There’s already been plenty of player movement at these winter meetings, with closers front and center.
On Monday, the Marlins introduced their new ninth-inning guy, Heath Bell. On Tuesday, the Blue Jays acquired Sergio Santos from the White Sox; the Mets came to terms with deals for two possiblities, Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch; and the Twins re-signed Matt Capps. And today, there are multiple reports saying the Padres have acquired Huston Street from the Rockies.
By my count, that leaves three teams that don’t have a set closer, and a couple that could upgrade but only for the right price.
The Red Sox need a closer. They saw Jonathan Papelbon sign a four-year, $50 million with the Phillies earlier in the offseason.
The Reds need a closer. They probably can’t pay big, though. After all, they declined Francisco Cordero’s $12 million option.
And the White Sox need a closer. But they’re in rebuilding process, and can’t take on any more big contracts. So they’ll likely give the opportunity to Jesse Crain or Matt Thornton, assuming the latter doesn’t get traded later this offseason.
Meanwhile, every other team has a closer in place.
And that’s not good news for the bevy of closers who remain on the market.
Veteran Brad Lidge could land with the Rockies — albeit for less than his $12 million salary in 2011 — as some insurance should Rafael Betancourt not make a smooth transition into the closer’s role. Lidge is a Colorado native, and he’s typically quite effective if healthy.
But if you’re Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez or Ryan Madson, your options are drying up in a hurry, especially when you consider teams seeking a closer also have options on the trade market — supposedly Joakim Soria of the Royals and Andrew Bailey of the A’s are being shopped. And if either is traded, neither team will have the funds to spend big on a replacement.
(Tigers closer Jose Valverde has to be absolutely thrilled he got that third-year club option two offseasons ago. Otherwise, he’d also have been a free agent — and could’ve been the first closer in history to take a paycut after going 49-for-49 in save chances.)
Rodriguez and Cordero are former All-Stars. Madson, meanwhile, is coming off a 32-save season for the Phillies that looked like it had earned him a big-dollar extension, until the ballclub abruptly stopped the dialogue and went strong after Papelbon.
Rodriguez, 29, and Madson, 31, at least have a decent option. Both have till midnight tonight to decide if they’ll accept their ballclub’s arbitration offer. Neither would be their team’s closer, but accepting arbitration would guarantee them a pay raise on a one-year deal, and they could try their luck on what’s sure to be a more desirable free-agent market next offseason.
Cordero, 36, doesn’t have that option, and should wind up with a significant paycut from his $12.1 million deal.
Be sure to check back with Covering the Bases, as Tony Paul blogs throughout the day Monday-Wednesday from the winter meetings.