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Ranking The 2011-12 Free Agent Relief Pitchers

A look at the free agent relief pitchers before the 2012 season

By

Updated February 16, 2012

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
Joel Zumaya 27 Tigers Injured Twins minors
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