The 2011-12 MLB hot stove has been tremendously lucrative for relief pitchers. Four bullpen arms garnered multi-year deals this offseason, though, as is the case with just about every big-money reliever, most won't live up to their tremendous contracts.
Luckily for you fantasy baseball folks out there, those deals will be of little, if any, concern. As far as faces in new places are concerned, these three free agent studs should be on your radar, as much for their own abilities as for the cozy situations in which they now find themselves.
Which closer will have the best season in 2012?
Jonathan Papelbon was due for a change of scenery after a rocky six-and-a-half years with the Boston Red Sox.
Not because he wasn't productive—219 saves, 23 wins, 509 strikeouts in 429.1 innings, an earned-run average of 2.33—but rather because, well, that's just how Beantown tends to chew up and spit out its top talent these days.
Now, Papelbon will have the opportunity to close out games for a Philadelphia Phillies' squad that's bound to win more than its fair share of close games, thanks to a tremendous pitching staff and an aging offense. The fans in Philly may not be any more ruthless, but at least Papelbon will get a fresh start in the more pitcher-friendly National League.
Ryan Madson was supposed to be the one pulling in $50 million over four years with the Phils, though a one-year, $8.5 million pact with the Cincinnati Reds isn't half bad.
Especially not from a fantasy perspective. Madson strung together a career-high 32 saves in 34 chances last season in the City of Brotherly Love and figures to find many more opportunities in the Queen City, where Francisco Cordero was successful in 37-of-42 opportunities.
With the Reds in position to challenge for the NL Central crown, look for Madson to make the most of his contract year with another 30-save campaign.
The fantasy world is still brimming over the point potential of Heath Bell's move to the Miami Marlins. Bell finished fourth in the NL with 43 saves in 48 opportunities last season, despite playing for a San Diego Padres team that won just 71 games total.
Bell now finds himself in south Florida on a team expected to contend with the Phillies, the Atlanta Braves and the up-and-coming Washington Nationals in the NL East. Considering the success enjoyed by The Pitcher Formerly Known as Leo Nunez (36 saves) on a 72-win squad last season, don't be surprised if Bell walks away with close to 50 saves, while playing for a Marlins team that will find itself ahead in the ninth inning more often than not thanks to owner Jeffrey Loria's offseason spending spree.