Teams looking for potential closers have quite a few options this offseason, with the all-time single-season leader (Francisco Rodriguez) and a guy who has closed out plenty of big games in a big market under big pressure (Jonathan Papelbon). Some lesser-known guys who can help, too.
Looking for a lefty? Good luck. Those are few and far between in this market.
The top 10 free agent relievers heading into 2012:
1. Jonathan Papelbon: He was on the mound when the Red Sox's season ended in the season finale against Baltimore, but he didn't deserve the blame. He posted more than 30 saves for the sixth consecutive year, and had 87 strikeouts in 64.1 innings. After a substandard 2010, he lowered his ERA by almost a full point. He'll be 31 this spring, and the four-time All-Star will get the biggest deal of any reliever.
2. Heath Bell: The 34-year-old was seemingly always on the trade block in San Diego, where he saved more than 40 games for three consecutive seasons. An All-Star for the past three seasons, he'll get quite a few offers.
3. Ryan Madson: Became the Phillies' full-time closer for the first time and excelled, saving 32 games with a 2.37 ERA. He was very good middle reliever before that, and is the same age as Papelbon.
4. Francisco Rodriguez: Not the pitcher he used to be - his stats got worse in each of the last four years since setting the saves record with 62 in 2008 - before a solid 2011, especially after he was traded to Milwaukee and went back into a setup role. He won't make the big money he did before - his off-the-field problems contributing - but he'll find a taker as a closer again.
5. Jonathan Broxton: Coming off elbow issues, he only threw 12 2/3 innings in 2011. But he's just two years removed from a 36-save season in which he yielded 44 hits in 76 innings with 114 strikeouts. And he's only 27. A good risk-reward pickup.
6. Joe Nathan: Perhaps the best closer in baseball not named Rivera a few years ago, he came back from Tommy John surgery last season.Typically, pitchers are better in the second year after their comeback, but Nathan lost some velocity. He saved 14 games in 2011 and had a 4.84 ERA. He'll be 38 in the spring, however.
7. Mike Gonzalez: The best lefty on the market, which should make him some money. He was part of the Rangers' stellar cast in the second part of the season. Has closing experience, and he's just 33.
8. Francisco Cordero: Always seemed to be on the precipice of losing his closing job in Cincinnati, but held it pretty well for the last four years. He's 36 now and doesn't have the strikeout totals he did when he was younger, but a guy with 327 career saves and a 3.17 career ERA will have a market.
9. Brad Lidge: Will he ever get to close again? A year after elbow surgery, he threw very well in the second half for the Phillies, with a 1.40 ERA in 19 innings with 23 strikeouts. If Kyle Farnsworth can find another shot as a closer, as he did with Tampa Bay in 2011, Lidge certainly has a shot at age 35.
10. Matt Capps: Just 28 years old, he's on the open market after sharing the closing job with Nathan in Minnesota, going 4-7 with 15 saves. He has never been in the upper echelon of closers with the Pirates, Nationals and Twins and isn't a strikeout artist, either. But he might be an excellent setup guy in a Rangers-like bullpen, which gives him value.
Left-handers designated by (L)
Ages are as of Opening Day 2012.
Free Agent Relief Pitchers
|Name||Age||2011 team||2011 stats||2012 team||Contract|
