Robert Suarez in line for closer role with Padres

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Robert Suarez appears to be the closer for the Padres in 2024, but can he handle the job?

The history of the San Diego Padres is full of excellent closers.

From Rollie Fingers to Josh Hader, the Padres have arguably the richest history in terms of closers of all major league franchises.

Trevor Hoffman is widely recognized as the second-best closer behind Mariano Rivera in the history of the game. Rich “Goose” Gossage had a tremendous career, as did Huston Street, Rod Beck, and Randy Myers. Craig Kimbrel, Kirby Yates, and Brad Hand closed out games for San Diego, and each pitcher is still pitching at the major league level. There is a deep history with the Padres and closers.

With Josh Hader set to explore free agency this winter, the Padres are preparing themselves for life without the left-handed pitcher. Hader will demand a $100 million contract, or close to that, and the Padres just cannot pay the asking price. Hader will likely walk away, leaving the Padres without a proven closer for the coming season.

In line for the job is hard-throwing right-handed pitcher Robert Suarez.

The Padres inked Suarez last winter to a big contract. He made $10 million last season and will make the same amount for 2024 and 2025. He then holds two player options for the 2026 season and 2027 season at $8 million for each year. The Padres are heavily invested in the 32-year-old Venezuelan pitcher.

Suarez has pitched well in a setup role, but can he close out games for the Padres?

We all remember the big homer Suarez gave up to Bryce Harper in the 2022 NLCS. Big moments are part of closing, but Robert Suarez has a grand total of one save at the major league level. His lack of experience in the role at the major league level is a bit concerning.

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In Japan, Suarez saved 68 games throughout his career, including 42 in 2021 with the Hanshin Tigers. He has done the job in Japan but will need to develop into a reliable closer at the major league level.

Suarez’s first appearance in the majors was a blown save in the first game of the 2022 season against the Diamondbacks. The right-handed pitcher has failed in big moments thus far, but the life of a  closer is to shake it off and make it up in the next appearance. Can Suarez do that? We shall see.

There are very few options on the Padres’ current roster to close out games. Jeremiah Estrada was claimed off waivers from the Cubs a few weeks ago. The right-handed pitcher has high-leverage stuff, but it would take a dominant spring for him to be given an opportunity to close. At this point, he is a middle reliever.

The Padres could explore signing a free agent, but with payroll restraints, they would not get much in return. David Robertson, Liam Hendriks, and Aroldis Chapman are available. But are they worth a gamble? All come with a lot of risk.

That leaves Suarez as the closer.

The job is his for now. In a huge season for the San Diego Padres, Robert Suarez will need to be effective.

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