Epic Closers Musical Chairs Just Beginning

In a year of limited talent throughout the list of available major league baseball free agents, especially among pitchers, the names of quality closers is striking. The likes of Joe Nathan, Grant Balfour, Fernando Rodney, Joaquin Benoit, and the real prize of the entire free agent market, Brian Wilson, are all available for the taking, and other closers have been relegated to the trade market.

In light of their pending loss of Balfour, Oakland just dealt Jemile Weeks and a player to be named for veteran Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson, who is coming off consecutive 50-save seasons. Balfour is taking his 72 2012-2013 saves, including 44 in a row at one point, to a more lucrative pasture, one that obviously will be ignoring his high walk and long ball ratios.

L.A. Dodgers Satin Button-Up Jacket

Texas, in the midst of a major overhaul, has chosen to let Joe Nathan go and are banking on one, two, or three former closers who have all battled major injuries the past few years. They clearly want Neftali Feliz to be the guy, and while upon his return from Tommy John Surgery late last season he did not have much chance to impress, apparently he has impressed in the Dominican Winter League. In the bullpen bullpen waiting for their shots to regain a closer’s role are former Royals star Joakim Soria who got back for a couple of dozen innings last year after missing the 2012 season, but who saved 115 out of 115 over a

three-year stretch in KC, and Alexi Ogando, who has gone back and forth from the starting rotation and set-up roles, but who very briefly had the closer role for a while in 2012 when everyone else was injured.

The biggest auction out there will be for Wilson, and the Dodgers would have loved to have kept him, but with the dominating Kenley Jansen now firmly entrenched as the closer, there just is no spot for Wilson that would keep them both happy.

As strong as is the list of available closers, conversely there are few quality starters looking for new

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teams, hence the likes of journeymen coming off very average seasons, or worse, at the top of the list for teams in dire need of pitching. How else to explain $10 M to Dan Haren, $8 M to Josh Johnson (2-8, 6.20 last year and 13-23 over the last thee seasons), $22 M for two yeas to Scott Kazmir, who was 10-9, 4.04 last season after missing two full seasons that were preceded by 9-15, 5.94 and 10-9, 4.89 years, and the Giants giving 38-year-old of

Tim Hudson, coming off a broken ankle, $23 M for two years? Ricky Nolasco is a good, not great starter, and I had hoped he would re-sign with the Dodgers as their number four or five starter. Instead, he was given $49 M to pitch for the Twins for the next four years. Even more telling perhaps is how remaining free agent starters are rated, with Ubaldo Jimenez rated the number four available

free agent, and Ervin Santana the sixth best. In what world?

Finally, as December unfolds, the super-thin-staffed Angels have not only not acquired a single starter, but they have now non-tendered both Tommy Hanson and Jerome Williams, leaving the staff about three pitchers deep. They have a lot of work to do.

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