If the A’s indeed transition to a new closer for 2021, it’s not because they think just anyone can do the job.
“We know those last three outs are always the toughest to get,” general manager David Forst told NBC Sports California this past week.
While it appears AL Reliever of the Year Liam Hendriks will capitalize on free agency and leave the A's, Jake Diekman’s name was brought up by Forst in a recent media session. Although it might have been interpreted more formally than just a suggestion.
“I had to text Bob [Melvin] and say, 'No, I didn’t make a proclamation,' ” Forst said about his communication with the A's manager.
What Forst intended to say, was the obvious.
“As well as Jake pitched in 2020, and reliable as he was, there’s no reason he couldn’t pitch at the end of the game," Forst said. "Based on what we saw.”
Diekman appeared in 21 of Oakland’s 60 games in 2020, sporting a 0.42 ERA, allowing just one run and eight hits in 21.1 innings pitched. But there’s also two other things to consider if his success as a setup man will translate into the closer role for 2021.
“Since Sean [Doolittle] was here, we haven’t had a left handed closer,” Forst said. “We also know how valuable the matchups are in the seventh and eighth innings.”
Which was also the immediate thinking of Melvin, in managing late-game matchups.
“'If he does close, can he also pitch in the 7th and 8th inning?' ” Forst said of Melvin’s text reply. “Because we know how great he is there.”
In a winter where MLB free agency is moving at a slow and unpredictable pace, there is some comfort for the A’s knowing they already have an internal option, should nothing else present itself externally before next season.
“We’re lucky to have Jake for another year, based on what he did in 2020,” Forst said.