The Phillies just went and bought themselves the best closer available this winter. Now we’ll see who else is ready to ante up.
Here’s how I ranked the available closers in the top 111 free agents:
12. Heath Bell
14. Ryan Madson
16. Francisco Rodriguez
24. Francisco Cordero
40. Joe Nathan
45. Jonathan Broxton
47. Matt Capps
53. Frank Francisco
Those first five guys were always pretty much guaranteed to open next season as closers, and Nathan is certain to have a job in that role if he wants one. The remaining three are possibilities as cheap closers but could also sign as setup men.
And the teams looking for closers now that the Phillies are out of the hunt:
Other possibilities: Washington, Texas, Chicago White Sox, L.A. Angels, St. Louis
I’m ordering those teams in presumed willingness to spend. I think it’s pretty much a given that Boston, Cincinnati and Toronto will sign new closers, probably from among the “big four” remaining closers. San Diego is a wild card; the Padres would spend a substantial amount to re-sign Bell, but they’ll probably go cheap if they can’t land him.
It seems to me that it’s much more of a buyers market now with the Phillies and Papelbon out of the mix. I think the Red Sox would love Madson, but not at the four years and $44 million he was rumored to be getting from Philadelphia. Now, however, he might come off the board substantially cheaper than that. The Blue Jays want a big-time closer, but it’s hard to see them going past $10 million per year. I expect Cincinnati will simply re-sign Cordero. Teams like the Orioles and Mets could gamble on Broxton or Brad Lidge.
One way it could potentially shake out:
Boston: Madson – four years, $36 million
Toronto: K-Rod – two years, $18 million
Cincinnati: Cordero – two years, $16 million
San Diego: Bell – accepts arbitration
Minnesota: Nathan – two years, $12 million
Now, on the other hand, there’s still the possibility those contracts could go substantially higher. The Marlins could decide to throw big money at a closer if they get spurned by Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes. The Rangers could decide to shift Neftali Feliz to the rotation and then bid for Madson. The Nationals could trade Drew Storen and make a run at Madson. The Cards would have money to spend on the bullpen if Pujols decides to head elsewhere.
As is, though, I think the teams that are patient will be rewarded and that the Phillies’ decision to give $50 million to Papelbon will look like a big overpay at the conclusion of the winter. But only time will tell.