Mariners Insider Blog

Angels find a suitable replacement for K-Rod

The Los Angeles Angels may not have gotten Mark Teixeira and they may not be interested in Manny Ramirez, but they did manage to shore up the space vacated by Francisco Rodriquez. The Halos signed free agent closer Brian Fuentes to a two-year, 17.5 million dollar deal. Here's the story from the Associated Press.

Some of you may remember that Fuentes was actually Mariners property - drafted in the 25th round of the 1995 draft - but he was traded to the Rockies along with Denny Stark and Jose Paniagua for Jeff Cirillo. No, Bill Bavasi didn't make that trade, but it still doesn't make it any better.

Look this isn't as a sexy of signing as saying getting Teixeira. And there are some who thought that the Angels could have gotten away with having Jose Arredando move from the set-up role to the closer role. Having guys in established roles for late in games is so vital. I think we saw what happened this year with the Mariners when J.J. Putz was hurt, and we'll see this year when the Mariners play musical closers.

I don't know if Fuentes was the best closer available, but he was relatively cheap and experienced. And if your the Angels, this is the type of move you make - because you can afford to and because you are a good enough team with enough resources to not go into the seasons with a pitcher who has never closed games at the big league level. That's what you do when you are in the Angels situation, not so much when you are in the Mariners situation.

There is some thought that closers are overrated, and I was one who thought K-Rod fit that bill (as did his new bullpen mate JJ Putz), but I'm not necessarily a believer that you can take any pitcher and stick them in that role and have success. I talked with former Mariners pitching coach and current D'backs pitching coach Bryan Price about this a little in Las Vegas at the winter meetings and Price was adamant that some pitchers can't succeed in that closing role. New Mariners bullpen coach John Wetteland is along the same mindset.

And that's what is scary about the possibility of Aaron Heilman being used as a closer this season. Heilman struggled in the role last season. One of the reason's was the command of his fastball which the Lookout Landing broke down. But there was some people close to the Mets, who said that Heilman simply couldn't handle pitching in that situation, particularly with the Mets' bullpen struggling as a whole. After a few struggles, he lost confidence in himself and particularly his fastball. Instead of challenging hitters with it, he nibbled and tried to be too fine, which led to him falling behind in counts.

Whatever the issue is with Heilman it needs to be fixed this season. Maybe he doesn't have the make-up to be a closer. And his demands to be a starter says that he doesn't want to do it. So what does that leave the Mariners with?

Brandon Morrow? There would be a mutiny by Mariners fans.

Mark Lowe? He still hasn't been able to find consistent command with his fastball and it has lost movement.

Roy Corcoran? His motto of "I might not throw 98, but I act like I do." could eventually catch up with him.

Miguel Batista? Um, well, um, no.

What would you do?