The Cardinals have received a double-whammy of bad news regarding their closer situation in recent days. First, interim closer Mitchell Boggs imploded, surrendering 6 ER in 0.1 IP, and now the news that Jason Motte will be shut down for at least three more weeks. Even worse, he may require season-ending surgery if his elbow has not improved by May 1.
An imaging study on Motte’s elbow revealed a low-grade tear in one of his elbow ligaments; three weeks of further rest were prescribed by doctors. If significant healing does not occur in that time, Motte will go under the knife for Tommy John surgery. TJS would end his season and most likely impact him for the beginning of the 2014 season.
Fantasy owners should not turn to Boggs for St. Louis saves, but instead should scan the waiver wire for young Trevor Rosenthal, who owns more of a traditional closer profile than does Boggs.
Boggs, whose control has steadily improved throughout his career, was the temporary closer while the team awaited the return of Motte. Historically, he only strikes out about seven batters per nine innings, so he never figured to be a dominant closer. But after he allowed six earned runs in one-third of an inning on Monday versus the Reds, his long-term status is suddenly in question.
Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny has said it is too early to make a change at closer (which may mean he needs time to weigh his options). Boggs’ velocity has been down sharply thus far — from 95.7 mph in 2012 to 93.0 this season – which could contribute to fears about him as a closer.
Hard throwing Trevor Rosenthal figures to emerge as the closer in the Cards bullpen. He averages over 97 mph on his fastball and he owned a 57 percent ground ball percentage (just 14 percent fly balls) in 2012. He had been a starter in the minors but came on late last season to be an effective reliever; so he will get a long look in some pressure situations.
However, do not rule out St. Louis either testing the trade market or looking to sign a free agent, such as Francisco Rodriguez. While they wouldn’t normally trade with the division rival Chicago Cubs, they may think about a swap for Carlos Marmol, though they are more likely to look outside the division for help.
If you own Motte in your Fantasy league, do not drop him just yet. If you have a disabled list or room on the bench, wait to see how this period of rest treats his arm. When and if he returns this season, though, do not consider him a top closer, but treat him as a third closer, at best. Elbow problems rarely end well in the short term and Tommy John surgery has actually improved many arms after a lengthy absence.