|Jeremy Accardo||30||Orioles||3-3, 5.73 ERA||Indians||minors|
|Luis Ayala||33||Yankees||2-2, 2.09 ERA||Orioles||1 yr, $925,000|
|Danys Baez||34||Phillies||2-4, 6.25 ERA||not signed|
|Miguel Batista||41||Mets||5-2, 3.60 ERA||Mets||minors|
|Heath Bell||34||Padres||3-4, 2.44 ERA, 43 SV||Marlins||3 yrs, $27M|
|Blaine Boyer||30||Mets||0-2, 10.80 ERA||not signed|
|Jonathan Broxton||27||Dodgers||1-2, 5.68 ERA, 7 SV||Royals||1 yr, $4M|
|Shawn Camp||36||Blue Jays||6-3, 4.21 ERA, 1 SV||Mariners||1 yr, $750,000|
|Matt Capps||28||Twins||4-7, 4.25 ERA, 15 SV||Twins||1 yr, $4.75M|
|Todd Coffey||31||Nationals||5-1, 3.62 ERA||Dodgers||1 yr, $1.3M|
|Francisco Cordero||36||Reds||5-3, 2.45 ERA, 37 SV||Blue Jays||1 yr, $4.5M|
|Juan Cruz||33||Rays||5-0, 3.88 ERA||Pirates||minors|
|Octavio Dotel||38||Cardinals||3-3, 3.28 ERA, 2 SV||Tigers||1 yr, $3.5M|
|Chad Durbin||34||Indians||2-2, 5.53 ERA||Nationals||minors|
|Randy Flores (L)||36||Twins||0-0, 4.91 ERA||not signed|
|Frank Francisco||32||Blue Jays||1-4, 3.55 ERA, 17 SV||Mets||2 yrs, $12M|
|Ryan Franklin||39||Cardinals||1-4, 8.46 ERA||retired|
|Jeff Fulchino||32||Padres||1-4, 5.71 ERA||Nationals||minors|
|Chad Gaudin||29||Nationals||1-1, 6.48 ERA||Marlins||minors|
|Mike Gonzalez (L)||33||Rangers||2-2, 4.39 ERA||not signed|
|John Grabow (L)||33||Cubs||3-1, 4.76 ERA||Dodgers||minors|
|Juan Gutierrez||28||D'backs||0-0, 5.40 ERA||Royals||minors|
|LaTroy Hawkins||39||Brewers||3-1, 2.42 ERA||Angels||1 yr, $3M|
|Aaron Heilman||33||D'backs||4-1, 6.88 ERA||Mariners||minors|
|Ryoto Igarashi||32||Mets||4-1, 4.66 ERA||Pirates||minors|
|Jason Isringhausen||39||Mets||3-3, 4.05 ERA, 7 SV||not signed|
|Brad Lidge||35||Phillies||0-2, 1.40 ERA, 1 SV||Nationals||1 yr, $1M|
|Scott Linebrink||35||Braves||4-4, 3.64 ERA, 1 SV||Cardinals||minors|
|Mike MacDougal||35||Dodgers||3-1, 2.05 ERA, 1 SV||Dodgers||1 yr, $1M|
|Ryan Madson||31||Phillies||4-2, 2.37 ERA, 32 SV||Reds||1 yr, $8.5M|
|Damaso Marte (L)||37||Yankees||Injured||not signed|
|Trever Miller (L)||38||Red Sox||0-1, 3.80 ERA, 1 SV||Cubs||minors|
|Sergio Mitre||31||Yankees||0-1, 4.46 ERA||not signed|
|Guillermo Mota||38||Giants||2-2, 3.81 ERA, 1 SV||Giants||1 yr, $1M|
|Joe Nathan||37||Twins||2-1, 4.84 ERA, 14 SV||Rangers||2 yrs, $14.5M|
|Pat Neshek||31||Padres||1-1, 4.01 ERA||Orioles||minors|
|Hideki Okajima (L)||36||Red Sox||1-0, 4.32 ERA||Yankees||minors|
|Darren Oliver (L)||41||Rangers||5-5, 2.29 ERA, 2 SV||Blue Jays||1 yr, $4M|
|Ramon Ortiz||39||Cubs||1-2, 4.86 ERA||Giants||minors|
|Vicente Padilla||34||Dodgers||0-0, 4.15 ERA, 3 SV||Red Sox||minors|
|Jonathan Papelbon||31||Red Sox||4-1, 2.94 ERA, 31 SV||Phillies||4 yrs, $50M|
|Chad Qualls||33||Padres||6-8, 3.51 ERA||Phillies||1 yr, $1.15M|
|Jon Rauch||33||Blue Jays||5-4, 4.85 ERA||Mets||1 yr, $3.5M|
|Chris Ray||30||Mariners||3-2, 4.68 ERA||Indians||minors|
|Dennys Reyes (L)||34||Red Sox||0-0, 16.20 ERA||Orioles||minors|
|Arthur Rhodes (L)||42||Cardinals||3-4, 4.64 ERA, 1 SV||not signed|
|Fernando Rodney||35||Angels||3-5, 4.50 ERA, 3 SV||Rays||1 yr, $2M|
|Francisco Rodriguez||30||Brewers||6-2, 2.64 ERA, 23 SV||Brewers||Arbitration|
|J.C. Romero (L)||35||Rockies||1-0, 4.32 ERA||Cardinals||1 yr, $750,000|
|Takashi Saito||42||Brewers||4-2, 2.03 ERA||D'backs||1 yr, $1.75M|
|George Sherrill||34||Braves||3-1, 3.00 ERA||Mariners||1 yr, $1.1M|
|Brian Tallet (L)||34||Blue Jays||0-2, 9.45 ERA||Pirates||minors|
|Kerry Wood||34||Cubs||3-5, 3.35 ERA, 1 SV||Cubs||1 yr, $3M|
|Jamey Wright||37||Mariners||2-3, 3.16 ERA, 1 SV||Dodgers||minors|
|Michael Wuertz||33||A's||0-0, 6.68 ERA||not signed|