MLB Free Agency: Rafael Soriano and the Top 15 Specialty Relievers Available

Matt RudnitskyCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2010

MLB Free Agency: Rafael Soriano and the Top 15 Specialty Relievers Available

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    After Carl Crawford's surprise signing by the Boston Red Sox, MLB's free agent pool is slowly starting to dwindle down.

    Cliff Lee is still out there for the New York Yankees' or Texas Rangers' taking, but there aren't a whole lot of other marquee names left.

    As for free agent relievers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim—not to be confused with all of the other Los Angeles residing in MLB—scooped up Scott Downs, the Philadelphia Phillies re-signed Jose Contreras, Joaquin Benoit went to the Detriot Tigers, and the Bronx Bombers kept Mariano Rivera.

    Still there's a solid group of relievers left for any teams trying to shore up their bullpens this offseason.

    Here's a list of the top 15 specialty relievers still available.

15. Hideki Okajima

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    Okajima was a huge disappointment last year with a 4.50 ERA and 1.72 WHIP.

    But because of his stellar 2007 and 2008, as well as a pretty good 2009, he's worth an investment as a bounce-back candidate.

    He's 34 and American hitters may have him figured out, but at the worst, he can be capable against lefties.

14. Pedro Feliciano

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    Feliciano is a pure lefty-specialist, but is pretty good at it.

    He allowed just a .211 batting average and .574 OPS to lefties, but a .336 BA and .831 OPS to righties.

13. Bobby Jenks

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    Jenks hasn't had good peripherals since 2008, but he did save 27 games last year and 173 for his career.

    He won't fetch his $7.5 million salary from last year, but someone will pick him up, but not likely as a closer.

12. Kyle Farnsworth

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    The 34-year-old fireballer still brings the heat with an average fastball of 94.9 mph, according to FanGraphs, but he also never fails to disappoint.

    He actually had one of his better years in 2010 with 64.2 IP, a 3.34 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 61 strikeouts.

    Farnsworth certainly still has some value, but anyone expecting him to put it all together at 34 certainly wouldn't be making a smart bet.

11. Dan Wheeler

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    With a 3.35 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 48.1 innings for the Rays last year, Wheeler had his third consecutive solid year as a reliever.

    He isn't spectacular, but at 33 he still has enough in the tank to be a solid middle-reliever who could fill in as a setup man if needed.

10. Brian Fuentes

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    Fuentes is great against lefties, allowing just a .128 BA to southpaws.

    But he isn't too shabby against righties either, allowing a .202 BA.

    He wasn't terrific with the Angels despite managing 23 saves, but was lights-out with the Twins in not giving up a single run in 9.2 innings.

    Fuentes at his best is someone who to lean on as a setup man or fill-in closer.

9. Kevin Gregg

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    Gregg isn't a top closer, despite what his 37 saves might suggest.

    A 3.51 ERA certainly isn't bad, but he doesn't have the dominant stuff of most closers, which showed in his 1.39 WHIP.

    He can be a cheap option to pick up saves or a solid, reliable seventh or eighth-inning guy.

8. Jesse Crain

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    After a few subpar years, Crain stepped up his game in his contract year last season, posting a 3.04 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.

    He struck out 62 batters in his 68 innings pitched and should earn himself a decent paycheck this offseason.

7. Matt Guerrier

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    Guerrier was a workhorse for the twins, logging 71 IP and managing a 3.17 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.

    Solid but unspectacular, Guerrier would be a solid addition to any team.

6. Jon Rauch

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    Rauch was huge for the Twins last year, filling in for the injured Joe Nathan with 21 saves, 3.12 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 46 strikeouts.

    Any team would be smart to pick him up.

5. Arthur Rhodes

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    It wouldn't be smart to throw too much money at the 41-year-old Rhodes, but he quietly held a 2.29 ERA and 1.02 WHIP last season.

    He's great against lefties, and actually was even better against righties last year.

    Rhodes could be due for a decline due to his age, but if I were a GM, I'd bank on another solid year.

4. Kerry Wood

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    Wood was awful with the Indians last year, but experienced a renaissance after being acquired by the Yankees.

    He was nearly unhittable, with a 1.23 ERA, 0.69 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 26 IP.

    Wood will try and turn his newfound brilliance into a closing job, but it remains to be seen if anyone will bite.

3. Takashi Saito

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    Saito doesn't get the respect he deserves with a 2.19 ERA and 1.02 WHIP and 84 saves for his five-year career.

    He hasn't closed since 2008, but teams would be wise to give him another shot at it since he was pretty good.

2. Grant Balfour

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    Balfour is a Type A free agent and will cost a team a first-round pick if it wants to sign him, but he could be worth the price.

    With a 2.28 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 55.1 IP, Balfour is a top-tier setup man who could earn a closer job if he lands in the right spot.

1. Rafael Soriano

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    Soriano is the clear-cut No. 1 here, and he'll command big-time money from whomever is willing to pay the price of an elite closer.

    With 45 saves, a 1.73 ERA and 0.80 WHIP, Soriano is just about as good as it gets.

Comments

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    What do you think of the list?

    Where will these guys end up?

    Voice your opinion in the comments.

     

    Matt Rudnitsky is a student at the University of Michigan and a Featured Columnist/writing intern at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mattrud.