A look at the closer market minus Jonathan Papelbon

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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:

6. Papelbon
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:

Boston
Cincinnati
Toronto
Minnesota
San Diego
Florida
Baltimore
L.A. Dodgers
N.Y. Mets

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.

Dodgers plan to tab Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of World Series

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.

Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.

Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.

The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.