The wait is over, D-backs fans. The Arizona Diamondbacks finally have a bona fide closer.
The D-backs acquired Mariners closer Paul Sewald in a trade on July 31st. The deal included INF Josh Rojas, OF Dominic Canzone and INF prospect Ryan Bliss in exchange for the Seattle reliever. Sewald is under team control through the 2024 season, and will be an immediate boost to Arizona's struggling bullpen.
The D-backs bullpen has been nothing short of abysmal this season, with a brutal mid-4 ERA and 19 blown saves. Sewald, however, has been outstanding in high-leverage situations, being used primarily as a late inning reliever and closer. Sewald holds an impressive 2.93 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, allowing only 1 earned run in his last 9 appearances.
Sewald relies on only 2 pitches, a low 90s fastball and an off-speed modified slider/sweeper with plenty of run. His command of the zone and pitch movement land him in the 98th percentile in K%, as well as the 88th percentile of whiff%.
But the biggest attribute that Sewald brings to the Diamondbacks is his clutch nature and ability to command the zone in high-leverage situations. The D-backs are 28/47 in save situations this season, 9th in MLB in blown saves, with a 60% conversion rate. Sewald, however, is a remarkable 21/24 in saves this season, with his last blown save coming over a month ago on June 27th.
And the most beautiful stat of all: of his 3 blown saves this year, not once did Sewald account for the loss. In fact, the Mariners still managed to win one of his blown saves by 3 runs. Sewald's only loss of the season came in a non-save situation, where he allowed just 1 earned run against the Minnesota Twins.
The D-backs have been in desperate need of a guy who can lock down a late inning and hold onto razor-thin leads. In recent seasons, it almost felt riskier going into the 9th inning with a 1 run lead than it would to be trailing.
Torey Lovullo's closer-by-committee, featuring Scott McGough, Miguel Castro, Andrew Chafin and Kevin Ginkel has been nothing short of a disaster, with the group not only contributing to an insanely high 8th and 9th inning ERA, but also blowing saves in much-needed potential wins.
Ginkel had been the only closer without a blown save resulting in a loss. He is 3/4 on saves on the season, his blown save coming on an unearned wild-pitch run, in last night's extra-innings game against the Giants. The D-backs ended up winning 4-3.
Just a week ago, I made the case for Ginkel to be the Diamondbacks' closer. And while I still believe he has it in him to perform in those situations, adding Sewald does a great favor to Ginkel and the rest of the pen.
Ginkel can become a killer 8th-inning setup man, while still allowing for Castro, McGough, Kyle Nelson and freshly recalled LHP Joe Mantiply to be available in earlier, high leverage innings. Lovullo no longer has to make a decision about who should close, and that decision will no longer affect who goes in at what time.
With a proven, veteran closer in the bullpen, it frees up resources to be used in other situations without compromising the final inning.
In a bullpen this beset by issues, blown saves and sloppy control, Sewald brings a veteran presence that could tie together the unit and help define relief roles more concretely. We have yet to see how he'll perform in a D-backs uniform, but as of now, it looks like Arizona finally has their closer, after years of Mark Melancon and closers-by-committee.
Sewald will be available August 1st against the Giants, here's hoping the offense gives him a save opportunity.
Welcome to the desert, Paul Sewald.