With some surprising non-tenders this past week the free agent relief pitching options have become even more robust. With most teams pretty much set at the closer position, some of these players are going to have to settle for setup positions or even middle relief. Raphael Soriano is looking like a genius for accepting arbitration from the Braves because these other guys are going to receive a pay cut this offseason. So of those left available, who should teams like the Orioles, Tigers and Nationals being looking at to anchor their bullpens in 2010.
Jose Valverde is by far the best candidate out there for the closer position. He had some injury issues last season but nothing too serious as to question his health for 2010. Valverde most likely did himself a disservice by declining arbitration from the Astros. He could have potentially earned up to $10 million. Valverde has been consistent with his numbers over the last three seasons with an average of 38 saves, 72 K’s, 63 IP and a 2.79 ERA.
Matt Capps was nontendered in a surprising move by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Capps is just 26 years old and with the exception of last season’s numbers, which were most likely effected by an injury, Capps has been a quality stopper for the Bucs. He as received quite a bit of interest with a rumored 12 teams contacting him so far. He has averaged 22 saves, 50 K’s, 62 IP, and a 3.70 ERA over the last three seasons for the last place Pirates.
Mike Gonzalez also rejected arbitration this offseason. He has had numerous injuries over the years, but when healthy is a tremendous asset to have in the bullpen. Gonzalez is a type-A free agent as well, so whoever signs him will have to surrender a draft pick in this year’s draft. Gonzalez averaged 9 saves, 49 K’s, 42 IP and a 2.76 ERA over the last three years. To be fair, his save numbers are low because he was a setup man or split time with another pitcher at the closer position.
Fernando Rodney is also available this offseason. Rodney has a canon for an arm which is attractive to a lot of teams, but he has pitched in a pitcher friendly park and has a consistently high BB/K9 ratio. Rodney is rumored to be seeking a 3-years $30 million deal, but there is little chance he will receive that. Rodney only officially took over the closer position at the end of 2008 so take his averages with a grain of salt. He averaged 17 saves, 55 K’s, 55 IP, and a whopping 4.52 ERA over the last three seasons.
Kevin Gregg rounds out the list of top contenders for a closer position this off season. The Orioles seem to be interested in him and he is close with Rick Kranitz from his days when they were both with the Marlins. Gregg has average 28 saves, 72 K’s, 73 IP and an ERA of 3.89 over the last three seasons.
There are many options available this offseason to teams and some honorable mentions that we didn’t include who have closing experience are Octavio Dotel, Eddie Guardardo, and Mike MacDougal. It is definitely a rough year for those who are looking to cash in on there success. So who do you think will be closing and who will be setting the table next year?