One of my favorite baseball related past times over the past season and a half has been taking to Baseball Reference immediately after Addison Reed closes out another game to see where he ranks in franchise history after earning yet one more save. Coming into today, Reed sits in 11th place with 50 saves. He only needs three more to tie Clint Brown and move into the top 10. And all this in under 100 innings pitched.
Yes, the save is not a terrifically useful or important stat. But it's still fun to watch the younger players climb up the franchise leaderboards. If Addison only manages to save 14 more games this season, he'll be sitting alone in 7th place for both career saves and single season. If he pulls off 19? A tie with Bobby Jenks for the 4th most in a single season in franchise history. It's a silly stat, but these are nice silver linings in an otherwise dismal year.
Which brings to mind an idea that is far less fun to ponder: if the White Sox aren't likely to compete over the next two seasons, should they trade Addison Reed to a contender?
Closers tend to get overvalued very quickly. It's the nature of the beast. No team should go out and sign a free agent closer unless literally every other question mark on the roster has been taken care of. Hell, they probably shouldn't do it then either. But a young cost-controlled closer? That's a horse of an entirely different color. And that's just what Addison is. Reed is under team control through the 2017 season and doesn't reach arbitration until after 2014. That's a lot of cheap, high-leverage innings. While it would be nice for the Sox to not have to worry about who comes out to pitch in the 9th for the next 4.5 years, they probably won't be in the thick of a playoff hunt again until Reed starts getting paid near what he's worth.
He's improving in just about every way the White Sox could possibly hope for so far this season. His K/9 is up to 9.77 while his BB/9 has dropped to 2.31, good for a K/BB ratio of 4.22. While his BABIP won't stay at .253 forever and his HR/9 is likely to regress to the mean from the 0.51 it currently sits at, he'll still be a very talented young closer who gets very good results. He finished 7th in American League in saves last season and is 4th so far this year. The numbers are there.
And teams tend to get a little dumb when it comes to trading for young closers. The Red Sox gave up Josh Reddick as part of a deal for the eternally-injured Andrew Bailey. The Red Sox then showed they hadn't learned by giving up another handful of prospects and Mark Melancon for the now-injured Joel Hanrahan. The Twins lusted for Matt Capps badly enough to give the Nationals a pre-arb Wilson Ramos! The Rangers gave up the struggling and blocked Chris Davis for Koji Uehara! These are things that actually happened!
Closers, like all pitchers, are volatile porcelain dolls prone to exploding into steaming heaps of radioactive garbage. They flame out all the time, look at Carlos Marmol a few miles to the north (well, not anymore). Look at what happened after the Sox traded Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays for Nestor Molina. Molina may be struggling in the minors, but Santos has only pitched 9.1 innings since crossing the 49th parallel. I'd rather have the minor leaguer.
I'm not demanding that Rick Hahn sends Addison Reed packing at the trade deadline. This winter would work fine just as well, potentially even better. But some time in the near future, it's in the team's best interest to trade Reed off to a club in contention. It beats the hell out of making the same mistake the Kansas City Royals did with Joakim Soria.