I’d be Lyon if I Wasn’t Confused

When the Arizona Diamondbacks traded closer Jose Valverde to the Houston Astros last month it left what many think is a gaping hole in the bullpen and questions around who will close games for the snakes in 2008. It is not as though Arizona is without any options, they currently have three individuals on their roster who is more than capable of filling the role as closer. For the past year I have been a proponent for Tony Pena to be given an opportunity to become the closer. His blazing fastball with late movement as well as his mental make-up seems to suggest he is the prototypical closer. Others have suggested that Chad Qualls whom the Diamondbacks received in the deal for Jose Valverde be given an opportunity to become the closer. Qualls has been very durable and consistent over the past few seasons and would seem to be a very good candidate. Another possibility and one that is looking more and more as the favorite; is to move current set-up man Brandon Lyon from his eighth inning role to become the closer.

This would not be the first time Lyon would be given the closer’s role. After coming across in the Curt Schilling trade Brandon Lyon was given the job as closer in 2005. In 29 innings he accumulated 14 saves despite posting a 6.44 earned run average. That season was cut short by injury. Upon coming back the following season Lyon was moved to more of a set-up role to minimize the wear-and-tear to his arm. The question now becomes, could Lyon stay health enough to close or is he more suited to a set-up role? This is a question that will be on a lot of people’s minds but no one more so than General Manager Josh Byrnes or Lyon’s representative Barry Meister. These two men are currently negotiating a contract for Lyon the value of which will be determined by the role Brandon is to play. Lyon is currently arbitration eligible with hearings scheduled next month. The Diamondbacks would like to avoid a hearing by finalizing a contract before that scheduled date. Both sides also seem amenable to negotiating a long-term contract beyond 2008 but again the question is do you pay Lyon as a set-up man or as a closer since the value of each is substantially different. One of the reasons the Diamondbacks were looking to move Valverde was due to his potential increased value due to the season he had. If Lyon has similar success as a closer it would benefit the Diamondbacks to have him locked up for several years thereby containing costs. Lyon on the other hand does not want to sell himself short if he is given the opportunity to become the closer. All of these questions will be roadblocks that the two sides must navigate during negotiations. It will ultimately be up to Josh Byrnes with input from Bob Melvin to decide what the role of Brandon Lyon will be in 2008 and whether that role fits within their long term goals beyond this season.

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