There’s nothing that screams “we need a closer” more than “Matt Albers earned a save for us.”
That’s not necessarily a knock on Albers, who has dusted himself off from a disastrous 2016 rather nicely with the Washington Nationals. He joined the Nats from his minor-league contract a week into the season and posted nine consecutive scoreless outings, culminating in his first MLB save in 460 career relief appearances.
But when Albers came out for his next high-leverage appearance -- two on, two outs in the eighth inning — he gave up a three-run homer to Aaron Altherr, tying the game:
Albers did get the third out of the eight, but then he gave up a walk and a bunt single to start the ninth before Dusty Baker lifted him.
I’m not exactly sure where Albers ranks among Baker’s choices in the ninth. This article suggests he might be sixth behind Shawn Kelley, Koda Glover, Sammy Solis (all hurt), Blake Treinen and Joe Blanton.
The string of failures is why the David Robertson-Washington rumor persists. Jon Heyman still stumped for that combo in his notebook last week:
Kelvin Herrera makes sense for the Nats. But David Robertson makes the most sense.
Locally, Bruce Levine also reintroduced the possibility while on 670 The Score’s “Hit and Run” show. The show’s Twitter account made it seem like he raised the alert level:
But that doesn’t really reflect what Levine actually said:
I still think Washington’s No. 1. They have one of their top scouts in their organization is going to be here watching the White Sox for that entire series. Again, because they traded ... and White Sox earned so many young players from there, is there still a match there between Washington and the White Sox? But they’re the team that really needs a closer.
That merely rehashes the supposed fit between the teams, with the news item that a top man from Washington will be in attendance. Stand down.
It’d be a lot easier to believe a trade were imminent if the Nationals didn’t own baseball’s biggest divisional lead. The Nationals are 21-10, leading the Mets by 6½ games. There’s no pressing reason to get it done aside from the indigestion that a shortage of high-leverage relievers can cause, except if the Nationals think they can get a jump on other contenders who need relief help.
But if that’s the case, that means the White Sox might be doing themselves a disservice by dealing this early, because the Sox understand better than anybody the benefits of using Washington’s interest to drive up the price for another team.
There are a couple unique aspects to this particular situation, but they’re only speculative. For instance, perhaps these discussions have been going on for so long that a trade only requires Mike Rizzo to turn a “no” into a “yes” on a previous price point. Or maybe the White Sox will be inclined to deal early in order to free up every dollar possible to sign Luis Robert when he becomes eligible on May 20.
I don’t think either of those conditions are strong enough to foster a deal in the first half of May. The fit is so obvious that one can’t be sure, but this winter showed us that fits are only a small part of it.
Update: Speaking of Robert, Ben Badler of Baseball America just posted an update:
The Cardinals, Padres and White Sox each held private workouts last week in the Dominican Republic for Luis Robert, the 19-year-old Cuban outfielder who is eligible to sign on May 20. [...]
The White Sox had vice president Ken Williams and general manager Rick Hahn at their workout for Robert.