GM's lines—it's an open battle, but perhaps Leclerc could be the frontrunner. He had 7 saves last season, primarily in September. He finished the year strong after returning from Tommy John surgery: in 47 2/3 innings, he posted a 2.83 ERA and struck out 10.2 batters per nine. 

Hernandez earned four saves while posting a 2.97 ERA. 

Joe Barlow is back in the Rangers' bullpen, and he had 13 saves last season, but he was removed permanently from the closer's role by the end of the first half, and spent much of the second half on the injured list. He's not the ideal candidate, nor is Kennedy, despite his 66 career saves. It's always seemed like he was forced into the role when a team had no other options.

26-year-old lefty Brock Burke is a strong candidate as well, after posting a 1.97 ERA last season in 82 innings. 

With a vastly improved starting staff (Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi, and Andrew Heaney were offseason adds), as Young noted, there will be many more save chances than in recent years. Someone will have a great opportunity to step forward.

Photo: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports