Free Agent Notes: Mariners, Cruz, Orioles, Relievers

The last major free agent closer domino fell today when Fernando Rodney signed with the Mariners. That deal carries implications for his new club and for other teams that had interest in his services. Here are the latest rumors on the free agent market …

  • After inking Rodney, the Mariners are "all in" and are "cautiously optimistic" that they will land outfielder Nelson Cruz, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. We heard recently that Seattle was talking with Cruz and was willing to give him multiple years.
  • Though they had interest, the Orioles never pursued Rodney that aggressively, reports Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun (Twitter links). Connolly says that Baltimore never indicated a willingness to spend near the $14MM guarantee that Rodney will receive from Seattle. "They liked him a little bit more than us," executive VP Dan Duquette told WBAL Radio (via a tweet from MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko). Of course, the O's had a two-year, $15MM deal in place with Grant Balfour until the team blew up the deal over issues with his physical.
  • With Rodney out of the picture, internal option Tommy Hunter appears to be the likeliest choice to close for Baltimore, notes Rich Dubroff of CSN Baltimore (via Twitter). Nevertheless, the Orioles have kept tabs on other late-inning relief options from the scratch-and-dent market. As Kubatko tweets, the club has shown interest in Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey as options to provide a mid-season boost. Both pitchers are coming off of surgeries, but offer plenty of upside. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reported in early January that Hanrahan was preparing to audition in the spring, and also reported in December that Bailey has received significant interest, and expects to be ready by the middle of May. 
  • Of course, three other relievers also came off the board today, with Carlos Marmol and Chaz Roe signing with the Marlins and Pat Neshek going to the Cardinals.
  • Now that Rodney has signed, it is clear that no reliever will beat Joe Nathan's guarantee of $20MM, writes Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca. That represents a notable shift, as every one of the last six signing seasons has featured a reliever deal with at least $25MM in guaranteed money. The changing market has not only opened the door for smaller-market clubs to ink top bullpen arms, Nicholson-Smith notes, but also creates an opportunity for teams to limit the earnings of their younger arms by preventing them from picking up saves and increasing their arbitration earnings. It is worth noting that this year's market featured an ample supply of excellent-but-aging closers, which could help explain why no single arm garnered a huge guarantee.


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