The White Sox "jumped the market" in signing reliever Matt Thornton to a two-year, $12MM extension with a club option for 2014, in the opinion of ESPN's Buster Olney. With free agent relievers cashing in this offseason like never before, the Sox moved early on Thornton to avoid guaranteeing a third year. Olney would not be surprised to see other relievers get similar deals in the coming months; let's look at a few possibilities.
- Ryan Madson is the best candidate, as he turns 31 this year and passed on the free agent market once before despite being represented by Scott Boras. A vintage Madson season puts him in line for three years and $15MM at the least.
- Heath Bell's agent is expected to talk with the Padres during Spring Training, but it's hard to picture the team doing something even in the Huston Street range of three years, $22.5MM. Bell might need to be traded before finding a suitable extension offer.
- Matt Capps is probably only an extension candidate with the Twins if they decide to let Joe Nathan leave after the season. Three-year deals for setup men at top dollar are not the Twins' style, as they seemingly didn't consider the possibility with departing free agents Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain.
- Jonathan Papelbon and the Red Sox have been content to go year-to-year, so this is probably his last season in Boston. If he's dealt midseason for some reason, maybe his new team would consider an extension.
- Frank Francisco might fit the criteria with a good showing, though the Jays may prefer to bring in new veterans on one-year deals.
- Jonathan Broxton could return to form this year as the Dodgers' closer. If so, the team could try to pluck him off the market early.
- Check out the relievers on our 2012 free agent list – do you see any other candidates to be locked up before the season ends?