Last offseason, relievers Matt Capps, Octavio Dotel, Mike Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg, Fernando Rodney, Rafael Soriano, Jose Valverde, and Billy Wagner were guaranteed a total of $61MM. There are quality relievers in that bunch, but their salaries were inflated by their past experience as closers. Let's take a look at the players and teams likely to be involved in the offseason closer carousel this time around.
Free agents who have picked up at least five saves this year: Soriano, Gregg (club option), Mariano Rivera, Brian Fuentes, Dotel, Jon Rauch, Chad Qualls, Kerry Wood, Trevor Hoffman, and Aaron Heilman. Frank Francisco, Scott Downs, Jason Frasor, Jose Contreras, J.J. Putz, and Takashi Saito have recent experience in the ninth inning. Bobby Jenks, George Sherrill, and J.P. Howell could reach free agency as non-tenders. Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, and David Aardsma are among the potential trade candidates. That's 22 relievers who'd probably like to close, and you could name a few more with a shot. Which clubs will be in the market for a closer?
- Orioles: They'll probably see what Gonzalez, Alfredo Simon, and David Hernandez can do next year rather than overpay for saves again. So far Buck Showalter hasn't committed to a lone closer.
- Red Sox: If they move Papelbon, I could see them bringing in a veteran reliever at a lesser price to compete for the closing job.
- Yankees: The expectation is that they'll re-sign Rivera.
- Rays: The best members of their bullpen are free agents, so they'll probably be adding relievers of some sort.
- Blue Jays: Picking up Gregg's $4.5MM club option will be a consideration.
- White Sox: A bullpen in flux. Jenks could join Putz in the free agent ranks. Matt Thornton should be back, but he's dealing with forearm soreness right now.
- Angels: Rodney has the experience, though Kevin Jepsen might be a better choice if the Halos stay internal.
- Rangers: Neftali Feliz isn't going anywhere, though GM Jon Daniels hasn't ruled out a move back to the rotation.
- Braves: Billy Wagner is retiring, so they could go with Jonny Venters if a veteran isn't acquired to provide competition.
- Diamondbacks: They've expressly stated they'll be in the market for a closer this winter.
- The Indians, Tigers, Royals, Twins, Athletics, Mariners, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Cubs, Reds, Astros, Brewers, Pirates, Cardinals, Rockies, Dodgers, Padres, and Giants appear to have their closer choices in-house for next year, though things will change between now and April.